This is part of a weekly series in which I showcase a thoughtful and interesting blog to both promote and engage with. Please see here for more details, or to comment about the series as a whole.
The inaugural Thoughtful Blog Thursday is Martin S. Pribble. There are two main kinds of blog posts, I think. One is the ‘current events’ post. This might be a news article, a book review, a rebuttal of another post, etc. The other is the ‘essay’ post. From what I’ve seen, Martin tends to prefer the latter kind. His blog contains the result of his thinking about philosophical issues, and reading it is often stimulating for one’s own reflection on these topics.
Here’s an example of his writing, a passage from “The Argument of Truth From Personal Experience”
The problem about “truth” is that it’s subjective, not in the traditional sense, but in a cycle of circular reasoning and personal biases. It’s “subjectively subjective”, meaning that “truth” is often described as “true” according to what a person believes to be “true”. Not only are the truth claims themselves subjective, but the very criteria against which the truths are measured are also subjective. And down the rabbit hole we go.
This is right, I think. Truth itself might be some objective thing, out there in the world, but when we speak of “truth”, i.e. when we say “it is true that X” we really mean that we believe X, often because we have some justification for holding that belief, such a reasons or evidence. We are not saying anything more than “I strongly believe that…” when we say “it is true that…”. Now, this is a problem* for a particular conception of knowledge; namely that in order to be known a thing must be believed, justified, and true. If we cannot tell the difference between “I believe X” and “X is true”, we cannot know that we know something.
So, on this view it is possible to know something, but not be able to verify that it is indeed known, since what we think is true is always couched in terms of our belief. Is this a problem? We can still speak of what we ‘know’ – I know that David Cameron is Prime Minister. That’s a shorthand for “I strongly believe that David Cameron is Prime Minister and have very strong reasons for doing so.” However if, after saying this, someone proved that Cameron was in fact Deputy Prime Minister to Nick Clegg, I would agree that, before, I had not really known that Cameron was Prime Minister, even though I may have had good reasons for my belief.
* I mean a problem only in the sense that we cannot know we know something. It is not a reason to suppose that justified true belief isn’t the correct analysis of knowledge.