Deriving knowledge from belief

I have recently been reviewing my keystone project because I’m planning to try presenting it at a conference and in doing so I have been trying to figure out how my work fits with other contemporary philosophers (since most of the philosophers I have read are at least a century in the grave).  One of the most interesting comments I received on my keystone project was from one of my professors: he compared me (and Quest students in general) to students from eastern Europe by saying that since we did not study in established faculties we often diverge from established traditions of our field.  I feel that this comment fits, because I am finding it difficult to fit my work into what seems to be the current cannon.  This has the upshot that it forces me to innovate in trying to explain my thoughts clearly.


My project is a theory of knowledge, but it does not fit with classical knowledge theory (indeed, I may be appropriating the jargon inappropriately.)  There is a great variety of thinkers in contemporary knowledge theory, but they mostly seem to revolve around the knowledge as justified true belief framework.  My ideas can be made to fit into this framework, but I feel that it kind of bends them out of shape.  What I would like to propose is that there is a way of relating my project to the main thrust of epistemology, but that the way to get at it is to dig underneath classical epistemology (and I think in explaining this I also make my account of knowledge clearer).


I propose that both classical theory and my theory start by proposing that ‘knowledge’ designates ‘high quality beliefs’.  Classical theory argues that ‘high quality beliefs’ are beliefs that are justified and correspond to the truth.  It seems to me that, by defining knowledge in this way, the classical theory divides knowledge into two parts – belief, and the truth it is supposed to mirror.  The ‘justified’ process then becomes defined as ‘process that leads our beliefs to mirror truth.’


In my theory I go about defining knowledge differently – I instead start my inquiry by exploring the nature of beliefs to see if I can give an account of ‘high quality beliefs’ based on what a ‘belief’ actually is.  I succeed at this task, at least in my own eyes, by proposing axioms about our beliefs that I argue we inevitably accept because of our own nature.  I then make an account of knowledge based on my proposed inevitable axioms (the core of my proposal is that we accept our experiences to be valid (axiom), that we build beliefs out of experience, therefore our beliefs are better the more we incorporate continued experience (humility, or not getting too attached to past beliefs)).


Let me know what you think of this framing,


Thank you for reading,

Ryan Workman


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