Is it consistent to say "I know that London is the capital of England, but I am not certain"? For I could have been lied to all my life, so I am not certain of it.

  • There is a difference between Psychology and Philosophy. What is a fact is not subjective.You seem to be basing much on language itself. In reality it happens to be London is the capital of England. This has nothing to do with philosophy or language. It is more to do with authority than something academic. Because you don't know something let's call x doesn't mean there is no truth about x. X can be true or false if you knew about it or not. To say you know x with certainty means there is no possibility for error. There are slang context where it's not so serious where you will be called out.
    – Logikal
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 2:33
  • Depends on what "certainty" means, it is a very vague predicate. Degree of certainty for knowledge is expected to be higher than for mere opinions, but absolute certainty isn't required. Presumably, one has to be certain enough to act on it, but that does not rule out doubts. There is even a term uncertain knowledge.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jun 27, 2020 at 3:15
  • There is a case where this would be a contradiction. If we understand that knowledge is a collection of definitely true statements and that certainly is the process of verifying that these statements are definitely true, then having knowledge without certainty would be a contradiction. It would be like having the sum as the result of the process of arithmetic addition without having performing the process that results in this sum.
    – polcott
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 14:15
  • Parliament is sovereign, and sits in Westminster, a separate city than The City of London, which became part of England by treaty rather than force of arms, fortified by the remains of a Roman built wall which had been restored after repeated occupation by Vikings before the Normans. There are a host of questions about exactly what capital means, and London has to be regarded as that of England only colloquially, not formally. There is no certain knowledge, outside of a specific context & definitions, which culture & language never hold unchanging over time.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 15:50

1 Answer 1

  1. I can know that p without being certain that p if, for instance, I have evidence sufficient for knowledge that p but am uncertain whether the evidence is sufficient. No contradiction.

  2. I can also know that p without being certain that p if, for instance, I knew that p at time t1, I remember that p at time t2 but, at t2, am uncertain whether I am veridically or falsely remembering. No contradiction.

  3. The avowal, 'I know that p but I am not certain that p', raises different issues. In saying, 'I know that p' you imply that you have the highest degree of confidence that p. In which case how can you consistently avow also that you are not certain that p, since not being certain that p implies having less that the highest degree of confidence that p? Contradiction.

  • "Knowledge" without logically justified certainty is actually some degree of presumption even though the common usage of the term is not taken to mean this.
    – polcott
    Commented Jun 30, 2020 at 6:03

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