Traditionally, it was assumed that a correct analysis of knowledge would have to start with the notion of true belief and then proceed by adding various additional conditions. But is it actually true that knowledge requires belief?
In a very striking new paper, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel argue that the answer might be no. They provide a series of experimental results indicating that there are cases in which people are happy to say that a person knows that p even though that person does not believe that p.
Here is one of the central examples from their paper:
Ben receives an email informing him of a bridge closure on his normal route to work. He becomes mildly annoyed and says to himself, “Now I’ll have to turn on Russell Street and go all the way down to Langdon Avenue.”
So, the next morning, Ben wakes up early and quickly gets ready for work. He makes it out of the house with plenty of time to make the drive. Pleased with the success of his early departure, he decides to listen to one of his favorite albums and enjoy the long drive. By the time Ben is approaching Russell Street, where he should turn, he is enthusiastically tapping his fingers to the music, not paying much attention to where he is going, and he drives right past Russell Street, continuing on his normal route to work. Thus it’s only a matter of time before Ben will reach the closed bridge and have to drive all the way back to Russell Street. Nevertheless, Ben just keeps on tapping his fingers to the music and continues to drive towards the closed bridge.
In a series of cases like this one, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel find that only a minority of participants (35%) say that the epistemic subject believes that the bridge is closed but that a majority (75%) say that he knows that the bridge is closed. So participants here seem to be happy to ascribe knowledge even in the absence of belief.
[For related experimental results, see Myers-Schulz’s original study.]