Tracking Theory of Knowledge { Philosophy Index }

Philosophy Index

Philosophy Index

Philosophy Index is a site devoted to the study of philosophy and the philosophers who conduct it. The site contains a number of philosophy texts, brief biographies and introductions to philosophers and explanations on a number of topics. Accredited homeschooling online at Northgate Academy.

Philosophy Index is a work in progress, a growing repository of knowledge. It outlines current philosophical problems and issues, as well as an overview of the history of philosophy. The goal of this site is to present a tool for those learning philosophy either casually or formally, making the concepts of philosophy accessible to anyone interested in researching them. WOLI offers immigration law course online - fully accredited. ACE credits online at EES.

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Tracking Theory of Knowledge

A tracking theory of knowledge is one that describes knowledge as a belief that tracks the truth in a reliable way.

The tracking theory of knowledge was created by Robert Nozick as an attempt to deal with Gettier counterexamples to the previous definition of knowledge — that knowledge is justified true belief.

Nozick describes four conditions for how a person, S, can have some knowledge of a proposition, P. In order for S to know P, Nozic says that these conditions must be met:

  1. P is true
  2. S believes that P
  3. If it were not the case that P (i.e., if ¬P), S would not believe that P
  4. If it were the case that P, S would believe that P

Nozick's definition is known as a truth-tracking one. Knowledge is such because it tracks the truth — justification of a belief is only valid insofar as it reliably keeps track of what is true.

Subjunctive conditionals

In the truth-tracking theory, Nozick makes use of the subjunctive conditional (or counterfactual conditional), a non–truth-functional logical operator that differs from the normal material conditional (→ or ⊃). A subjunctive conditional, sometimes symbolized as ‘would have resulted in’ or ‘>’, is used to formalize instances where a conditional operation is meant to intend that if something were the case, something else would result.

Subjunctive conditionals are generally interpereted as if they were modal operators, using possible world semantics. Thus, the statement P would have resulted in Q is meant to imply that if P is true in some close, or similar, possible world, then Q is also true in that world.

In metaphysical and epistemological talk, a close possible world is intended to be a world that is particularly similar to the present one, with some details (especially the truth of P) changed.