In recent years Nozick's notion of knowledge as tracking truth has witnessed a revival. - Horacio Arló-Costa, 2006.
Here I present two counterexamples to the truth-tracking account of knowledge. As far as I have been able to tell, they are new.
The simple version of Nozick's famous (1981) truth-tracking account runs as follows:
S knows that p iffCounterexample 1: I have a deep-seated, counterfactually robust delusional belief that my neighbour is a divine oracle. He is actually a very reliable and truthful tax-lawyer. There is a point about tax law he has always wanted to tell me, p. One day, he tells me that p, and I believe him, because I believe he is a divine oracle. I would never believe him if I knew he was a lawyer, being very distrustful of lawyers.
1. p is true
2. S believes that p
3. If p weren’t true, S wouldn’t believe that p
4. If p were true, S would believe that p
In this case, it seems to me, I do not know that p: my belief rests on a delusion, albeit a counterfactually robust one. But it is true, I believe it, and my belief tracks the truth: if it were true, I would have believed it, and if it were false, I would not have believed it. (The lawyer, being reliable and truthful about tax law, would not have told me that p if p were not the case.)
Counterexample 2: My neighbour is a tax lawyer. Here, unlike in the previous counterexample, I have no delusional belief. It is my neighbour who is the strange one: for years, he has intently nurtured an eccentric plan to get me to believe the truth about whether p, where p is a true proposition of tax law, along with five false propositions about tax law. His intention to do this is very counterfactually robust. He moves in next door and slowly wins my trust. One day, he begins to regale me with points of tax law. He asserts six propositions: p and five false ones. I believe them all.
It seems to me that I do not know that p in this case either. But I believe it, it is true, and my belief tracks the truth: if p were the case, I would have believed it, and if p were not the case, I would not have believed it (remember, the tax lawyer has long been anxious that I believe the truth about whether p).
These counterexamples carry over to Nozick's more complicated method-relativized version of the account (since there is only one method in question in each case). That version runs as follows:
S knows, via method (or way of knowing) M, that p iff
1. p is true
2. S believes, via method M, that p
3. If p weren’t true, and S were to use M to arrive at a belief whether (or not) p, then S wouldn’t believe, via M, that p
4. If p were true, and S were to use M to arrive at a belief whether (or not) p, S
would believe, via M, that p.
The final account of knowing is then:
S knows that p iff there is a method M such that (a) she knows that p via M, her belief via M that p satisfies conditions 1 – 4, and (b) all other methods via which she believes that p which do not satisfy 1 – 4 are outweighed by M.
(Formulation taken from Matthew Nudds, 'Truth Tracking' (handout).)They also carry over to the recent account of Briggs and Nolan (2012), which replaces counterfactuals with dispositions. (Their account was designed to deal with cases where the truth-tracking account undergenerates. Here, it overgenerates.)
Furthermore, they are unaffected by a recent defence of the truth-tracking account, due to Adams and Clarke (2005), against already-known putative counterexamples; these ones seem importantly different, and nothing Adams and Clarke say carries over to them, at least in any way I have been able to discern.
Thanks to John Turri, Fred Adams and Murray Clarke for helpful correspondence.
Adams, F. & Clarke, M. (2005). Resurrecting the tracking theories. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 83 (2):207 – 221.
Briggs, R. & Nolan, D. (2012). Mad, bad and dangerous to know. Analysis. 72 (2):314-316.
Nozick, R. (1981). Philosophical Explanations. Harvard University Press.