A few days back, a friend of mine asked me that why these days epistemologists are talking about ‘understanding’ instead of knowledge, justification or something of that sort. Let me try to give a brief response on this from my limited information. Epistemology is usually defined as “theory of knowledge” and was busy defining “knowledge” and related concepts such as justification. In the recent times, some of the epistemologists felt dissatisfied with epistemology’s obsession with ‘knowledge’. They suggested that epistemology should be redefined in such a way where it is able to deal with epistemic notions which fall short of knowledge. They argues that epistemology should focus on epistemic goods such as ‘understanding’, ‘wisdom’ etc. which may not have anything to do with knowledge (as ‘knowledge’ is construed in epistemology).
One argument of some of these epistemologists to make such a move is the following. They argue that it is not so clear that ‘knowledge’ is the kind of thing we should care for. They argue that we need to clarify our intuition that knowledge distinctly valuable – the “value problem” of knowledge which began with Meno. The ‘value problem’ of knowledge can be (crudely) put as follows.
a) How knowledge is more valuable than true belief?
b) How is knowledge more valuable than all its parts put together?
If I understand it correctly, a) can be understood as follows. Suppose we define knowledge as as ‘justified true belief’. In this case, let us examine that what additional epistemic value knowledge has, other than the epistemic value that true belief has. The epistemic value of justification consists in its ability to help us to arrive at a true belief (truth conduciveness). That is to say that the epistemic value of justification is depended upon the epistemic value of truth. This would mean that knowledge has no additional epistemic value other than hat of truth. If that is the case, it is difficult to see that in what sense knowledge is distinctly valuable. Option b) also can be understood on a similar line I presume (I am not attempting to elaborate on it since I have a lack clarity on this. Please shed some light on it if you have any idea).
Some epistemologyst’s argue that the value problem of knowledge shows that it is not so clear that knowledge is the most epistemically valuable state. These epistemologists are unsatisfied with the post-Gettier developments in epistemology as well. They claim that, attempts to find a fourth condition to dissolve the threat of Gettier has been very unsuccessful. They think that the attempts to find a fourth condition resulted in producing a very complex and “gerrymandered” account of knowledge which is not so intuitive. This makes one very suspicious whether knowledge (construed in this way) is what one (should) value. This line of argument should be a good enough motivation – if not a compelling reason- to look for other epistemically significant notions (such as understanding and wisdom) by leaving the obsession with ‘knowledge’ I guess.
What do you think?