Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Knowledge or Truth Axiom

Epistemology or the theory of knowledge has a long and honorable tradition in philosophy, starting with the early Greek philosophers. The term is thought to have been introduced into English by the Scottish philosopher James Frederick Ferrier (1808-1864) who studied German philosophy at Heidelberg. Epistemology focusses on analysing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to similar notions such as truth, belief, and justification. Questions such as “What do we know?” “What can be known?” and “What does it mean to say that someone knows something?” have been much discussed in the philosophical literature.

The idea of epistemic logic, a formal logical analysis of reasoning about knowledge, developed more recently in the 1950s and 1960s. The major interest was in trying to capture the inherent properties of knowledge. Axioms for knowledge were suggested, attacked, and defended. More recently still, researchers in such diverse fields as economics, linguistics, artificial intelligence and theoretical computer science have become interested in reasoning about knowledge. For one thing, there are pragmatic concerns about the relationship between knowledge and action. There are also concerns about the complexity of computing knowledge, a notion we can now quantify better thanks to advances in theoretical computer science.

Does an of this have any relevance to divorce? I think it does because a few properties of knowledge can be derived . In particular the knowledge or truth axiom says that if an agent knows facts, the facts must be true. This has often been taken as the major distinguishing feature between knowledge and belief. While you can believe something that is false, you can't know something that is false.


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