Thursday, August 23, 2018

Epistemic Responsibility 004: What Is Audi's Theory of Knowledge?

Audi, Robert (2006), "Testimony, Credulity, and Veracity", in Lackey, Jennifer, and Ernest Sosa (eds.), The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

What I learned today: There is a theory of epistemology called "reliabilism" which holds that the justification criterion of knowledge depends on the belief coming from a source that is reliable. I had known of this in the past. However, because my study of epistemology has been mostly to skim the surface on my way to studying ethics, I have not looked at it in detail. In this posting I discuss my struggles trying to understand Audi's article, but I eventually get to the realization that Audi is one of these reliabilists. One of the problems I am going to have with reliabilist epistemology is trying to square it with agent culpability. I discuss those problems towards the end.

I actually had to go to a source outside of Robert Audi's article to try to figure out what he was saying. Audi is a crappy writer.

The introduction to this anthology says:

Audi then compares testimonial knowledge with testimonial justification, arguing that in order for a hearer to acquire testimonial knowledge that p, the speaker from whom it was acquired must also know that p.

That's better. I can understand that.

And, what I have to say to that is . . . Hogwash. Bull pucky. Doe snot.

No wonder it was so hard to understand. A horrible writer with a horrible idea.

Folks might not be accustomed to me being so hard on somebody. Though, being forced to waste valuable hours trying to decipher an article written by a person who thinks that each chapter should be its on paragraph and each paragraph its own sentence does not set well.

Somebody should run him over with an audi, if only for the irony of it all.

Fine! Okay. I'm calm.

Besides, some of the problems I had with the article was due to my own ignorance of epistemology. I can't blame Audi for that. I guess this is why I am trying to study this stuff.

I uncovered this deficiency of mine by being able to uncover an argument that lead to one of two possible conclusions. Either Audi was saying something that could easily be proved to be a contradiction, or I did not know what I was talking about. It turned out to be the latter.

The easily proved contradiction goes as follows:

Knowledge is justified, true, non-Gettierized belief. Don't worry about the Gettier issue - it concerns a rare type of case where the reason that a belief is justified has nothing to do with (or is only accidentally related to) the reason that it is true. We do not need to worry about this special case, so set it aside. I only mention it so as to show off how smart I am.

Knowledge is justified true belief.

Audi states that a person can gain justified belief from a testifier whose belief is not justified.

Of course, if the testifier's belief is not justified, then the testifier's belief does not count as knowledge (since knowledge is justified true belief).

So, the testifier does not know that p

However, the testifier can give the listener a justified belief that p that happens to be true.

But a justified belief that happens to be true is knowledge.

So, a person who does not know something can, through testimony, cause somebody else to have a justified true belief (knowledge).

Yet, Audi said that an agent cannot transfer knowledge to another person unless the agent knows that information himself.

Thus, we have an easily proved contradiction.

This, then, leads to two possible conclusions. Audi is an idiot without even a basic understanding of epistemology, or I am missing something.

I still have to rule out option 2 before I can declare that option 1 is the case. To do this, I looked up Epistemology in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

What I discover is a theory of knowledge called "reliabilism".

[Non-traditional theories of knowledge], on the other hand, conceives of the role of justification differently. Its job is to ensure that S's belief has a high objective probability of truth and therefore, if true, is not true merely because of luck. One prominent idea is that this is accomplished if, and only if, a belief originates in reliable cognitive processes or faculties. This view is known as reliabilism.

But, I am not certain yet whether Audi is a relabilist. More work is required.

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