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Why to Believe Weakly in Weak Knowledge: Goldman on Knowledge as Mere True Belief

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In a series of influential papers and in his groundbreaking book Knowledge in a Social World Alvin Goldman argues that sometimes “know” just means “believe truly” (Goldman 1999; 2001; 2002b; Goldman & Olsson 2009). I argue that Goldman's (and Olsson's) case for “weak knowledge”, as well as a similar argument put forth by John Hawthorne, are unsuccessful. However, I also believe that Goldman does put his finger on an interesting and important phenomenon. He alerts us to the fact that sometimes we ascribe knowledge to people even though we are not interested in whether their credal attitude is based on adequate grounds. I argue that when in such contexts we say, or concede, that S knows that p, we speak loosely. What we mean is that S would give the correct answer when asked whether p. But this doesn't entail that S knows that her answer is right or that S knows that p. My alternative analysis of the Hawthorne-Goldman-Olsson examples preserves the view that knowledge requires, even in the contexts in question, true (firm) belief that is based on adequate grounds.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2009

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