WAYS OF KNOWING: REASON
JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF
This traditional unpacking of the idea of knowledge follows naturally after the Student knowledge claims. The Wittgenstein and the polysemy of language unit will also inform the class activities presented below; especially for differentiating between opinion and belief.
For the JTB model to hold, knowledge must be:
The knowledge claim is justified with adequate evidence. Justification requires Coherence with previous data and Clarity with regard to language and logic. There can be no Contradiction or strong Counter evidence.
The knowledge claim is True rather than False. It corresponds to the real world. It is a fact. It is “what is the case.”
The knowledge claim is a matter of Conviction. We must own our knowledge.
Next the class should be divided into four groups. Each group is handed a card with a Knowledge Question exploring a slippery aspect of knowledge viewed as justified true belief:
A. Do we have to believe what we know?
B. Is there a difference between opinion and belief?
C. Must all knowledge be true? Provide examples?
D. When, if ever, can we know something with absolute certainty?
Spokespersons from each group report back to the entire class. This should generate some interesting discussion and provide a good first pass at some perennial epistemological conundrums. The following additional question may or may not be necessary to enhance student thinking:
- To what extent are private sensations like immediate experience, emotion and self-awareness part of the justified true belief model?
- Can there be knowledge without mind? Is "man the measure of all things"?
As with Socrates himself (in the original examination of justified true belief in Plato's famous Theaetetus dialog) the students' conversations may end in paradox and impasse. No simplistic resolutions seem possible. Everyone should emerge slightly dazed, but wiser and rewarded with a much richer understanding an enduring problem.
This is a powerful TOK lesson. The valuable thing is the discursive to and fro between living, breathing human beings who are not afraid to question, or risk their own assertions to be scrutinized critically in the public arena. The quality of the quest is what counts.
This JTB tripartite view of knowledge is powerful, but we should approach it with caution. We should keep in mind that ultimately Knowledge may be sui generis, that is: a holistic notion that stands by itself—unique in its blend of characteristics—rather than being perfectly and fully analyzable into a set of simpler foundational concepts. Also, Wittgenstein's advice about looking to the use of a word like knowledge rather than agonizing over its definition may come into play.
Next, let's dig deeper into the nature of Truth and Certainty in Coherence, Correspondence and Pragmatic Theories of Truth.