The Main Justification

is memory.

If experience is evidence, the main source of justification of these past events is our memory. Memory is a record of true propositions. It can be reliable, or not. But to remember something is to believe it to be true. And our memory serves as the path to all knowledge by way of this justification.

We are creatures of truth, and our memories serve as evidence of our past.

My memory has seemed to wane recently, and I’ve learned how dependent I was on it. When I lose justification about whether I said something or not, did something or not, I lose confidence. And if I don’t have internal justification with my memory, I seek external validation.

I’d be afraid to say something because I can’t remember whether I’ve already said it or not. I’d be scared to do something because I can’t remember if I’ve already done it or not. So I’d play a game of tact. I’d say it in a way that could be taken as my second time to say or do something.

Even facts that I know are based in memory. While my memory may not be the justification itself, it is the source of the justification. For example, I know that Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world. But how do I know that? I read it online. How did they know it?

If knowledge is justified true belief, what is it without the justification?

So if knowledge is based on this justification, our memory, mine is waning. I still know the same things, yet I have less and less confidence in them. I keep trying to justify the justification: refusing to accept my memory. Instead I look for further evidence or justification of the memory that I do have. I basically don’t trust that what’s in my mind matches what’s in reality. And without the justification, my knowledge is just beliefs. True beliefs, but beliefs nonetheless.

Experience is Evidence

And evidence is justification. And justification is what makes belief knowledge. 

We’ve already discussed how knowledge is justified true belief. But most of our human experience is justified only by our senses. This is knowledge. It’s true belief justified by our senses or personal experience.

For example, your hunger or feelings of hunger are true. You can know that you are hungry without any outside test. No more evidence is required to call yourself hungry, and be right. The interesting part is the only way to know if someone is hungry is to ask them. Perhaps hunger is a bad example. Let’s say that you like the taste of meal. You are the lone arbiter of that truth. Without your feedback, no one will know what you thought of the meal.

In this same way, we know Jesus. The evidence of the Holy Spirit is internal, experiential, so that the testimony of the spirit is some of the best evidence we can give of a risen Lord. Therefore, the closest a non-believer can get to Jesus is through you.

Knowledge, Belief, and Fantasy

What is knowledge? It’s an awareness that something your head corresponds to reality. Of course, there may be justification needed to verify that what’s in your head does actually correspond with reality. Otherwise there is no way of verifying that the thing corresponds with reality. And if you don’t know that it corresponds with reality, it’s not knowledge.

But if your thought corresponds with reality, justified or not, it is true. Wait. If you believe that bigfoot exists [assuming he does] without reason to believe so, is it knowledge? It can’t be. There is no reason to think that the proposition, “Bigfoot exists” is true. You just believe that bigfoot exists.

The question becomes How do you know it’s true? Because it can only be knowledge if it’s true. The only way to know it’s true is justification. So the only way to verify that your belief that bigfoot exists is true is to have reason to believe that bigfoot exists in reality. Otherwise, it is not knowledge. It’s fantasy.

Justifying the Justification

In our exploration of counterfactuals, we explored regrets and the principle of explosion, and how I think they could effect human behavior. In this post, we’re going to explore knowledge, and how its requirement for justification may alter human psyche.

Overlooking for a moment the complications posed by Gettier problems, philosophy has essentially continued to operate on the principle that knowledge is justified true belief. The obvious question that this definition entails is how one can know whether one’s justification is sound. One must therefore provide a justification for the justification. That justification itself requires justification, and the questioning continues interminably.

The conclusion is that no one can truly have knowledge of anything, since it is, due to this infinite regression, impossible to satisfy the justification element. In practice, this has caused little concern to philosophers, since the demarcation between a reasonably exhaustive investigation and superfluous investigation is usually clear.

How does this effect human behavior? In what areas do we seek justification? Performance, looks, or any number of other things.

If you were obsessed with looking good, you may seek the opinion of others. You may stare in the mirror. Even if you think you look good and others say you look good, they could be wrong. You could be wrong. So if you seek knowledge of your good looks, you may never be satisfied with your justification. And if you’re never satisfied with the justification, you may never be satisfied with your looks.

There is undoubtedly always room for skepticism. If there is an infinite regress in the justification, where do you draw the line? When do you accept the justification?