Propositional Knowledge

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This week’s topic is about the different kinds of knowledge. The concept of knowledge is at the center of epistemology. There are several kinds of knowledge. One of these is “propositional knowledge.” Below is an example of “propositional knowledge.”

Philosophers since Plato have defined propositional knowledge as at least a matter of “justified, true belief.” In other words, to know any proposition p, one must: believe “p”; “p” must be true, and “p” must be justified by adequate reasons.

For example: Consider the following proposition: “Abraham Lincoln was the 16th President of the United States.” Imagine two people, Smith and Jones.

  • Both believe this proposition about Lincoln.
  • Smith is a historian who specializes in Lincoln’s presidency during the U.S. Civil War. Smith believes this proposition based on studying evidence about Lincoln during that time.
  • Jones has never heard of Abraham Lincoln, but believes the proposition because it was mentioned on a television comedy show and Jones has a habit of believing whatever hears on comedy shows. Jones lacks adequate evidence for his belief.

What do Smith and Jones have in common? They share the same belief about Lincoln, namely, that he was the 16th president. This belief is true. But what do Smith and Jones not have in common? Smith has evidence for his belief. Jones lacks evidence. So, Smith has a justified, true belief. He has knowledge. Jones has a true belief without justification. He lacks knowledge. You will reflect on this example of propositional knowledge about Lincoln and discuss your thoughts about it in this week’s discussion.

Consider the definition of propositional knowledge and the example about Lincoln in the What You Need To Know section.

  • Do you agree that propositional knowledge requires justified, true belief?
  • Why or why not?
  • This is a discussion post and has to be a minimum of 250 words

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