forum 7: week of 27 Feb - pragmatic encroachment

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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I am sympathetic to the pragmatic approach to resolving paradoxes as such snowmobile example discussed in class. While I see how it can be troubling to epistemologists, I think it still offers an intuitive description of how the concept of knowledge is actually applied in real-world situations. I could very well imagine myself saying well, I know we're going to have class next week. But if someone asks, "would you bet my life on it", I would of retract the earlier statement. Well, maybe know it, I merely think it to be probable (but not probable enough to warrant risking my life).

Perhaps why epistemologists have trouble with this conclusion has more to do with the word know than any actual disagreement over how people behave. We're ascribed so many things and connotations to knowing something, and knowledge has been virtually elevated to the pantheon of the immortals. But the conclusion shows that knowledge is not only moral, but subjective as well. Perhaps we need to find another word for the doubleplusgood knowledge that philosopher describe.

06:01, 2 March 2012

I disagree with the claim that knowledge is subjective. Beliefs are subjective, but knowledge is not necessarily subjective (and the two terms--belief and knowledge--are not interchangeable, at least in statistics or applied mathematics). The type of knowledge I'm thinking of is scientific or experimental knowledge: "The growth of knowledge, by and large, has to do not with replacing or amending some well-confirmed theory, but with testing specific hypotheses in such a way that there is a good chance of learning something--whatever theory it winds up as part of" (page 56, "Error and the Growth of Experimental Knowledge" by Deborah Mayo). My main point is that these specific hypotheses need not be subjective, unless the scientific models themselves are subjective. However, I don't want to think that the scientific models themselves are subjective. Otherwise, the entire pursuit of science would be subjective--there would be no objectivity in science, but I do not think that is the case! Does anyone else believe that there is (at least some) objectivity in science???

07:43, 2 March 2012