I'm Confused;167716 wrote:
Hi kenneth - this is a typical time i would get confused while studying philosophy - i guess i'm a simple soul (disclaimer - soul here is metaphor not metaphysics :-)
i know that Paris is the capital of France - and should I be feeling a bit unsure - (unlikely till Mr Alzheimer starts knocking on my door) - I can look it up
Moreover, cos i've been there a few times - can even remember a few things from being in Paris
But along come those fiendish Cartesians/epistemologists/sceptics etc etc
and start asking me how do i know that i know, might you not be mistaken?
well yes i may - and if they won't accept the common methods of verification - trouble is indeed a-calling for me
but can someone please explain to me in very simple terms, why the normal 'common sense ideas' regarding verifying knowledge, and the distinctions we are able to make between different types of knowledge, is not sufficient.
I understand that, as usual, the truth can be blurred at the edges.
Once we knew the sun went round the earth, now it's vice-versa
But again, science, everyday language etc helps us to grasp this, do we need to wander down the tortuous paths of Cartesianism, epistemology etc?-
That's exactly what this thread is supposed to be about. Why don't I know that Paris is the capital of France although I certainly think I do? What argument do "those fiendish Cartesians/epistemologists/sceptics etc etc" produce to show I don't?
The only reason you
give for that view is that the Cartesians etc. "start asking me how do i know that i know, might you not be mistaken?"
. And as an example of what they mean, "once we knew the sun went round the earth, now it's vice-versa"
Am I right? Is that the argument, at least, so far?
Let me start with your example. It is supposed to be an example (I think) of my knowing, but being mistaken. But I have a problem with that (alleged) example. It is that no one ever did know
that the Sun went round the Earth. So how could it be a case of knowing something and being mistaken? What was
true (of course) was that it was believed
that the Sun went around the Earth. To repeat, it was never known that the Sun went around Earth, so no one knew that it did and was mistaken.
For, since the Sun did not go around the Earth no one could
have known that it did. They only thought they knew it. And, of course, they were mistaken. But they never knew it in the first place. So, whatever your example is supposed to be an example of, it is certainly not an example of knowing but being mistaken. (It is an example of thinking you know and being mistaken). Isn't that right? There can be no example of knowing but being mistaken since, if you know then you are not mistaken. By definition.
to know all the time, and turn out to be wrong. For if what they claim to know is false, then they don't know what they claim they know.
Now your question (really two questions) to me was, how do I know I know? and (if I don't know I know) might I not be mistaken? And, my answer to both questions is, 1. You often don't know you know, and 2. yes, I might always be mistaken when I think I know something (or claim ot know something). But, are those any reasons for believing that I don't know that Paris is the capital of France? No. Since, for me to know that Paris is the capital of France, it is not necessary for me to know that I know that Paris is the capital of France, and it is not necessary for it to be true that you could
not be mistaken. It is necessary only that you are
not (in fact) mistaken. So that you might be mistaken when you think you know that Paris is the capital of France is not reason for you to believe that you don't know that Paris is the capital of France. This last bit some people find hard to swallow, so I'll a little more about it. There is an important difference between (a) the possibility
that you are mistaken, and (b) the actuality
that you are mistaken. It may be possible that you are mistaken that Paris is the capital although you are quite sure it is, but are you, in fact mistaken? That is a very different question from the question whether you might be mistaken. If you are mistaken, then, of course, it is possible that you are; but not the other way. It is not true that because it is possible that you are, that you are. Many things are possible that are not true. So, the mere fact that you might be mistaken about whether Paris is the capital is not reason to think that you don't know it is the capital. But, of course, if you have a good reason to believe you are mistaken about the matter (that you are
mistaken, mind you) then, of course, you are right to think that you do not know that Paris is the capital of France. It is this slippage between whether you might be mistaken, and whether you are mistaken, which, I think is at the root of the belief that even if you might be mistaken you do not know what you think you know when, in fact, that is not true. What is true is that if you are mistaken, or you have good reason to think that you are mistaken, then
, and only
then, don't you know what you think you know.
So the mistake of the fiendish Cartesians is to equate the possibility of error with the actuality of error, and then argue that because it is possible for you to err, that you do
err. Which is just wrong.
Two cautions: 1. There is more to say about this than I have said. 2. There is still the very interesting question of why
it is that the fiendish Cartesians equate the possibility of error with the actuality of error. What is the aetiology of that wrong turning? That might be the most interesting question of all.!