Topic: Cognition & Epistemology
On Williamson's Arguments that Knowledge is a Mental State
By Adam Leite
Is knowledge a mental state? For philosophers working within the idealistic tradition, the answer is trivial: there is nothing else for knowledge to be. For most others, however, the claim has seemed prima facie implausible. Knowing that p requires or involves the fact that p, or p's truth, and that - with certain specifiable exceptions - is quite independent of my (or anyone's) mind; so while knowledge may require or involve certain mental states, it itself is not a state of mind.
More generally, it is very natural or intuitive to think in the following terms. On the one hand, there is the world apart from my mind. On the other hand, there is my mind. In many cases in which I have knowledge, I have it because of something about how the world is apart from my mind and because of something about me (my mind) which could be as it is even if the world were not that way. For instance, consider thewell-known example of Henry who is driving down the road and observes a barn in a field. In the ordinary case, he thereby comes to know that there is a barn in the field. But he does not come to know this in an unusual case in which, unbeknownst to him, there are barn facades in the vicinity which are not visually discriminable from real barns when viewed from the road.
Read this and other papers by Adam Leite.
Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Updated: Friday, 10 December 2004 19:11 GMT