We all know that justified true belief can fail to be knowledge when funny stuff happens (or at least most of us think this). What I want to ask is whether a JTB can fail to be knowledge for a more mundane reason–because the belief is justified, but it isn’t justified enough to count as knowledge.
Another way, perhaps, to put this is to question a line from section 6 of Ralph’s paper “The Aim of Belief”: “[T]here is no way for a rational thinker to pursue the truth except in a way that, if it succeeds, will result in knowledge.” Is this so?
Here’s a case I’d like to survey you on. Charlie Brown, a baseball general manager, is trying to decide who to pick in the amateur draft. He looks at the prospects and comes to believe, based on his high school performance, that Joe Shlabotnik will be a good major league player someday. Indeed, Joe does turn out to be a good major leaguer. So Charlie had a true belief; it also seems as though it may have been justified, because it was based on performance. Yet I would think that it falls short of knowledge, because predicting someone’s eventual major league performance on the basis of his high school performance is too uncertain.
(Apologies to non-baseball fans; the argument probably transfers to any sport, though baseball performance is notoriously difficult to predict.)
Indeed, I’d argue that Charlie is much better off knowing that his pursuit of the truth about Joe’s future performance will not result in knowledge. I’m convinced by Tim Williamson’s argument that one of the advantages of knowledge over JTB is that it is less likely to be abandoned in the face of counterevidence. Yet Charlie should be ready to abandon his belief in Joe’s future in the face of counterevidence. Given the chancy nature of baseball prospects, a general manager has to be prepared to abandon someone who looked promising but who isn’t panning out, or he may damage his team by keeping on an underperforming player. Players who you know to be good will be kept in the lineup after a poor start (I remember Barry Bonds batting under .200 one May when he was in Pittsburgh and going on to win the MVP–er, sorry again to non-baseball fans); players who you think to be good won’t.
Does this case convince you? Do you think Charlie is only justified in believing that Joe will probably be good? Do you think it casts any sort of light on the kind of justification that’s necessary for knowledge?