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Saturday , 28 May 2022

EDITORIAL: An individual may require no justification for a particular belief, why is that?

I believe that justification, truth, and belief are necessary for knowledge, even though apparently, in some cases the individual may judge themselves to require no justification for a particular belief.

The study of knowledge or ‘Epistemology’ is devised by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier, was born in Edinburgh, and is a developed area of philosophical study that has invaded the subject’s history. Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and
justified belief.

As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and adequate conditions of knowledge? Justification is the difference between merely believing something true, and knowing it. To know, on this account, we must have justification or justified true belief. How our beliefs are justified is among the central questions of epistemology.

Having justification for our beliefs is, reasonably, about having good reasons to think that they are true. For a belief to be justified, it seems, it must be gathered from another belief. This type of justification is called inferential justification. Therefore only those beliefs which are justified are considered knowledge. What do we call an unjustified belief which happens to be true? I would call it a lucky guess. This is why many people don’t believe in horoscopes despite the fact they may be occasionally right. A lucky guess is defined as being an occasion on which the guesses are true, we believe the guess, and we have no evidence for our beliefs. This lucky guess can be distinguished from a lucky truth.

A lucky truth is when the truth of a proposition is not likely concerning certain relevant facts. So, if I’m expecting a phone call from a friend of mine named Chad, and a friend of mine named Chad (a different one) decides to call, and I believe that the current ringing phone is caused by a friend of mine named Chad, then my belief is true, my belief may be justified and it will be a belief. Nevertheless, it is a lucky
truth because it was not likely that the friend of mine would happen to be calling me would be Chad.

When discussing justification, as when discussing any process, we must be careful to distinguish both its product and its activity. The activity consists of supplying evidence, reasons, or explaining your belief to convince others. The existence of mere “reasons for belief” highlights the general difficulty with justification. If we say that knowledge requires that our “justified beliefs” be true, it is quite reasonable to ask, “How do we know what is true?” If not “What is Truth?” After all, “belief” and “justification” are all about mental content, but objective truth is not about mental content, but about a matter of fact in reality.

To get at the truth or justified true belief, it seems like somehow we must get around things that are merely our mental contents and catch of glimpse of reality. Of course, catching a glimpse simply means that we get new mental content. Indeed, the connection between justification and truth raises the old Cartesian Problem of Knowledge. Its form in Descartes himself was a question about perception, but the relationship between justification and truth raises the issue quite generally for all knowledge.

If the “justification” of knowledge is not to be hopelessly disconnected from truth, and so from knowledge, it must indeed be connected to truth.

Justification can be earned in degrees, and so, as a component of knowledge, it seems that knowledge also can be earned in degrees. At the very least, we might claim to know in a weak or strong sense. But we can also say that the standard of justification varies depending on the context or individual goals and perspective of the person. Whether or not one is justified in believing X ought to depend in part on what one’s goal is concerning believing X, and what consequences (both epistemic and non-epistemic) might ensue as a result of believing
X.

For example, is it wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence? We condemn those who
believe upon insufficient evidence, the condemnation is both epistemic and moral, insofar as neglecting one’s epistemic duties can be morally blameworthy when the lives of others rest on the truth of one’s belief, and relaxing one’s epistemic standards can make one epistemically lazy such that when serious consequences do rest on the truth of one’s belief, one may not be able to subject the belief to appropriate, careful scrutiny because he or she has formed bad epistemic habits.

Can we compare the current situation in Canada to the famous example of the shipowner who sends an old ship to sea without having it inspected? The captain ignores possible evidence that the ship is unfit for sea travel, and instead merely trusts God to keep those aboard the ship safe. The shipowner is both epistemically and morally guilty, although he implies that epistemic guilt is moral guilt in light of the consequences that might ensue from holding a belief without sufficient evidence.

I want to conclude that justification, truth, and belief still are necessary for knowledge, even though apparently in some cases the individual may judge themselves to require no justification for a particular belief. Such as in the telephone example of my awesome friend Chad calling.
Allowing a kind of sliding scale justification relative to the individual’s goals provides some flexibility that justified true belief accounts might traditionally have been accused of lacking, avoids full-blown relativity, and accommodates many of our everyday intuitions about knowledge.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.