Monday, October 5, 2009

Whether claims of knowledge with low epistemic standards are bullshit.

I was joking with Gideon yesterday about epistemic standards of knowledge and he made a claim that he knew I would do well on my philosophy of religion paper. I argued that he had insufficient justification to claim that knowledge. There was certain evidence inaccessible to him at the time he asserted that I would do well-- he was unaware that I would try to stay up all night and so the end of my paper would be reflective of my exhaustion, he was unaware of the cat at Diane's house distracting us, and perhaps he is generally unaware that although in class I may sound like I have coherent thoughts, my paper writing skills are less than impressive. Is Gideon's statement that he knows I'll do well on my paper "bullshit"?

My intuitions said it was precisely the kind of corner-cutting Frankfurt describes in the example of the modern architect up against the architect of Notre Dame cathedral. He puts up a grand statement, much like an aesthetically pleasing building, without studying the details, analogous to learning the trade of building-making. So Gideon's statement is bullshit (no offense, friend :) ).

But Gideon has come back with this reply: while his epistemic standards for knowledge are low, he is still respecting some sort of justification scheme for knowledge, whereas true bullshit has absolutely no regard for the truth. So on this view, Gideon would have to tell me something with misleading implicatures for it to be bullshit.

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