Knowledge as adequately informed process
Lau, Tsz Fung
An important lesson learned from the widely-known Gettier cases in epistemology is that no matter how well-justified our beliefs are, knowledge can never be secured— for there could always be some information unbeknownst to us that would undermine our epistemic statuses. In the thesis, I devise a specific approach to epistemic evaluations addressing this problem—inspired by Richard Foley’s (2012) ecumenical account of adequate information on knowledge, as well as Crispin Wright’s (1993, 1994) notion of super-assertibility on truth. In a nutshell, I suggest that one knows just in case one’s belief forming process remains intact upon any expansion of information regarding the epistemic situation. Call this the adequately informed process view on knowledge (AP). Reflecting the interplay between cognitive agency and the external world in the notion of knowledge, the AP account is twofold. On the one hand, it requires a specific display of cognitive process on the agent’s part. Particularly, the belief-forming process must be one such that, an ideal epistemic agent following all relevant epistemic norms would consider it acceptable to form the target belief via that process. Call this epistemic standard acceptable ideality. On the other hand, such acceptable ideality needs to take into account all relevant information available in the case, such that one’s process is deemed acceptably ideal overall in lights of everything that holds in the world. The proposed account of AP adopts a holistic and ecumenical approach to epistemic evaluations. Firstly, I champion the idea that epistemic phenomena are what I call “gestalt phenomena”, in that the epistemic significance of the entire epistemic situation cannot be fully appreciated by individually evaluating the significance of its constituents (such as beliefs, justification, cognitive processes etc.). Instead, any impacts of particular epistemic components should be put under the context of the entire epistemic situation for evaluation. Following such a view, I discuss a few examples of how taking the overall knowledge evaluations as merely consisting in its individual epistemic components has created problems for some of the existing accounts of knowledge—and how taking a holistic perspective might shed light on the situation. Secondly, following Foley, I maintain that knowledge in its nature is ecumenical. The main idea is that while there is only one concept of knowledge—characterised by AP as meeting the acceptable ideality standard considering all available information— there can be many ways to achieve such an epistemic standard (in that one’s cognitive agency can be acceptably ideal for various reasons). AP does not champion any particular epistemic feature as constituting knowledge by itself. Some agency would score better on having certain epistemic goods and some on others. According to AP, S’s belief is adequate if the belief forming process’ “overall score” of ideality given all available information is acceptable. The thesis consists of three parts. Part 1 (Chapters 1 and 2) consists of the introduction of the two approaches and articulation of my positive view. Part 2 (Chapters 3 and 4) consists of theoretical comparisons and further motivations for holism in epistemic evaluations. Part 3 (Chapters 5 and 6) consists of applications of the proposed theoretical framework and its ecumenical nature of epistemic evaluations.