Internalism vs Externalism

Topics: Truth, Epistemology, Understanding Pages: 4 (1661 words) Published: March 27, 2005
Internalism vs. Externalism

Knowledge can be achieved either through the justification of a true belief or for the substantive externalist, through a "natural or law like connection between the truth of what is believed and the person's belief" (P.135). Suppose a man named George was implanted with a chip at birth, which causes him to utter the time in a rare Russian dialect. His girlfriend Irina, who happens to speak the same Russian dialect, realizes that every time she taps his shoulder, he tells her the time and he is always right. She knows that he is right because she checks her watch. Because she thinks this is cute, she never tells him what it is that he is saying. One day, Irina's watch breaks but instead of getting it fixed, she just taps George on the shoulder whenever she needs to ask for the time.

We may ask ourselves whether it is appropriate to claim that George has knowledge of the time every time he utters it. The answer is NO. Irina has been amused by his Russian utterances and has thus never told him what the words he says mean in English. So if Irina were to ask George what time it was, in English, he would be unable to tell her without looking at a watch or clock. This is due to the fact that when he speaks the time in Russian, his mind is not really referring to the time. The chip implanted in his brain clearly calculates the time on its own, not requiring the use of any of his bodily functions. The only interaction that the chip would have with George is to cause him to utter the appropriate numbers. So, since his brain is not involved in any calculating processes and all he does is utter the time in a foreign language, it is clear that George does not understand what he is saying. Without understand, it is obvious that he cannot form a belief based on what he are saying. If the requirement for knowledge is a true belief that is either justified or connected by natural law to a factual truth, then in the absence of a belief, there...
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