Section IV: justificationism and the problem of objective knowledge

Now, let us bring all of the proceeding arguments together to deduce an important conclusion: it is justificationism that prevents epistemology from overcoming the problem of objective knowledge. To sum it up, the dogmatist and the sceptic share the concept of knowledge as justified true belief. However, the dogmatist argues that infallible premises exist, either in terms of sense experience or in terms of self-evident principles and their truth that can indisputably be transmitted to conclusion. If the dogmatist models the process of browing so that objective knowledge is the result of valid deduction of undisputable premises, the reason is because the model assumes that conclusion is justifiable by infallible premises.

The sceptic, on the other hand, argues that, if the premises of a conclusion are not justifiable, then neither can the conclusion be justified. Thus, the dogmatist, even with valid deductive reasoning, cannot say that objective knowledge is achievable, whereby the premises, either sense experience or principles of intellect, are also fallible. This is rather undisputable. Hence, the debate by the dogmatist and the sceptic with regard to objective knowledge originates deeply in the justified true belief account of knowledge.

Therefore, when defining knowledge as justified true belief in order to demonstrate that objective knowledge is tenable, the epistemologist should establish a logical model of knowing in which the knower starts with infallible premises, namely with sense experience or self-evident principles, and uses valid (infallible) forms of inference in order to draw conclusion. Objective knowledge as such justifies true conclusion by its premises. Hence, a notable part of the efforts made in dogmatic epistemology is devoted to showing the existence of undisputable bases for justification of the objectivity of our knowledge, on the one hand, and of valid deductive, or even inductive, forms of reasoning for transmitting the truth of premises to conclusion, on the other. Sceptic epistemology, however, attempts to show that undisputable premises do not exist and also that induction is unable to transmit the truth of premises to conclusion. Hence, it can be argued that it is the justificationist concept of knowledge that rules out dogmatist and sceptic epistemologies as a solution for the problem of objective knowledge.

If I understand this matter correctly, what would the consequence for a theory of objective knowledge be? Should one give up the idea of objective knowledge? Or, may another solution be offered on the basis of a new conception of objective knowledge? Allow me first to argue that it is not only the dogmatist who is at pain to meet his standard of objective knowledge as justified tme belief, but so the sceptic who is unable to defend his argument against the dogmatist on the basis of the justified true belief account of knowledge. It seems that both schools of epistemology are handicapped by a common origin: a justificational concept of knowledge.

The sceptic is right in saying that dogmatism is unable to defend objective knowledge. However, can the sceptic prove this refutation? My answer is negative. Since the sceptic starts from the premises of knowledge as justified true belief, the impossibility of objective knowledge cannot be the conclusion of such an incorrect premise. The reason for this is simple: the premise of such an argument, i.e. the justificational concept of knowledge, is incorrect. The sceptic has already shown that all premises are fallible. Hence, how can the sceptic justify his own main premise? If, like the dogmatist, the sceptic admits the demand for justification and, if this demand involves infinite regress, then the sceptic’s critique of the dogmatist is untenable.

The conclusion I draw is that the reason neither dogmatists nor scepticists can defend their argument for or against objective knowledge is because their epistemologies are established upon a mistaken premise: objective knowledge is justified true belief. If the process of justification involves infinite regress in the proofs, why should a claim of knowledge be true for a knower who can not bring justifying proofs to prove his claim of knowledge? In short, insofar as objective knowledge is defined as justified true belief, the epistemologist cannot solve the problem of knowledge.

It is the concept of knowledge as justified true belief that shapes the battle between the dogmatic and the sceptic schools of epistemology. If one rejects the premise of ‘knowledge as justified true belief' and admits that all premises are fallible, a fundamental shift from the justificational to a non-justificational theory of knowledge comes into the picture. In Chapter 2,1 argue that Karl Popper opted for a non-justificational approach to the concept of knowledge and established his philosophy of critical rationalism on this approach.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >