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I simply just do not understand this concept, everything from the idea of close possible worlds to the counterfactual conditions.

So, 1. P is true. 2. You believe that P

(following the famous "fake barn county" example, P is true because Henry is looking at a real barn, he is looking at the one and only real barn in the area and Henry believes he is looking at a real barn) - I understand this, both conditions are satisfied. He has a true belief.

Then, Nozick presents 2 conditionals that I simply just do not unterstand, here I will try to make sense of them but please, correct my mistake.

3. in the situation you are in, or in a similar situation if P is not true, then you would not believe that P.

Let me introduce E. Sosa's Fake Barn example :

  1. The Fake Barn Case The fake barn case runs as follows. You are driving through some rural area, perhaps some part of Wisconsin. The locals, bored with ordinary farm life, have decided to play a trick on visitors, and so have tried to replace all the barns in the area with fake barns. They inadvertently leave one real barn in place. As you are driving through the countryside, you take notice of various objects: houses, cars, horses, cows, pigs, fields of corn and other crops, etc. You only notice one barn-like object, and it happens to be the only real barn in the locale. You believe it is a barn, and your belief is an ordinary perceptual one, and one that is true. But because of the activity of the locals, you do not know that it is a barn. (Jonathan L. Kvanvig, 'Sosa's Virtue Epistemology', Crítica: Revista Hispanoamericana de Filosofía, Vol. 42, No. 125, p.48.)

So, in fake barn county, if Henry was looking at a fake barn he would not believe he is looking at a fake barn. ??

4. in the situation you are in, or a similar situation if P were true, then you would believe that P.

So, in fake barn county if Henry was looking at a real barn, then he would believe he was looking at a real barn. ??

I just do not understand the 2 conditionals, I do not understand how they produce knowledge of anything and I simply just cannot get my head around the idea of what they are trying to present when talking about different situations.

Please, please help. Thankyou.

  • It would be helpful to this reader, and perhaps others, if the question described in more detail the example of the fake barn county. – Mark Andrews Mar 19 '18 at 20:34
  • Duly detailed - good suggestion, – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 20 '18 at 13:16
2

▻ NOZICK'S CONDITIONS

On Nozick's analysis, S knows that p if and only if

(1) p is true.

(2) S believes, via method or way of coming to believe M, that p.

(3) If p weren't true and S were to use M to arrive at a belief whether (or not) p, then S wouldn't believe, via M, that p.

(4) If p were true and S were to use M to arrive at a belief whether (or not) p, then S would believe, via M, that p.

('Philosophical Explanations', p. 179)

This plainly takes the first two conditions of the familiar Gettier analysis - (1) and (2) here - and aims to avoid the equally familiar Gettier problems by adding, not Gettier's justification condition but the two counterfactuals (3) and (4). Why ? With the failure of the Gettier conditions to ensure knowledge in mind, Gil Harman advanced the requirement that 'the lemmas be true'. This is the requirement that Nozick tries to satisfy.

▻ EXAMPLE

I know that there is a vase on the table if and only if :

  1. It is true that there is a vase on the table.

  2. I believe, by looking in conditions of standard illumination and with 20:20 vision, that there is a vase on the table.

  3. Assume that I have no beliefs about the vase. I am out of the room. But, if it weren't true that there is a vase on the table, then put me in the room and by looking in conditions of standard illumination and with 20:20 vision to arrive at a belief about whether a vase is there or not, I would not believe that there is a vase in the room.

  4. Assume that I have no beliefs about the vase. I am out of the room. But, if it were true that there is a vase on the table, then put me in the room and by looking in conditions of standard illumination and with 20:20 vision to arrive at a belief about whether a vase is there or not, I would believe that there is a vase in the room.

This example is just a quick filling out of the conditions to give them concreteness.

▻ DO THE COUNTERFACTUALS WORK AND ENSURE KNOWLEDGE ?

No : and this can be seen from a quotation from Nozick with commentary by Graeme Forbes.

A person comes to believe that a vase is in a box by seeing an illuminated hologram, part of a machine which alternates between displaying the hologram and the real vase containing in the box... the machine, in alternate time periods, displays a hologram of a vase only when a vase is pressing down on a lever (it somehow detects a vase and not another thing). Hence if there weren't a vase there, he wouldn't believe there was one; and if there were one there, he would come to believe, by looking, that there was. Thus, our account has the consequence that he knows a vase is there, even when he is seeing the hologram but thinks he is seeing the vase. (R. Nozick, 'Philosophical Explanatations', 190.)

Nozick remarks only that this consequence is "somewhat counterintuitive" (loc. cit.), apparently not recognizing that the example is just a Gettier case with an extra twist to make the appropriate instances of the counterfactual schemata (3) and (4) come out true. The case is certainly not one where theory may be allowed to override intuition: the subject infers the true belief that there is a vase in the box from the false belief he would express by the sentence 'That's a vase in the box there', a belief he acquires when he sees the hologram. It must be emphasized that seeing the vase-hologram is quite unlike seeing a picture of the vase in the box, since the hologram does not represent the vase in any way analogous to the way a picture does; for example, if the hologram looks like the vase, this may be purely accidental. So in this case, the lemma is certainly false, yet Nozick's analysis attributes knowledge. Moreover, no readjustment of clauses (3) and (4) will solve the problem, since we can always arrange causal ties between the deceptive state of affairs and the fortuitous belief-verifying state to ensure that counterfactual clauses give the wrong verdict about these inferential examples. (G. Forbes, 'Nozick On Scepticism', The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), Vol. 34, No. 134 (Jan., 1984), pp. 45.)

▻ CONCLUSION

Nozick's conditions (3) and (4) do not meet Harman's requirement that 'the lemmas be true', which is their rationale. If we accept this requirement, Nozick's analysis of the conditions for knowledge fails.

  • Thankyou very kindly for your detailed explanation, I've spent awhile thinking this through and talking to others to gain some perspective on this problem. I am a bit clearer now, however I would really appreciate if you could tell me if my train of thought here is correct. 1) and 2 conditions are satisfied, it is true that Henry is looking at the one and only real barn in the area, and he believes this from his visual perception. 3) If he were looking at a fake barn, then he would not believe it was fake in his enviroment. The 4th condition still completely throws me off. – user3295255 Mar 19 '18 at 22:49
  • Hi ! (3) If Henry weren't looking at the real barn then he would still believe that he was, so this condition isn't met. (4) is met : if he were to look at the real barn then he would believe he was looking at the real barn. (4) is there, like (3), to ensure that the method is reliable. But the method is not reliable if it fails either (3) or (4). It fails (3) and so is not reliable. Read (3) and (4) as a conjunction : the conjunction is false if one of the conjuncts is false. One is, namely (3). Any clearer ? – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 19 '18 at 23:24
  • I know (4) still troubles you. I think you are giving it too much depth. (3) is important - you don't know that p if p is true and you believe that p but if p weren't true you would still believe it. All that (4) implies is that the method is consistent. If (1) and (2) are met in actual conditions, with the given method, they would also be met with the same given method in hypothetical conditions, the 'were ...would' situation described. – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 19 '18 at 23:41
  • Hi, I think what is troubling me about condition 4 is whether it can fail, like 3 can. E.g 1. Barn is real, 2. He believes barn is real, 3. If the barn wasn't real he would still believe it was (Condition fails) 4. The barn is real, he believes the barn is real. This is not knowledge. So, 1.barn is real, 2. he believes barn is real 3 If the barn was not real, he wouldn't believe that it was. 4. How can condition 4 possibly fail, it is the conclusion of 1 or 2. I guess 1 or 2 could fail, but 4 is just a confirmation conditional, is that right? I really and truly appreciate your help, thankyou – user3295255 Mar 20 '18 at 3:09
  • Answer revised. – Geoffrey Thomas Mar 20 '18 at 9:48
0

At its core, what the Gettier problem shows is that knowledge can’t just be a justified true belief because it is possible that I could have a justified belief that only happens to be true by accident. (Think of the fake barn case.) Therefore, what a solution to the problem must do is show a connection between justification and truth that rules out these happy accidents.

That’s just what Nozick’s two conditions do. If I believe there is a barn and that belief is only true by accident, then one of the conditions isn’t fulfilled.

  • Thankyou very kindly for your detailed explanation, I've spent awhile thinking this through and talking to others to gain some perspective on this problem. I am a bit clearer now, however I would really appreciate if you could tell me if my train of thought here is correct. 1) and 2 conditions are satisfied, it is true that Henry is looking at the one and only real barn in the area, and he believes this from his visual perception. 3) If he were looking at a fake barn, then he would not believe it was fake in his enviroment. The 4th condition still completely throws me off. – user3295255 Mar 19 '18 at 22:54

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