Knowledge, concept of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P031-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 21, 2021, from

3. Warrant

The property, whatever it is, that, if added to true belief converts it into knowledge, we may refer to as ‘warrant’. Knowledge, then, is true, warranted, belief. But simply to name the missing property does not bring us closer to understanding it and we must be careful not to think of ‘warrant’ as a sophisticated synonym for ‘justified’. Let us say that a belief is justified just in case we are entitled to hold it on the basis of suitable reasons available to us. In the neighbour/lights case mentioned above, we have already seen that justification is not sufficient for warrant. Whether it is even necessary will be important in the discussion that follows, especially in §6.

Given the great variety of approaches to an account of warrant, is there any common, underlying starting point embraced by epistemologists? Yes: a warranted belief is one that is not held on the basis of mere cognitive luck. Plato appeals to that intuition in the Theaetetus; Aristotle’s account of the transition from ignorance of the first principles in science to knowledge of them in the Posterior Analytics is designed to demonstrate that there are reliable cognitive mechanisms whose output is not the result of chance; Descartes (1641) proposes methods for acquiring beliefs that would (he thinks) necessarily lead to truth; Locke (1689) suggests that even if persons arrive at a true belief by accident, they are not thereby free from criticism.

Let us start with the assumption that a proposition is known just in case it is not an accident, from the cognitive point of view, that it is both believed and true. Hence the task becomes one of developing an account of warrant that accurately portrays what it is that makes a belief non-accidentally true from the cognitive point of view.

Citing this article:
Klein, Peter D.. Warrant. Knowledge, concept of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P031-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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