One might think that we need a definition of ‘knowledge’ in order to track it down and recognize it once we’re face-to-face with it. The answer to the question “what is knowledge” is under debate and has been for a few thousand years. The good news is we don’t need an answer. That’s because there is no answer. At least, no answer we can all agree on. The attempt to assign the word “knowledge” to specific claims has brought forth myriad opinions on the nature of knowledge–a serious problem in a post-fact age.
We think Plato’s classic view was close to correct: Knowledge is Justified True Belief. This is what sets knowledge apart from opinion. If you have a claim that is justified with appropriate support, you believe the claim, and the claim is true, then you can say you know it. There are some problems with this view of knowledge, but at a practical level Plato’s formula is very helpful:
K=JTB Knowledge is Justified True Belief
THE PRIMARY JUSTIFICATIONS FOR KNOWLEDGE CLAIMS --answering the question, “how do you know?”
Perception—“I saw it happen.”
Self-awareness—“It happened to me.”
Memory—Be careful because it’s not like a recording.
Deduction—the three-part logic of syllogisms
Induction—“These repeated occurrences must add up to something.”
Authority—the use of expert testimonials
Consensus—“We’ve all agreed to do it this way.”
Intuition—An apparent flash of insight that is generated by deep knowledge of the subject.
Revelation—“God told me.”
Faith—“You should put on this blindfold and follow me.”
*Of course, these descriptions are brief. Look for more detail in later posts.