Knowledge is not a kind of belief- UPDATED

If all knowledge is a kind of belief, then what is not believed is not known; just as if all men are animals, what is not an animal is not a man. But we can know something without believing it: e.g. the meaning of a word.

If knowledge is a species of belief, what is the specific difference? If the difference is something known, then a difference would be the same as the species, which is impossible; if the difference is something unknown, then knowledge would be something unknown, which is impossible.

If knowledge is a kind of belief, then a faculty by which we know is a kind of faculty by which we believe. But we know by intellect producing assent, and believe by will producing assent; and intellect is not a kind of will, but rather the two are separate powers.

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9 Comments

  1. Jeff G said,

    October 29, 2006 at 12:09 pm

    I definitely disagree. You are confusing two ambiguous uses of language here:

    1) believing that somebody said X

    and

    2) believing X

    There is no contradiction in knowing or believing one without the other.

  2. shulamite8810 said,

    October 29, 2006 at 5:09 pm

    No, I am not confusing them, I only require instance #1 to be a correct usage of the of the word belief. Do you deny that your #1 is a correct, univocal use of the word belief?

    Be careful to notice that I claim that belief cannot be the genus of knowledge (this is how the word “kind” is being used). In order for something to be a genus, it must be said of all the species. So long as your #1 is a true instance of belief, it precludes belief from being the genus of knowledge.

    And even if I conceded you objection, what then? I still have two other arguments that avoid your objection altogether.

  3. shulamite8810 said,

    October 29, 2006 at 5:28 pm

    Your objection proves my point, again;

    If all knowledge is belief, then all that is not believed is not known.

    But you say that there is something not believed that is known (namely your option #1)

    Therefore you are in agreement.

  4. Led Zep said,

    October 29, 2006 at 8:53 pm

    I’m with Jeff G. with regard to the first argument, as far as I understand it. You say that “we can know something without believing it: e.g. what someone said or testified to.” The “it” which is believed can be either “that someone said X” or “X”. I don’t need to deny either one as legitimate usage, I just need to be clear which one I am using. Thus:
    If we’re talking about the fact that someone said X, it seems that I both know and believe it. If we’re talking about X, it might go either way, depending on the context. Still, you don’t get what you wanted out of the argument, because belief and knowledge don’t split up.
    To put it another way, your argument is fallacious unless the “something” which we do not believe but do know is the same something. When you argue that we know it you seem to be talking about the fact that someone said X, but when you deny that we believe it you seem to be talking about X.

  5. shulamite8810 said,

    October 29, 2006 at 9:20 pm

    I don’t dispute that sometimes something is known and believed, I dispute that knowledge is a kind of belief: i.e. that knowledge is in the genus of believed things. So far, all the objections are proving the point, for they all admit that something- whatever it is- can be known, and not believed.

  6. shulamite8810 said,

    October 30, 2006 at 8:27 am

    Another thing, if the only objection to my first argument is the example attached to it, let me offer another example of something known but not believed: a simple apprehension. For example, I know the word “rose”, but I don’t believe the word “rose”. The verb “believe” simply doesn’t make sense: it’s like saying I run the word rose.

  7. Jeff G said,

    October 30, 2006 at 7:19 pm

    I contend that one cannot know “that somebody said X” without believing “that somebody said X.”

    I also contend that one cannot know “X’ without believing “X”.

    I see you as having asserted that one can know “that somebody said X” without believing “X”. My response is so what? Nobody ever claimed otherwise.

    As to your second example about the rose, you can only believe propositions. Similarly, you can only have propositional knowledge (know-that) of propositions. “Rose” is not a proposition, so your example is beside the point.

  8. shulamite8810 said,

    October 30, 2006 at 11:43 pm

    I thank you for a vigorous discussion- I think it has shown that I’ve been at best woefully unclear, and that I should have been a lot more precise in defining my terms. Let me try to be as clear as I can now, and hopefully we will resolve the issue.

    When I say “I know what you said” I don’t mean “I know that you said X”; I mean that that I understand what your meaning is, and this same meaning that I understand, I need not believe. When you say

    “I also contend that one cannot know “X’ without believing “X””

    This sentence is true, if X is not “what a certain proposition or word means”

    I respond in a similar way to your claim:

    “Similarly, you can only have propositional knowledge (know-that) of propositions. “Rose” is not a proposition, so your example is beside the point.”

    I concede that rose is not a proposition, and therefore is not true or false- and therefore not an object of belief. But rose is still a sign, and as such is both known and makes something to be known. The word, even insofar as it is a single word, has a meaning.

    In a word, a thing can have a meaning and be either true, false, or neither true or false. The ones that are true and false can be either believed or not, and the last kind (like single words) cannot be believed at all. But all have meaning, and can therefore be known- or rather, the very meaning itself consists in the thing already being known.

  9. Jeff G said,

    October 31, 2006 at 2:42 am

    Okay, now I see what you mean. One could argue that this is knowledge by acquaintance or recognition. I, however, think that “understand” or “grasp” are better words for what you are describing. I certainly concede that one can grasp something which is not a belief.


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