NAB Sample Answers What is the Tripartite Theory of Knowledge? Tripartite theory of knowledge is the theory that knowledge is justified, true belief. So, to count as knowledge, You must believe the proposition to be true. The proposition must be true. You must be justified in believing the proposition to be true. For example, to know that birds have wings, you must believe that birds indeed have wings, they must have wings, and you must have (in this case empirical) justification for believing that they have them, Problems for the Tripartite Theory of Knowledge: The Infinite Regress Argument: we may be unable ever to finally justify a belief as each justification will itself require a further justification. The Gettier Problem; the problem of accidental correctness. Example. You might also mention problems with the major candidates for justification (Think of Agrippa’s Trilemma, Innate Ideas, etc.) What are the key features of an empiricist account of how we acquire knowledge? rejection of innatism emphasis on sense experience and a posteriori knowledge a priori truths at best only generate tautologies the natural sciences (Biology, Physics) are a model for knowledge acquisition rather than maths. the mind is a blank slate 'tabula rasa' at birth all ideas derived ultimately from experience Reason helps see connections between ideas, rather than discover them. Sources: Locke; Berkeley; Hume. How have rationalists tried to counter the infinite regress argument? rationalism aims to terminate the infinite regress of justification by locating knowledge in mental scrutiny and innate ideas. candidates for innate ideas might include mathematical truths, religious truths, moral truths or even truths about the colour and taste of objects, which we impose on our perceptions. knowledge can be gained a priori without reference to sense experience. deductive disciplines (maths, geometry) are a model for knowledge acquisition rather than inductive subjects. even our knowledge of the outside world requires our making active mental judgements reference to examples from literature such as Plato; Augustine; Descartes; Leibniz. Why does Descartes initially reject sense experience as a possible source of certainty in Meditation 1? Methodology forbids accepting anything which admits of the slightest doubt. Looking for a certain foundation and sense experience does not appear to satisfy this requirement. Perceptual illusions: objects at a distance; very small objects. Any other relevant examples or illustrations. Dreaming argument. Demon Hypothesis: intended as an attack on a priori knowledge but is equally effective in guarding against unreliable a posteriori knowledge. Why does Descartes think the Cogito or 'I am, I exist' is a certain truth? Defeats the dreaming argument – even as we are dreaming we must exist. Defeats the demon hypothesis – even as we are being fooled we must exist to be fooled. Is true every time it is conceived by the mind – it is a self-authenticating statement. It is self-contradictory to say 'I don't exist'. It is true even if he has no body. Tied to his belief in mind/body dualism. It is the one indubitable certainty that can act as foundation for all others. Outline how Descartes demonstrates the existence of God in Meditation 3. We have an (innate) idea of God in our mind. This idea must have a cause. There must be as much reality in a cause as in its effect. The cause of the idea is God. The idea is like a trademark left in our minds by God. The idea of God includes the notion that he is benevolent. Hence God is no deceiver. Hence whatever we perceive distinctly must be true. Since a benevolent God wouldn’t allow this level of deception. How effectively does Descartes’ reliance on God help him resolve his sceptical doubts in Meditation 6? Relevant knowledge and understanding may include: Descartes’ approach relies heavily on the clear and distinct rule and the existence of a benevolent God reference to previous doubts: Objects at a distance; dreaming argument; evil demon/genius there must be an external cause to the ideas we receive which can only be external objects or God or the demon but we now know God is not a deceiver so He wouldn’t allow us to think that these ideas were caused by external objects when they weren’t God equips us with various faculties: Reason, The Senses, Memory some things which my senses appear to be telling me are in fact a misjudgement of reason so, with the judicious use of clear reasoning we can correct the errors of the senses Appropriate examples: ‘Grass is green’, we should say ‘Grass stimulates sensations of green in us’; ‘The tower is small’, we should say ‘the tower simply appears small and my memory and other senses can confirm its true size’. How successfully does Descartes deal with the issue of perceptual errors in Meditation 6? Outline of Descartes' Approach In Meditation 6 Descartes rebuilds knowledge undermined in Meditation 1. His strategy relies heavily on: o The clear and distinct rule- that any idea that he can clearly and distinctly perceive is true. o The existence of a benevolent God previously 'demonstrated' in Meditations 3 and 5. The Outside World Reference to arguments from Meditation 1: o Objects at a distance; Phantom limbs; etc. o Dreaming argument: How do we know the objects reported by the senses exist outside of us? o But must we resort to scepticism? Although we shouldn't heedlessly accept sense reports, neither should we heedlessly reject them. We passively receive ideas of outside objects so there must be an external cause to the ideas we receive which can only be External objects or God or The Demon. But we now know God is not a deceiver so he wouldn't allow us to think that these ideas were caused by external objects when they weren't. The role of primary and secondary qualities: There is an outside world but is it like that reported by my senses? Our perception of secondary qualities (colour, smell, taste) is more prone to error that our perception of primary qualities (size, shape, texture etc) which is revealed clearly by the intellect. We don't assume that because we feel pain in approaching a flame that the pain resides in the flame itself. The pain is in us. So our perception of secondary qualities is obscure and does not reflect the nature of the object itself, while our perception of primary qualities is more clear and distinct, and so can reflect the object as it is in itself. God equips us with various faculties: Reason, The Senses, Memory. I now see it is '…impossible that there could be any falsity in my opinions which couldn't be corrected by some faculty supplied by God'. Some things which my senses appear to be telling me are in fact a misjudgement of reason. So, with the judicious use of clear reasoning we can correct the errors of the senses. Sense perception has the role of keeping us from harm, not giving us an accurate picture of the world. So, we can admit that sense perception does not give us an accurate picture of the world and still accept that there is a benevolent God. God created our senses primarily for helping us avoid harm. Relevant examples: 'Grass is green' – we should say 'Grass stimulates sensations of green in us'. 'The tower is small' – we should say 'the tower simply appears small and my memory and other senses can confirm its true size'. 'My amputated foot causes pain' – we should say 'Feelings of pain from a distant body part could equally be caused by stimulating parts in between'. Critical evaluation of Descartes' arguments Descartes appeals to the clear and distinct rule in his rehabilitation of sense experience. o What's might seem clear might not be true at all. o Cartesian circle: the clear and distinct rule is justified by appealing to God but God is justified by appealing to the clear and distinct rule. Many of these arguments rely on the existence of a benevolent God. o Descartes gives us two arguments for God. The Ontological argument attempts to define god into existence. Trademark argument relies on the shaky belief that we all have an innate idea of God. But do we? How should we interpret Descartes' distinction between Primary and Secondary qualities? Is it a 'Sensationalist' one or a 'Physicalist' one? o Sensationalism – secondary qualities exist exclusively and innately in the mind and not in any way in bodies. o Physicalism – secondary qualities exist both in bodies and the mind, but in different ways. Surface textures are what cause colour sensations to be present in the mind. Like sharpness causes pain. o Both these views have difficulties. All the faculties we cross reference with one another are all prone to error so without God we are back where we started.