Socrates knowledge is a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

In Theaetetus, Socrates develops an account of what knowledge is which goes something like this. You have knowledge when you believe in something, that something is true and you have a justification for believing it. This is the classic account of what it means to know something.

I have a simpler description which fits better with how we think we know things today. You have knowledge when you believe in something and that something happens to be true.

I consider the addition of justification akin to a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.

Here is an example of a “no true Scotsman” fallacy.
Person A: “No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
Person B: “But my uncle Angus likes sugar with his porridge.”
Person A: “Ah yes, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.”
To claim that my simple definition is “not true knowledge” follows the same pattern. A good justification will improve the credibility of the knowledge, but even without any justification, it is still knowledge.
Person A: “No one can know a fact without justification.”
Person B: “But my uncle Angus is Scottish and he knows that he is Scottish and says he just knows it without any justification .”
Person A: “Ah yes, but if it had been true knowledge, he would have a justification for it.”

I originally stated this 2012-12-10 in a philosophy discussion hosted by Coursera for the department of philosophy at EdinburghUniversity.

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