Friday, September 08, 2006

Knowledge and reason

In his "Knowledge and the Internal," John McDowell argues that a hybrid conception of knowledge as a combination of a standing in the space of reasons (belief and justification) together with some cooperation from the world in being the way one thinks (truth) is not tenable. One of the reasons given is that it relies on a picture of the space of reasons as "interiorized", that is, as constituted in such a way that no contingency from the world can upset its connections. Anything reached by reason is certain on this picture. McDowell argues that this picture pulls apart the truth condition and the justification condition since one depends on the world and the other on reasons, and the two don't ever meet. He goes on to say that that picture of the space of reasons depends on a scheme/content distinction that amounts to unstructured perceptoins feeding into our conceptual scheme whihc structures the non-propositional input in such a way as to produce propositional contentful perceivings. He thinks this results in a space of reasons devoid of content, or, as he puts it, dark. What is the way around this problem? To bring the world into interaction with the space of reasons. He thinks that the space of reasons is shaped by the world so that when we reach inferntial conclusions, they are quite likely to be right because the inferential connections have been partly constituted by how the world is. At least, that is what I got after one reading.

I like this since it ties together the justification and truth requirements of the JTB account of knowledge. Severing the tie between the two is what gives Gettier cases their purchase. If you remove the gap between them, then Gettier cases shouldn't work. I'm not sure how this move would explicitly stop a Gettier case. Maybe the justification that carries over from the initial premise (Mr. A has 10 coins in his pocket and will get the job) to the existenial generalization (The person who will get the job has 10 coins in his pocket) and the final conclusion (Mr. B has 10 coins in his pocket and will get the job, except he doesn't realize it). At least on the face of it, it seems to go through still. Maybe there is something in the Gettier cases that has a presupposition in conflict with McDowell's picture that I'm missing.

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