Knowledge: A bird in the hand or two in the bush?
By: Tess Dewhurst (UCT Ph.D. candidate)
Interesting problems in epistemology often begin with a threat, a threat to our access to the world. The question I want to deal with in this paper, is what is the appropriate response to such a threat?
Ought we to try and establish that we can have knowledge about the world, or ought we to rather try to establish that we are justified in our beliefs about the world? I believe that we should take the former course, but it seems that, most often, it is the latter course that is taken. Most often, in the face of a threat, the epistemologist attempts to establish justified belief.
It seems to me that there are two explanations for taking the latter course. The first would be the idea that establishing justified belief is all that is required to establish knowledge, and the second is the idea that knowledge cannot be had, and consequently, all we should reasonably aim for is justified belief. What I want to argue in this paper is that there is reason to think that we ought not to take establishing justified belief to be the aim in an epistemological project. As regards the first explanation: establishing justified belief is not tantamount to establishing knowledge; and as regards the second: if we allow that knowledge is not possible, then there is nothing reasonable about aiming for justified belief.