The Measure of Knowledge

Noûs 47 (3):577-601 (2012)
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What is it to know more? By what metric should the quantity of one's knowledge be measured? I start by examining and arguing against a very natural approach to the measure of knowledge, one on which how much is a matter of how many. I then turn to the quasi-spatial notion of counterfactual distance and show how a model that appeals to distance avoids the problems that plague appeals to cardinality. But such a model faces fatal problems of its own. Reflection on what the distance model gets right and where it goes wrong motivates a third approach, which appeals not to cardinality, nor to counterfactual distance, but to similarity. I close the paper by advocating this model and briefly discussing some of its significance for epistemic normativity. In particular, I argue that the 'trivial truths' objection to the view that truth is the goal of inquiry rests on an unstated, but false, assumption about the measure of knowledge, and suggest that a similarity model preserves truth as the aim of belief in an intuitively satisfying way.



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Nick Treanor
University of Edinburgh

Citations of this work

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IV—Understanding and Knowing.Paulina Sliwa - 2015 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 115 (1pt1):57-74.
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Word and Object.Willard Van Orman Quine - 1960 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Malden, Mass.: Wiley-Blackwell.
New work for a theory of universals.David K. Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Knowledge in a social world.Alvin I. Goldman - 1991 - New York: Oxford University Press.
On Certainty (ed. Anscombe and von Wright).Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1969 - San Francisco: Harper Torchbooks. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, G. H. von Wright & Mel Bochner.

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