Friday, January 11, 2013

Philosophic Knowledge and Infallibilism

I define philosophic knowledge as propositional belief in which the possibility of error is precluded or, more simply, as belief that cannot be mistaken. This is not to say that a knower cannot change his beliefs. But at the time of his affirmation of a known belief, it can be said that there were no possible grounds on which he did or anyone else could have legitimately doubted its truth. He would have been infallibly certain, incapable of being corrected.

These are strong terms, but that’s deliberate. My interest in this sort of knowledge stems from its necessity. Suppose one denies he [or anyone else] has any philosophic knowledge. Well, then it is possible that he is mistaken in the denial itself. In other words, he could actually accept that he necessarily has such knowledge. But then it is evident that anything he says could, in fact, mean the contrary. He would not even be able to state his absolute, unmistakable acceptance of this as a logical consequence. He would not even be able to know what a mistake is. In denying the possibility of the sort of knowledge I describe, it is evident one either assumes such knowledge by claiming he is not mistaken that knowledge isn’t necessary, or he implicitly admits to losing meaning and intelligibility. Both are self-defeating. Even Neurath’s boat presupposes one plank on the Good Ship Worldview that can’t be replaced: the need for a boat.

Note that the above does not suggest everyone actually possesses philosophic knowledge. It suggests everyone implicitly claims to possess philosophic knowledge. They may or may not be able to justify this and other knowledge claims.

1 comment:

Max said...

Yup, some people are certain that nothing is certain. I like Vincent Cheung, though. He's very certain of himself.