On the Analysis of knowledge

Virtue theoretical account of knowledge defines knowledge in terms of intellectual virtues. Examples of intellectual virtues are perception, memory, inference, open-mindedness, conscientiousness etc. Is it necessary to provide an analysis of ‘intellectual virtues’ to provide an analysis of ‘knowledge’ which is based on ‘intellectual virtues’? I tend to think that it is not.
In Plato’s Meno, there is a question that “is virtue teachable?”. The answer from Socrates is that I do not know what virtue is and hence I cannot tell you whether it is teachable or not. The idea is that one cannot tell whether virtue is teachable or not, unless one knows what it is.
Let me pose a question which is similar (in structure) to that of the question raises in Meno. Can knowledge be transmitted? If you want to respond in the Socratic/Platonic line, you might respond in menothe following way: “I do not know what ‘knowledge’ mean and hence cannot answer the question whether it can be transmitted or not. How can one say whether knowledge can be transmitted or not unless one knows what ‘knowledge’ is”.
One way is to accept the view of Socrates/Plato expressed on these matter. Another way is not to accept the socratic/Platonic view on these matters. I do not accept the Socratic/Platonic view on these. Let me elaborate a bit.
Consider the question: Can knowledge be transmitted? We know that in epistemology thus far, most would argue, we have not been successful in providing an account of what knowledge is. That is, we have not been succeeded in providing necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. In that sense we do not know what ‘knowledge’ is. If that is the case we would not be able to answer the question: ‘can knowledge be transmitted?’. But is it the case? I would say that we can provide an account of whether knowledge can be transmitted or not. This can be done because of the following reason. It is not that we have no idea what so ever as to what knowledge is. We have not been able to provide a necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. Neverthe less we have some understanding as to what knowledge is. We use the term in language. We seems to have a grasp of the concept ‘knowledge’ to apply it properly. We know how to use the concept. Remember if you do not already have an understanding as to what knowledge is, how would you understand that you have provided necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge when you do so. It would seem that though you are not able to provide the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge, you know enough as to what knowledge is to the extend where you can provide an account as to whether ‘knowledge can be transmitted or not’. In that sense providing an analysis of ‘knowledge’ is not required for answering whether ‘knowledge can be transmitted’. If that is the case, providing the conditions of ‘knowledge’ is not mandatory (may be desirable) to answer the question at issue. One might think that the two questions are to be considered as two separate philosophical projects. The question that what is knowledge and can knowledge be transmitted are two separate philosophical projects. One need not wait untill one gets a conclusive answer to the question (perhaps in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions) ‘what knowledge is’ to begin the second philosophical project of answering the question ‘can knowledge be transmitted’.
In a similar line one can see that the same should be the case with the case of ‘virtue’. One need not wait untill one gets the necessary and sufficient conditions of ‘virtue’ (which is one philosophical project) to answer the question ‘can virtue be taught’ (which is a separate philosophical project).
Similarly, if one is using ‘virtue’ in providing an account of knowledge, one need not provide the conditions of virtue (necessary and sufficient conditions) for providing the analysis of knowledge. Providing the analysis/conditions of virtue might be desirable but is not mandatory. In that sense providing the conditions of virtue and providing an analysis of knowledge which makes use of the notion ‘virtue’ can be seen as two separate philosophical projects. That is of course not to say that the two philosophical projects are no way related. That is not to say that providing an analysis/conditions of virtue is not a significant philosophical project either; it is important.
It is important to develop an account of ‘virtue’ to get a fuller understanding of the virtue epistemology project. That is so with other approaches to epistemology as well. If you define knowledge as ‘justified true belief plus something else’, one need an account of ‘justification’, ‘truth’ and ‘belief’ ( not so much attention is provided on ‘belief’. Justification and ‘truth’ are often considered as normative where as ‘belief’ is often construed as ‘psychological’). However one can provide an analysis of knowledge without providing an/the analysis/conditions of ‘justification’ and ‘truth’. That is to suggest that they (analysis of knowledge, justification,truth and belief) are to be seen as different philosophical projects.

2 comments on “On the Analysis of knowledge

  1. Good one. I liked your move with a counter example.

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