Epistemology Philosophy Term Paper

Length: 6 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Black Studies - Philosophy Type: Term Paper Paper: #61830224 Related Topics: Epistemological, Philosophy, Meaning Of Life, Philosophical
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Nozick's Subjunctive Conditional Account Of Knowledge

Nozick in Philosophical Explanations (1981) posited nascent ideas regarding personal identity, free will, the nature of value and knowledge, as well as the meaning of life. Nozick is also noted for his epistemological system which posited a manner to deal with the 'Gettier problem' as well as those posed by scepticism. This argument has been considered highly influential purportedly eschewed contention or justification as a necessary and important requirement for the acquisition of knowledge (Schmidtz 210).

Subjunctive Conditional Account of Knowledge with Gettier-style Problems and Scepticism

Nozick established certain additional conditions for knowledge and suggests that each condition should be necessary so if there is a situation that fails to meet the criterion, an individual would be able to clearly ascertain that the condition is not a circumstance or subscribed to the notion of knowledge acquisition or knowledge itself. In addition, for Nozick the conditions for knowledge should be in and of themselves so that if all conditions are satisfied will be equated with knowledge (Nozick 172).

According to Nozick as cited in Schmidtz (2002), the "Four Conditions for S's knowing that P: (1) is true; (2) S. believes that P; (3) if it were the case that not P, S would not believe that P; and (4) if it were the case that P, S would believe that P" (Schmidtz 211). The third and fourth conditions put forth by Nozick are referred to as counterfactuals, meaning subjunctive conditional or an "if then" consideration to suggest that if that were the case then what follows would be determined true. He refers to his epistemological theoretical process as a "tracking theory of knowledge" (Schmidtz 211), arguing that the subjunctive conditionals elicit critical aspects of an individual's intuitive understanding of the concept of knowledge. As such, for any fact that is given, the individual's method has to reliably and consistently track the truth regardless of various conditions determined to be relevant; which has been considered to be closely aligned with reliabilisim or justified belief.

Further, in Nozick's theory as cited in DeRose (1995) he asserts that "if P. weren't the case and S. were to use M. To arrive at a belief whether or not P, then S. wouldn't believe via M. that P." Moreover, "if P. were the case and S. were to use M. To arrive at a belief whether or not P, then S. would believe, via M, that P" (DeRose 1). In this philosophical equation, M represents the method according to which S. arrives at a belief regarding P (whether or not).The subjunctive condition, accordingly, is considered unrelated to the condition determined to be causal. In situations where P. is the partial cause of an individual's beliefs, Nozick ascribes a causal necessity for the individual having the belief absent cause and as such the effect would not occur. For Nozick, in a situation such as this, the subjunctive condition would be satisfied although not considered equivalent to the causal one (Nozick 173).

Nozick considers the subjunctive condition to be both intuitive and powerful and difficult to satisfy. The power the subjunctive condition has, however, does not mitigate or rule in such a way that everything regarding knowledge cannot be questioned.

Scepticism suggests that an individual does not know what he thinks he knows which according to Nozick's estimation, leaves the individual more confused if not convinced. This assertion regarding scepticism, in Nozick's estimation undermines the concept of knowledge which would summarily make knowledge and the acquisition of knowledge virtually impossible. Nozick's offerings regarding subjunctive conditioning are posited to quiet the skeptics through connectivity and hypothesis that determine the possibility for knowledge to exist even in the light of the questions raised by skeptics. However, Nozick maintains that the hypothesis and the conditions to determine knowledge should be so in order that the questions raised by skeptics can be considered logical. What is known must be known in such a way that one can intelligently and convincingly squelch the possibilities raised by scepticism (Nozick 174).

Nozick posits a historical relationship between scepticism and knowledge that philosophy has attempted to contend with and primarily refute scepticism...


Still others who consider knowledge and scepticism ascribe to the notion that scepticism is not reasonable as the skeptics' ideas are considered extreme and conclusions to be false (Nozick 188). Further, Nozick maintains that the sceptics' argument is bolstered by intellectual and theoretical attempts to refute what the sceptic puts forth. The sceptic is not to be taken lightly nor his arguments considered tobe without reason. Furthermore, those arguing on the side of the acquisition of knowledge and knowledge itself should not take for granted that sceptics' would be reckless and simply cavalier in the arguments in which they put forth. Moreover, the subjunctive condition determinedly excludes instances of the kind described by Gettier, according to Nozick.

Gettier in "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" posits an argument from a premise that the conditions outlined in the Four Conditions by Nozick and other theoretical formulas are false and insufficient to determine the truth of what is being argued (Gettier 121). His argument entails the following:

First in that sense of "justified" in which S's being justified in believing P. is a necessary condition of S's knowing that P, it is possible for a person to be justified in believing a proposition which is in fact false. Second, for any proposition P, if S. is justified in believing P. And P. entails Q. And S. deduces Q. from P. And accepts Q. As a result of this deduction, then S. is justified in believing

P (Gettier 232).

Forbes refers to Gettier's and those arguments like it as operating from a position of inference which operates from a false belief (Forbes 45). He further argues that Nozick recognized as Harman suggested the requirement of the "lemmas be true" as a means of excluding such beliefs from the concept and realm of knowledge could not be done. Both Harms and Forbes use the example of the vase in the box as a means of refuting what Nozick has posited regarding subjunctive conditioning. Forbes argues that because Nozick's only remark of the consequence the example shows is that it is "somewhat counterintuitive" (as cited in Forbes 45) is insufficient as an explanation to refute the probability of the scepticism put forth. In this situation, Forbes maintains that this case is not managed by theory being considered over intuition because the hologram produces a false belief that the vase is actually true resulting in the individual believing it to be real.

Further, Forbes argues that the case presented by Gettier demonstrates that 3 and 4 of the four conditions do not sufficiently supplement 1 and 2 in the acquisition of knowledge in general. The "transmission principle" as he refers to the four conditions, if correct, demonstrates that statements 3 and 4 are not required either as they fail to speak to kinds of knowledge. The relative notion of knowledge Nozick introduces through the use of method M, that the theory asserts an individuals' belief via M. somehow satisfies the conditions in 5 and 6, Forbes argues the inoperativeness of what has been suggested. He maintains that the 5th condition is one preferential to the 3rd because S. may know that P, in particular circumstances where an inactive failsafe mechanism is available generating the belief that P. In S, which could only be true if P. were determined to be false. However, Forbes insists that the kinds of mechanisms that would be necessary to make the aforementioned work out as Nozick originally suggested in the absence of the use of M. fails to mediate the 5th even if the 3rd is determined to be false (Forbes 46). Rather, he suggests that in order to make the statement correct with the right mechanisms in place, the correct situation would posit that'd really doesn't know

Forbes outlines an example to explain how this last statement is correct. In the scenario he puts forth, a man believes he is talking to his friend on the telephone, but an actress is actually imitating the friends' voice. The actress didn't get through to the man before the friend did, and even if the man isn't really talking to his friend, he believes it to be so. According to Nozick, the man doesn't know he is not talking to his friend, which Forbes maintains is true, as there is an alternative that is relevant as the man was unable to distinguish his friend from the actress. For Forbes, the arguments that Nozick offers in the utility of 5 and especially 6 are problematic and inconsistent and unnecessary for knowledge. He further argues that Nozick's theory leaves out the possibility that knowledge can result from opportunity and circumstances that present themselves as even the smallest change may actually impact the kind of knowledge an individual acquires.



Sources Used in Documents:


DeRose, Keith. Solving the skepticism problem. The Philosophical Review, 104.1 (1995):

1. Print.

Forbes, Graeme. Nozick on sceptism. The Philosophical Quarterly, 34.134 (1984): 43-52. Print.

Gettier, Edmund. Is justified true belief knowledge. Analysis, 23 (1963): 121-123. Print.

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