Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Knowledge and Belief

One advantage of having this blog here is that when something bugs me and it would be inappropriate to comment on it anywhere else I can always put something here. One such matter is something I was reading on a web site a couple of weeks ago which involved a discussion regarding knowledge and belief. I partly disagreed with what was said but decided that I do not want to get involved in any arguments there as to the right or wrong viewpoint since I know that there is nothing I could say that could change the minds of those who made the comments in the first place. I have been thinking about it every so often since then though since I haven’t until now been able to tell anyone about it. I have now decided to rectify that by making this post so as to say my piece and move on to other things.

The argument was regarding knowledge and belief and the presented argument suggested that there were four alternatives – knowing and believing, not knowing but believing, knowing and not believing, and not knowing and not believing. The particular examples given fully supported that those four alternatives exist and I agree with it to that point. In my opinion there are an additional two alternatives that were completely overlooked.

With knowledge it is extremely clear cut – either you know something or you don’t know and therefore those are the only two possibilities where it comes to knowledge. Belief is not quite the same though. As well as being able to believe something or not believe it there is a third alternative – that of not knowing or caring enough about it to form an opinion either way. It is possible to not form an opinion on something either way and I don’t consider that the same as not believing. Both believing and not believing require that you have an opinion on the subject and not having an opinion is another alternative. If you don’t have an opinion either way then you are neither a believer nor an unbeliever, you are a skeptic.

The discussion that I decided not to join had completely overlooked the alternatives where no opinion is held and that alternative that they overlooked undermined their entire argument based on their being only four alternatives. My telling them that would not have affected their views in any way though since they had already formed their own opinion.

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