Timothy Williamson (in Knowledge and its Limits, 2000, p. 62) argues that knowledge ascriptions are vital to explanations of behavior. Not everyone buys this argument. I don’t want to convince those people; rather, I think that the value of knowledge stretches beyond its usefulness in predicting behavior. When we find out that someone knows something, we get more information than we do when we find out that they JTB the proposition in question. It seems to me that this isn’t just more information: it’s more useful information.
I have an embarrassing paperback habit. I read trashy pulp novels incessantly. But I don’t want my colleagues to know about this intellectual failing, so I hide my copies of Childhood’s End, Ender’s Game, and Little Big in a secure lockbox under my bed and only read them when no one can see me.
Erik has always suspected that I’m into crappy sci-fi fantasy. He hates sci-fi readers and wants to determine whether Mike likes paperback sci-fi novels (henceforth, p).
If I discover that Erik JTB(p), this shouldn’t have any effect on my behavior. I can keep reading my paperback novels in private without any worry. But were I to discover that Erik knows that p, this would imply that my efforts of concealment were in vain; I’ll have to change where I hide my books, or only read them after certain hours. So discovering that Erik knows is more valuable to me than discovering only that he justifiably believes.
I want to learn more about Phillip K. Dick. I discover that Louise knows that Dick published his first story in 1951, but she knows little else about him. As she has knowledge, rather than mere JTB, there is a veritable evidential basis for her knowledge. I ask Louise “how did you find that out?” Her answer reveals her source, from which I discover much more Dick-related information. Soon I’m a contented Phillip Dick expert.
Here’s the point: whether or not knowledge is vital to the prediction of behavior, knowledge plays an important role in facilitating the flow of information; if I want to know something my friends don’t (as in Research) or I want to keep them from something I know (as in Concealment), I need to find out what they know, rather than just what they JTB. This point doesn’t rely on my desire to know; this would hold even if I only wanted to truly believemore than my friends, or prevent them from having some true beliefs.