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An Evaluation of Fred Dretske's Conception of Knowledge and Beliefs.

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An Evaluation of Fred Dretske's Conception of Knowledge and Beliefs. When looking to evaluate Fred Dretske it is important to consider both the vehicle based approach and the vehicle-less approach. Information is a key concept when it comes to understanding Fred Dretske and his conception of knowledge and belief, however before one is able to fully understand this concept of belief and knowledge we need to first need to understand his conception of what a belief is. This essay aims to create comparison between the vehicle based and vehicle-less approach that will assist with the understanding Dretske's conception of knowledge and belief before a final evaluation and conclusion will be made. When examining the vehicle based approach it is important to grasp what Dretske describes a belief to be. He describes them as a representation. These representations are divided up into three types of representational systems. Within these representational systems, there are elements of functionality and power. Dretske describes these systems as "any system whose function it is to indicate how things stand with respect to some other object, condition, or magnitude" (Dretske, 1991:52) A Type 1 representational system is something that is completely conventional. An example of this is a map. Through convention the symbols and drawings on the map have come to mean something, however if they were to stand alone the meaning would be lost. ...read more.


An example of this given to us by Dretske is that when A's telephone began to ring so did B's. There is no lawful relationship between the ringing of A's phone with the ringing of B's. Even if every single time A's phone began to ring B's did as well. This could only be put down to coincidence. If B's phone rings every time A's phone does one may be able to begin to predict one event from knowledge of the other but the two events still remain statistically independent (Dretske, 2000:106). Dretske also believed in a flow of information in that he believed information to be fluid and so easily transported. An example of this is that X knows information about Y and Y knows information about Z therefore X knows Z. This is clear for this must be the way that information such as gossip travels around. The final thing that is important to Dretske is intentionality, as he believes it is the distinction between the thermometer and humans. As humans, we have a sense of intentionality through our beliefs and ideas; inanimate objects such as a thermometer do not posses such qualities. It is this idea and understanding of intentionality that helps to differentiate between Type 2 and Type 3 representational groups. ...read more.


One is able to pick up on the signal that is being carried with particular information of a source in a certain state. If there is a lawful relationship between this source and the signal, this results in information. This information is turned into knowledge. The conditional probability of s is F = 1. Dretske also illustrates that false information is not information therefore it is not knowledge, and finally knowledge is an information caused belief. In contrast this, a summary of the vehicle-less approach is as follows. The vehicle based approach is comprised of contradictions. For one to gain knowledge and beliefs there has to be knowledge. If knowledge is false knowledge, there is no knowledge. Therefore, to say for example, you believe it is raining but not raining does not make sense. You cannot commit yourself to the truth of either belief. This demonstrates that Dretske's vehicle approach is flawed in that it creates contradictions in the first person. Dretske's vehicle based approach is very convincing in many aspects of his theory. His development from a source to a signal to a receiver is logical and easily followed. Although his points are clear when it comes to illustrating how knowledge and belief are created through this process, I find myself unable to completely attach myself to his theory. The fact that his theory is flawed when it comes to placing his examples in first person makes me think twice before fully engaging in his beliefs. ...read more.

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