Objective knowledge: from justification to criticism

The notion of knowledge as justified true belief leads the dogmatist to argue that a claim of knowledge can be justified as true by its premises. It also enforces the sceptic’s argument that the dogmatist’s argument is untenable since the premises are disputable. Hence, the justificationist account of knowledge prevents both the dogmatist and the sceptic from solving the problem of objective knowledge.

Inspired by Bartley’s (1964, 1984) notion of the separation between justification and criticism, I argue that the concept of objective knowledge requires this separation to rescue itself from the infinite regress of proofs. My central idea is as follows: while a claim of knowledge cannot be justified by its premises, it can be falsified by its premises. This idea aims to internalize the separation between justification and criticism in the concept of objective knowledge. Our claims of knowledge, whether metaphysical or empirical, could be objective; that is true, not because they are justifiable by premises through undisputable inferences, but because they are refutable by premises through valid, but conjectural forms of reasoning.

By this separation between justification and criticism in the very definition of objective knowledge, an alternative to the justified true belief account of knowledge is attained. In the following sections, I argue how this new concept of knowledge directs us to a non-justificationist epistemology extending beyond Popper's theory of science.

As argued in Chapter 1, the justified true belief account of knowledge consists of three conditions:

  • (1) A believes that P.
  • (2) P is true.
  • (3) A can justify his belief that P is true. (Justified True Belief}

If the idea of knowledge as justified true belief is substituted by the idea of ‘unfalsified conjecture’, what would the three conditions for objective knowledge be? I propose the following formulation:

  • (1) A believes that P.
  • (2) P is not false.
  • (3) A can defend his belief in that P is not false. (Unfalsified Conjecture)

In comparison with the justified tme belief account of knowledge, the conjectural account implies that P, as a knowledge claim of A, need not be a justified belief in order to be a true belief. While A cannot justify his belief that P is true, he can defend his belief that P is not false. We now have a new concept of knowledge that takes into account the separation between justification and criticism and defines objective knowledge as ‘unfalsified conjecture’.

On the basis of this new concept of knowledge, a claim of knowledge, whether empirical or metaphysical, could be an objective claim if and only if it has been held open to criticism and has not yet been refuted by argument or experience. The idea of knowledge as unfalsified conjecture calls for a new logic of knowledge. While the non-justificationist model of criticism, as proposed by Popper and Bartley, is applicable merely at the level of empirical theories by means of modus tollens retransmitting the falsity from conclusion to the premises, the new logic of knowledge is to be formulated on the basis of the idea that conclusion of a valid deductive argument can only be falsified by the premises rather than justified by them. In this way, the ground is prepared for a new theory of falsification for examining metaphysical theories, such as a philosophical theory of rationality, and we would subsequently be able to see how a theory of rational belief that is held open to criticism might be refuted logically.

 
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