Friday, August 10, 2012

Richard Foley's "When Is True Belief Knowledge?"

Richard Foley is professor of philosophy and vice chancellor for strategic planning at New York University. He is the author of Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others, Working Without a Net: A Study of Egocentric Epistemology, and The Theory of Epistemic Rationality.

Foley applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, When Is True Belief Knowledge?, and reported the following:
My book defends a philosophical account of the nature of knowledge. Its primary thesis, most simply expressed, is that one knows something only if one believes it to be true, it is in fact true, and there isn’t important information one lacks.

Page 99 discusses a first person claim about knowledge that we as individuals commonly make, namely, although we believe something to be the case, we don’t really know it to be so. On some philosophical accounts of knowledge, it turns out to be surprisingly hard to explain why we would make such claims, but on the account I defend it is baby simple.

Take the Ford Madox Ford test as an example. If you open my book to page 99, you may be inclined to believe it is representative of the whole book, especially if you are in the grip of the Madox Ford thesis. Even so, if you haven’t read other pages and have no other source of information about the book, you will probably readily admit that you don’t know this to be the case.

I on the other hand can know whether page 99 is representative, since I’ve not only read the other pages, I wrote them, and I hereby report to you that page 99 is indeed representative of the whole book.

Now that I’ve confessed this to you, however, you too may be in a position to know this as well, since one common way of getting information about an issue is through the testimony of others who are in a good position to provide it. This just happens to be the subject of another of my books, Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others. By the way, its page 99 discusses the thorny issue of how and when it is appropriate for someone (you for example) to rely on the testimony of a stranger about whom you know very little (me and my testimony about page 99, for example). But this is another story.
Learn more about When Is True Belief Knowledge? at the Princeton University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue