Inconclusion it seems apparent that there is no satisfactory answer to theproblem of scepticism through Justified True Belief. Even with the addition of anothercondition, sensitivity, the argument remains unconvincing as it cannot escape thevarious formulations of the Gettier problem. Even worse, general claims aboutthe world currently cannot be confidently known to hold true across time, atleast through induction.
Therefore the problem of scepticism can be said to befully unresolved.Finally, we shall consider a different facetof scepticism. In “A treatise of Human Nature” Hume questions whether inductionis an unjustified from of reasoning. An inductive argument is such that “everyraven has ever been observed in the past has been black, therefore all ravens willbe black”. Hume argues that this assumes an underlying continuity of theuniverse, what he calls the “Principle of the Uniformity of Nature”. Theargument can thus be re-written “every raven has ever been observed in the pasthas been black, there is a uniformity to nature, therefore all ravens will beblack”. However the principle cannot itself be adequately explained.
“The principlehas always been true in the past, nature is roughly uniform across time thusthe future will be like the past, therefore the principle will be true in thefuture”. This argument is circular, as the second premise is the principle.Another argument needs to be found to support the assumption that the principleholds; and although Hume argues that this does not necessarily matter, aspeople make inductions not through certainty but through habit, a sceptic wouldremain unconvinced. Hume successfully disproves induction as a form ofreasoning.Additionally there is the more generalcomplexity of “abominable conjuctions”. Perhaps an individual has a healthy,functional pair of eyes. They believe they see, and in fact do see with them.This satisfies sensitivity as if the individual did not have eyes, they wouldnot believe they see.
However if one remembers Descartes deceiving demon, andconsiders the possibility of the individual being deceived into believing theyhave eyes when in fact they are blind. This leads to two intuitive situations,both equally intuitive, a situation that has “abominable conjuctions”.This sensitivity condition allows for an morenuanced position of knowledge requiring not only correctness, but also trackingtruth. In the example of the player caught cheating at cards, the belief of thefirst player is insensitive to the fact that the second player is actuallycheating in a different way. Had the firstplayer been sensitive, the belief would have been the same on the same grounds,thereby reconciling JTB with Gettier. However even this condition fails tosatisfy more general cases of the Gettier Problem, as Saul Kripke (2011)posits. It aligns JTB with Gettier only if, had the proposition been false, itwould have been believed regardless. There are other forms of the Gettier thatlead to the counterfactual being false (such as the case of an optical illusionof a barn façade that seems real: an onlooker could see what appear to be abarn and believe it to be there.
Sensitivity rules out this case iff, if thereis no barn, the onlooker would believe there would be one. However if theenvironment is unsuitable for a barn, eg a volcano, this counterfactual is false.)S’s belief that “p” is sensitive iff, if pwere false, S would not believe that p. The Gettier Problem (“Is Justified True BeliefKnowledge”, 1963) has famously led many epistemologists to reject JustifiedTrue Belief analysis as a method to resolving the problem of scepticism. PerhapsJTB is a necessary condition for knowledge, but it is not sufficient if one considersthe following scenario which illustrates justified true belief that is notknowledge. A group of friends are playing with a deck of cards, and halfwaythrough the game one player notices that the second player is cheating throughcounting cards. They notice the second players lips move, as though they arecounting cards, and accuse them of cheating. When pressed, the second playeradmits that they were cheating, but through sleight of hand rather thanmemorisation; the belief is justified, as player one has sufficient reason (thelip movements) to believe that player two is cheating, and the belief is true.
This is separate from the above case of the “lucky guess” and serves toundermine JTB. Nozick (1981) attempts to defent JTB by adding anothercondition, that of Sensitivity.The Justification condition is the mostproblematic of the three conditions. It is deemed necessary as without it, toidentify knowledge with true belief would lead to beliefs that might be trueeven if formed improperly. In the above example of the coinflip, assuming thatsomeone had predicted heads and confidently believed in the outcome, if bychance it does land heads then the belief was true; but such a guess is notknowledge. For the outcome to be known justification must be provided. Whatdoes this mean? There are two commonly held forms of justification, “ex ante”justification and “ex post” justification.
Ex ante concerns whether thesubject, S has sufficient reason to believe “p”. Ex post posits thatjustification occurs depending on whether a given belief is held appropriately.This distinction is necessary to avoid a problem of superstition. Anindividual, Anna, has encountered evidence about the health concerns of smoking,which she does not believe. However when she decides to go out and buy apacket, she encounters a crow, which she considers an august sign that smokingis bad for her. Superstition is not an epistemologically sound way of forming abelief, so her belief is not “ex post” justified. It is, however “ex ante”justified- she has a reason to believe that smoking is bad for her. Althoughthis is resolved and there are other issues with Justification, the mainproblem with the JTB is not with the conditions that constitute it, but ratherthe Gettier Problem.
This is not insurmountable. If a) Radfordsuggests that Albert does not fully “Know” the answer as he essentially takes aguess. Conversely b) could occur as while Albert does not think he know thedate he does and is merely mistaken about his recollections. If both a) and b)are true Radford posits that belief is not necessary for knowledge.
The counterto this comes from b) perhaps not being justified, as Albert is not an expressionof knowledge due to his subjective condition of “taking a guess”, furtherexplained below. b)Albert knows (E)or a)Albert does not believe (E)Either E:Elizabeth died in 1603The other conditions are more controversial.The belief condition states that the only things that can be known are thethings that are believed in.
Failure to believe in something precludes knowingit. Similar to the above example, the fan can be said to believe that team woneven though in fact it did not. However this is not “belief” in the sense of beingconfident in it being true. This belief is the utter surety of outright belief.To believe “p” is to have a commitment to it (Nagel:413-4). The beliefcondition also has an awkward problem with total denial. If an individual camehome to see with their own sense that their home had burned down, they mightstate “I don’t believe it”. This denial of belief despite them “knowing” thetruth (as the house burns in front of them) seems to decouple belief from thetruth of the matter.
Despite this the standard response is that the avowal ofbelief is not, in strict terms, true. It is not that it is fully believed,instead that it is an expression of not wanting to come to terms with what has occurred.If it was truly, genuinely not believed, then there would be no need to state “Idon’t believe it”. A more serious case is that of the is suggested by ColinRadford (1966).
Albert is quizzed on English history, and is asked for the dateof Elizabeth’s death. He does not think he knows, but answers the questioncorrectly.This tripartite is often shortened to JTBanalysis. At first this analysis does not seem to progress much along asolution to the problem of scepticism as it seems to consider only belief. HoweverJTB also has three components in the Truth, Belief and Justice conditions. Thetruth condition is relatively uncontroversial, and only states that what isfalse cannot be known. At first this seems problematic as there are many caseswhere the use of the term “know” indicates something other then truth. Thefootball team loses the game, but the fan who missed the broadcast says “I knowthey won”.
This seems problematic, as perhaps “knows” is not a factive verb,thus invalidating the argument (Hazlett, 2010). However most epistemologistsdismiss this claim, as the use of “know” in the case of the fan is merely thatof a kind of exaggeration rather then a literally true fact. The fan does not “know”so much as have a confidence in that outcome.
Even if this problem is resolved,there are other nuances- truth is not necessarily established truth (eg ifsomeone flips a coin but then never checks the outcome, the truth of thecoinflip is metaphysical as instead of epistemological). Truth is a matter ofhow things are, and therefore knowledge can be said to have relationship withtruth. To know something is to have a certain kind of relationship to a fact.
iii)S is justified in believing that p ii)S believes that p i)p is true Havinglaid out the problem of scepticism, potential solutions must now be considered. The theory of knowledge asJustified True Belief offers an answer through its conditions of truth, beliefand justification. The theory outlines a case about a person, S knowing a claim”p” if the tripartite analysis of knowledge is satisfied. S knows that p iffThis kind of scepticalargument can be formulated in a variety of ways, as long as the claim isincompatible with what we think we do in fact know. Descartes extends hisprevious argument through the use of a “deceiving demon” that constantlyintervenes to ensure that any kind of reasoning goes wrong, such that evennecessary truths or mathematical proofs such as 2+2=4 and a square having four sidesare false.
His argument throughout the meditation can be seen as an attack onthe methodology of gaining knowledge of the world. Firstly through questioningthe fallibility of the senses regarding specific experiences, secondly throughdoubting general experience of an external world and finally through thisattack on the ability to reason. Despite the extent of his argument, this formof scepticism is perhaps less threatening. If our senses and our reason are faulty it would preclude any possibility ofknowing anything, but not of knowledge existing.
Knowledge could still betheoretically possible in under these conditions- scepticism and responses to scepticismfocus on these two arguments as hypotheses that must be tested. An initial response to this case might be tooffer that one recalls having had dreaming experiences, so it is not possiblethat “Q” holds. However, Descartes uses this example to demonstrate that itdoes not matter if one has had awake or dreaming experiences; in this momentone cannot say “?Q”. Descartes also offers a second explanation, which is todistinguish waking life from dreams through continuity (dreams do not havecontinuity).
However again this does not solve the problem that one can dreamthat any possible test is fulfilled, any mark of reality found, and still bedreaming. There truth, this does not even fully address the problem, thatwhether or not the meditator is dreaming is irrelevant, only the possibilitythat one is dreaming, the doubt, is.4. Thus, the meditator does not know that “P”.
He could be dreaming “P”3. The meditator does not know that ?Q. In the past the meditator hasdreamed an awake experience when in fact he was dreaming.2. If “Q, I am dreaming that I am next to the fire and I am not infact sitting next to the fire” is true then “P” is false.
1. The meditator knows “P, I am next to the fire”Descartes produces two arguments in his firstmeditation that illustrate this reasoning. The first occurs as he considers thepossibility of him currently dreaming, ie doubting empirical claims. Hismeditator thinks the following. c)I do not know that “p”. b)If I do not know ?q then c. a)I do not know that ?qTherefore: Since I know that for any claim “p”a second claim “q” can be produced that is incompatible with “p”To know “p” one must know that any claim thatis incompatible with “p” is false. If one knows “p” one does not have any doubtabout the truth of it.
Knowing “p” is the same as being certain ofthe truth of “p”. The sceptical argument holds that: 3)Accepting Scepticism is impractical, as even as we consider the possibility of scepticismbeing true we continue to act as if we know it is false. We naturally rejectthe scepticism argument. 2)The sceptic argument is very simple, and unlike some of its counters does notrely on complicated reasoning. It is therefore powerful because its argumentcan be grasped intuitively. 1)It implies that knowledge is impossible. We suppose that we know things, andaccording to scepticism this is impossible- thus we must either accept that weare wrong and knowledge is impossible or find a way to disprove scepticism.
Before attempting to solve the problem of scepticism,the nature of the problem must be considered and explained. Is it even aproblem? Scepticism presents a problem as:The problem of scepticismis one that has been central to epistemology, and more generally inphilosophical debate. Most famously Descartes, in his “Meditations”, addressesthe problem of scepticism and provides a thorough explanation. This essay shallconsider what exactly that problem is, following Descartes explanation. Itshall then consider the potential solution that is the notion of “justifiedtrue belief” (JTB) and its failure through Gettier’s problem in proving thatknowledge can be found. Sensitivity is offered as a potential solution to Gettier,but even that fails under conditions of false counterfactuals.
Therefore thisessay ends with a further extension to the problem of scepticism, that of Hume’sproblem of Induction, demonstrating that not only is the problem unsolved butit is in fact farther ranging than originally thought.