Logos & Episteme

Volume 4, Issue 1, 2013

Avram Hiller
Pages 7-19

Knowledge Essentially Based Upon False Belief

Richard Feldman and William Lycan have defended a view according to which a necessary condition for a doxastic agent to have knowledge is that the agent’s belief is not essentially based on any false assumptions. I call this the no-essential-falseassumption account, or NEFA. Peter Klein considers examples of what he calls “useful false beliefs” and alters his own account of knowledge in a way which can be seen as a refinement of NEFA. This paper shows that NEFA, even given Klein’s refinement, is subject to counterexample: a doxastic agent may possess knowledge despite having an essential false assumption. Advocates of NEFA could simply reject the intuition that the example is a case of knowledge. However, if the example is interpreted as not being a case of knowledge, then it can be used as a potential counterexample against both safety and sensitivity views of knowledge. I also provide a further case which, I claim, is problematic for all of the accounts just mentioned. I then propose, briefly, an alternative account of knowledge which handles all these cases appropriately.

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