The search for a fourth condition for knowledge: A possible justification of truth.
The idea of infallibles is considered as a viable fourth condition for knowledge. This suggests that to qualify as knowledge, a belief must not only be true and justified, the justification of the belief must necessitate its truth, and that is, the justification for the belief must be infallible.
Another possible fourth condition of knowledge is represented by the idea of indefeasibility. The notion of defeasibility maintains that there should be no overriding or defeating truths against the reasons that justify one’s belief.
For instance, assuming that Miss. Jane believes she saw Kevin stealing a goat and uses this to justify the claim that Kevin stole a goat. A possible defeater or overriding proposition for such a claim could be a true proposition like, ‘Kevin’s identical twin, Karl is currently in the same town as Kevin and is the one that actually stole the goat.
A third alternative for the fourth condition is found in the notion reliabilism, which is a theory advanced by philosophers such as Alvin Goldman (1986). According to this, a belief is justified in a way that would count as knowledge only if it is produced by processes that typically yield a sufficiently high ratio of true to false beliefs. According to this view, what makes a true belief amount to knowledge is not that the knower has a justification for it,
but that it has been produced in a way that reliably produce knowledge.
|The search for a fourth condition of knowledge|
There is also the causal analysis alternative as the fourth condition for knowledge. This condition explains that what distinguishes cases of knowledge from cases of true belief is not just justification as seen in the justified true belief account of knowledge, but the causal connections of the belief.
If a true belief has the right sort of causal connections with what justifies it, then it is knowledge; however, if it has the wrong sort of causal connection, it is merely true belief. And what makes the causal connections of a belief the right sort of causal connections is that they connect the belief to the event which the belief is about.
Taking the case of Mr Adam’s family and their car as an example again, Mr Adam’s belief that someone in his family has bought a car is caused by his son’s telling him that he has bought a car, combined with his belief that his son is honest and reliable. However, the fact that the son did not buy a car makes it clear that the son’s buying a car is not the cause of Mr Adam’s true belief that someone in the family had just bought a car.
The event that makes Mr Adam’s belief true, which is that Mrs Adam bought a car, is causally unconnected with Mr Adam’s belief that someone has just bought a car. If Mr Adam’s son had bought a car and told his father so, then the honesty of the son and his lack of motive for lying would have led to the conclusion that Mr Adam knew that someone in his family had just bought a car.
|The search for a fourth condition of knowledge|
By the causal analysis, Mr Adam’s true belief would have amounted to knowledge because it is directly caused by the very event which makes it true, that is, the son’s claim that he purchased a car.
Some scholars have also tried to resolve the Gettier problem by adopting the conclusive reason condition as an adequate complement for the traditional account of knowledge. It simply says that justified true belief can still yield knowledge if is based on conclusive reason. To say that A is a conclusive reason for B means that A cannot be true if B is false.
The traditional account of knowledge, as discussed above, identifies three conditions as necessary and sufficient for knowledge. The Gettier problem showed that these conditions are inadequate for a belief to amount to knowledge.
Hence, the search for a fourth condition with attempts to locate this in any of the following: infallibilism, indefeasibility, reliabilism, the causal analysis and the notion of conclusive proof. Be that as it may, none of these is fool-proof as each has peculiar problems identified with it.
The above analysis of the notion of knowledge from the traditional perspective shows that it is quite difficult to subject it, like many other concepts, to philosophical analysis in a way that would yield a conception of knowledge that is problem free and generally acceptable. This quest is the primary concern of the division of philosophy called epistemology.
Nonetheless, we continue to employ the notion of knowledge in diverse spheres of life. We say that we “know of”, “know how” and “know that”.
Usually, we say that we know of people, things or even events. It is in this sense that one can say, for instance, that he or she knows (of) the way to Ibadan or Lagos, of the crisis going on in Syria and Egypt, and of the problems confronting Nigeria as a nation-state. Knowledge how is more practical in nature as it has to do with the skills and capacities that a person has. For instance we say that we know how to cook, how to drive and how to read.
There is also the knowledge that is described as propositional knowledge. It is usually in the form of X knows that Y. It is this form of knowledge claim that constitutes the primary focus of analysis in epistemology.