Should You Shut Up? Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans

People want to talk. And people want to talk more and more during crisis periods. And we are living a turbulent period now. So people are talking more and more, and most of the times they are not willing to listen. Of course, I am thinking about Covid-related issues -measures, vaccines, forecasts-, but more in general, about the largest social dilemma nowadays: expertise or democracy?

But before dealing with the dilemma and before giving or considering opinions on topics, three categories of subjects must be established: Experts, Spectators, and Charlatans.

Experts are the ones in the field, those who have studied and worked the topic for many years and present knowledge and skills the rest of people do not have. A virologist when talking about viruses, an auto mechanic when considering cars, or a footballer when playing football are experts in their fields.

Spectators correspond to trained audience. Doctors should be spectators on Covid, as well as any person who has got an interest on the topic followed by hours of witnessing, experiencing, or studying. People who have been recently reading and analyzing studies and measures on Covid are spectators, as well as football fans and sports commentators, or particulars fond of cars having tried many of them: they cannot develop further research, but they can evaluate experts work.

Charlatans are just charlatans. People with no experience or training in the field, but giving opinions and even trying to influence decisions with no idea. Covid commentators grabbing a beer, me in the case of football, or people who have never driven a car are the counterparts here.

When considering the debate expertise vs. democracy, the former sets decisions focusing on experts, while the latter must set decisions giving more relevance to spectators -but never to charlatans!

Furthermore, we often tend to consider that experts’ studies and opinions must converge, while that is not true -actually, I would say that is false most of the times. That does not mean that some experts are efficient and reliable while others not: there may be better and worse experts, but if they are not efficient and reliable enough, then they are not experts at all but probably charlatans. It is just that their studies drove them to different results. And, at the very first, all of them are correct if they followed a rigorous scientific methodology.

Establishing boundaries between the three categories is challenging too, especially between spectators and charlatans. When does an individual have training enough in order to be considered a spectator? Obviously, it depends on the case, and not all the spectators are equally trained and reliable in their opinions. But just let me argue that some rhetorical and philosophical universal tools are useful in order to detect charlatans, and they are also suitable for becoming a good spectator in most of the fields -clue: often charlatans are not able to listen to others and they tend to devalue experts.

And what about the common individual who wants to become an spectator? Now the last clue of this post appears: dissemination, that is, the bridge between the experts work and knowledge, and masses, done by the very experts and experts on dissemination. Unluckily, many current media pretend to disseminate while they are not -many times masking non-scientific purposes-, and masses have not some basic tools to detect fake dissemination, feeling they have reliable information when they do not. Again, philosophical tools are essential to counterpart machination, and they should be included in our education systems since a very early age.

Are “dangerous” places really dangerous?

When I moved to Manila in 2017, many people in Zaragoza seemed to be worried about me: Why are you going to such a dangerous place? Haven’t you heard about the ‘War on Drugs’? Honestly, I did not care: many of those people only showed jealousy and toxicity during their lives, and their comments would never be positive. On the other hand, I was exhausted of Zaragoza and Spain -I still am-, and I needed to flee as far as possible.

I lived in Manila for three years and I did not experience any violence against me. Just the opposite. And I frequented extremely poor places at any time. I remember two days with my good friend Alejandro Ernesto covering the barangays of HappyLand and Aroma, two of the poorest slums of the city -and I would say of the world-, plenty of garbage where people crammed into tiny shacks. One day, we forgot a cellphone in the motorbike, but we came back after half an hour and the cellphone was still there. And believe me, everybody was looking at us and realizing from the very first moment. The second day, we left the motorbike key inserted. We spent the whole day in the area and when we came back, the motorbike was still there, and an elderly woman came to us: she kept the key for us.

It is two months since I arrived to Rio de Janeiro, and when I moved similar comments were made: be careful, it is not safe, and avoid favelas! Well, I have been a few times to different favelas, and even if they are not as safe as Filipino barryos, they are not as dangerous as it is usually said. I would say they are safer than more touristic spots like Copacabana, Ipanema, or Lapa. People in favelas are poor -not as poor as in the Philippines- but again friendly, and even if they have a parallel cartel government, they follow their laws and they do not want stupid concerns. So, if you are not willing for troubles and you are intelligent enough, you will be safe, or at least, safer than in touristic hotspots.

But why the western perspective focuses so much on violence and poverty? Here I give three reasons: violence is morbidness, poverty is associated to violence, and violence devalues emerging tourist competitors.

(i) Violence is morbidness. Violence, as well as power and sex, attracts attention. And media want to get your steady attention. Then, they will monetize such attention. Violent content is a good strategy to achieve this goal, although it does not limit to slums violence. Any violence is suitable.

(ii) Association between poverty and violence. A self-defending human psychological strategy is to associate the unknown and danger. Middle-class and upper-class people tend to associate poverty, the unknown, with violence, the danger. Western people are mostly middle-class and upper-class people in a global scale, and they fit this thinking, as well as upper-class people in poor countries, who live close to these lowly areas but panicking them. This association between poverty and violence is unjustified.

(iii) Emerging countries are tourist competitors. Tourism benefits western countries more than emerging countries: western population tend to travel to other western countries, while middle and upper-class people in the emerging and poor countries also travel to western countries, the cultural references. However, emerging countries like the Philippines and Brazil offer tourist appeals western countries do not have, and they are increasing their tourist activity in detriment of traditional western tourist countries like France, Spain, or the United States. Promoting a reputation of danger and violence on the former is a means to halt this evolution.

There is no totally safe place or situation in our lives. Even if reduced, there is always a possibility for a problem. Are poor “dangerous” places totally safe? Of course not. Are poor “dangerous” places really dangerous? Not as much as many non-poor places.

Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos.

Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. My last Philosophy article at Filosofia Unisinos. 

Joven-Romero, M.A. (2020). Belief and Pluralistic Ignorance. Filosofia Unisinos, 21(3), 260-267.
Pluralistic ignorance is usually analyzed in terms of social norms. Recently, Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen describe and define this phenomenon in terms of beliefs, actions and evidence. Here I apply a basic epistemic approach to belief – believers consider their beliefs to be true –, a basic pragmatic approach to belief – beliefs are useful for believers – and a mixed epistemic-pragmatic approach – believers consider their believes to be true and such considerations are useful – to pluralistic ignorance phenomena. For that, I take the definition given by Bjerring, Hansen and Pedersen.

Download the whole pdf article here.

Reggaeton: much more than a feminist matter

Abstract: Reggaeton is one of the main musical and cultural exponents of the Hispanic contemporary world. Feminist analysis and criticism are common, and the style itself is evolving. Here I defend that Reggaeton is not just a feminist issue, but a class phenomenon.

In the attached clip, Spanish X-Factor judge Eva Perales strongly criticizes Reggaeton music, and more specifically, an amateur couple made of two Hispanic migrant men. Some of the sentences and arguments of Perales are:

(i) Have you ever listened something else apart from Reggaeton?
(ii) Reggaeton damages me as a woman (…) I do not like sexist lyrics (…) Why don’t you talk about women in other way?
(iii) [After mocking] Reggaeton kicks my ass.

The song, sentences and arguments from the Crazy Boys state:

(i) [Song The Maniatic Girl] Look, I fancy the Maniatic Girl (…) I like your body, and you all (…) You make me brutally horn (… ) You are easy, you flirt me and I become crazy, crazy.
(ii) [To Perales] You are abusing the weak.
(iii) Reggaeton is music too.
(iv) You are a racist of the music.

Even when this episode happened in 2008 and it might be intentionally prepared and streamed, similar scenes following same patters have happened during the last decade. In general terms, feminism activists and scholars have analyzed and criticized Reggaeton, and former and new Reggaeton singers have lately adapted (Merlyn 2020, Morales 2020, Villagra 2007). Sexism is highlighted, but Reggaeton is also considered violent and vulgar in comparison with already settled genres. The attached clip perfectly prints Reggaeton hotspots. 

Reggaeton spread during the 90’s in Hispanic America among lower class societies and it tended to print their reality characterized by discrimination, sexism, violence and vulgarity. Upper class Hispanic American societies criticized and ridiculed the new style. Spanish society, richer in average and many times far from Hispanic American contemporary currents, first ignored Reggaeton and then criticized it, similarly to upper class Hispanics. However, the new style has been powerful enough to permeate into the whole Hispanic -and Global- society (Carballo 2007). On the other hand, singers are adapting and blurring its sexism, violence and vulgarity, and sometimes it is used for vindicating feminism and women. Here I remark that there also are geographical, racial and normative aspects, and all of them, together with the feminist issue, rely on a class difference.

Geographical difference

Reggaeton spread in Hispanic American countries. Only after a decade, it was introduced in Spain among criticism. The America-Europe difference towards Reggaeton is still present. Reggaeton in Spain responds to Hispanic migrants and global tendencies more than to linguistic, cultural or historical ties. Economic standards in Spain tend to be higher than in Hispanic American countries, while Hispanic migrants in Spain tend to hold worse positions.

Racial difference

Inside Hispanic American countries, racially speaking Reggaeton is more popular among Hispanics than among Europeans and Caucasians. Links between race and class in Hispanic America are well known and deeply studied, showing a tendency of middle and lower classes being Hispanic mestizo and aborigines, while upper classes maintaining Caucasian features (Domínguez 2018; McCaa, Schwartz & Grubessich 1979). In Spain, Reggaeton is far more popular among Hispanic migrants.

Normative aspect

Reggaeton has been devalued in comparison with mainstream already established genres: the norm. Reggeaton’s sexism, violence and vulgarity, derived from lower class styles and ways of living, is attacked from upper class people and established genres creators. However, as it happened with many other cultural manifestations, Reggaeton -or at least, a soft Reggaeton- is permeating, convincing global spectra and making norm.


Eva Perales and the Crazy Boys discussion was rapidly analyzed from feminism. But it is much more than a feminist matter: it is a woman criticizing sexist singers and styles, but also a Spanish criticizing two Hispanic American migrants, a white manager criticizing two dark-skinned mestizo creators, a rock lover criticizing Latin music, and ultimately, a rich person criticizing two poor people.

The real difference underlying the whole discussion is economic. Poverty and discrimination explain rough sexism among low class people, the refusal to mainstream styles and the emergence of new subversive styles. Upper class people tend to defend the establishment, in this case represented by settled genres. In the Hispanic America context, economic difference is linked to race difference, and the same economic difference partly defines differences between Spain and Hispanic America. Many times, Spanish and upper class people criticize sexism, vulgarity and violence, but they do not focus on the real problem: poverty.


Carballo, P. (2007). Reggaeton e identidad masculina. Intercambio, 3 (4), 87-101.

Domínguez, J. I. (2018). Race and ethnicity in Latin America. Routledge.

McCaa, R., Schwartz, S. B., & Grubessich, A. (1979). Race and class in Colonial Latin America: A critique. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 21(3), 421-433.

Merlyn, M. F. (2020). Tell me what you listen to and i will tell you who you are. Representing women in 100 of the more popular reggaeton songs in 2018. Feminismo/s, (35).

Morales, C. D. (2020). Una propuesta para el análisis de los estereotipos femeninos en los videoclips de reggaeton: Caso práctico de los cuatro vídeos más vistos en 2018 en YouTube. Revista Internacional de Cultura Visual, 7(1), 13-26.

On Evidence and Belief

In this article I analyse how evidence influences, determines and evaluates belief formation. I deal with the main normative accounts and with constitutive non-normative accounts of the evidential thesis for belief emergence and I finally defend that evidentialism must be understood in constitutive non-normative terms. More specifically, evidentialism must be based on the idea that believers always consider that they have enough evidence for their beliefs.

Aproximaciones pragmáticas a la creencia y la verdad

Último artículo en Revista Laguna 43. Editada por la Universidad de La Laguna (ULL)

Last paper in Revista Laguna 43. Published by Universidad de La Laguna (ULL), Spain: ‘Pragmatic Approaches to Belief and Truth’

Bastantes filósofos están explorando la relación entre creencia y verdad, siguiendo la popular frase de Williams la creencia aspira a la verdad. Normativistas apoyan una relación constitutiva entre creencia y verdad en términos de la norma de la verdad. Teleologistas lo hacen en términos del objetivo de la verdad y los mecanismos que regulan la verdad. Otros analizan la creencia y la verdad desde el pragmatismo. Aquí analizo estas ideas sobre creencia, verdad y pragmatismo, defendiendo que la creencia puede entenderse mejor considerando una relación constitutiva con la verdad. Las posiciones pragmáticas podrían ser mejores para comprender aceptación.

Many philosophers explore the relationship between belief and truth, following Williams popular statement “belief aims at truth.” Normativists support a constitutive link between belief and truth in terms of the norm of truth while the teleologists do it in terms of the aim of truth and the mechanisms that regulate truth. Other philosophers analyze belief and truth from pragmatism. Here I analyze these ideas about belief, truth and pragmatism defending that belief can be better understood with a constitutive relationship between belief and truth. The pragmatic positions might be better to understand and manage acceptance.

Do We Need Reasons for the Normativity of Belief?

Last paper published in Kritike 12(1). Edited by University of Santo Tomas

Here, I defend a constitutive normative account of belief regardless of reasons for belief emergence and based on the believer’s attitude. I first sketch the dichotomy between evidential and nonevidential reasons to believe. Then I relate this dichotomy to doxastic and pragmatic approaches on the nature and the aim of belief. Then I analyze Daniel Whiting’s approach, based on evidentialism, that accommodates pragmatic and epistemic aims of belief and the related further actions and thoughts. I finally defend a doxasticcharacterization of belief that relies on the attitude of the believer while believing: a person x believes p if and only if x considers p to be true.

A Possible Pragmatic Aim of Belief

New paper published on Contrastes. Revista Internacional de Filosofía, 22 (2). Edited by Universidad de Málaga.

The links between belief, truth and pragmatism are recurrent topics in epistemology. Recently, some publications have analyzed the aims of belief, following Williams’ popular statement ‘belief aims at truth’. Some of these authors defend a normative link between belief and truth and they explore the possible epistemic norms of belief, while others prefer to analyze beliefs in terms of values. Other philosophers defend that beliefs do not always aim at truth. Here I analyze and compare these ideas about belief, truth and pragmatism defending that belief can be better understood with a constitutive relationship between belief and truth.

Videoclase: Ignorancia Pluralista y Creencia

English: A class on Pluralistic Ignorance and Beliefs for the subjec «Social Ontology Issues» at the MA of Philosophy of UNED (National University of Distance Education, Spain) [18/05/2017, in Spanish]

Español: Clase sobre Ignorancia Pluralista y Creencias para la asignatura «Temas de Ontología Social» del Máster de Filosofía de la UNED (Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia) [18/05/2017, en español]

Aragonés: Clase sobre Ignorancia Pluralista y Creyencias ta l’asignatura «Temas de Ontolochía Social» d’o Máster de Filosofía d’a UNED (Universidat Nacional d’Educación a Distancia) [18/05/2017, en espanyol]

¿Por qué esta fijación con el humor?

Porque el humor es, junto con la violencia, lo verdaderamente antisistema. Un comunista estará en contra del sistema capitalista, será un antisistema en ese sentido. Pero su propósito es el de la implantación de otro sistema. No es un verdadero antisistema (ni creo que quiera serlo).

Y de la misma manera que el comunista puede hacer chistes para desprestigiar el capitalismo, otros también podrán hacer chistes y utilizar el humor para poner en tela de juicio el comunismo.

Lo mismo ocurre con cualquier postura o ideología. Nada escapa del humor: animalismos, fascismos, femininismos, ecologismos (y casi cualquier otra cosa que termine en -ismo) pueden ser víctimas del humor.

Y, como ya he dicho previamente, este humor, en función de las intenciones y de los contextos, puede ser un instrumento de ataque y humillación, o una herramienta de depuración social e individual.

¿Cómo saber si el humor se utiliza en uno u otro sentido?
Una pista: si el individuo es capaz de reírse de otros pero no de sí mismo, no asume que el humor también puede poner en tela de juicio sus principios y bases, entonces su uso del humor suele ser destructivo y busca el ataque. Hay quien hizo chistes sobre Rita Barberá cuando murió pero no admitió los de que se hicieron sobre Fidel Castro el día siguiente. Hay antitaurinos que se ríen de toreros tuertos pero no aceptan comentarios sobre su higiene (y viceversa). Me río, ridiculizo, ataco y humillo lo que no me gusta, pero ojo no te metas con lo que me gusta y defiendo: este es el uso destructivo del humor.

Los hay por contra que son capaces de reirse de sí mismos, porque saben que nada escapa nunca del humor, lo aceptan y lo valoran (al menos en su versión constructiva). Son los verdaderos maestros del humor.

Pero en cualquier caso, la propiedad del humor, aquella por la que es tan importante, es la de ser intrínsecamente antinormativo. Y hasta la fecha, solo sé de la violencia y del humor como únicas formas puras de lo antisistema.

Humor y Redes Sociales

Decía en una primera entrada, que el humor es contextual. Que no se pueden establecer unos límites fijos al humor, sino que tales límites dependen del contexto. Que un chiste podía ser perfectamente adecuado en un bar con los amigos y que el mismo chiste podía ser totalmente inadecuado en un funeral.

Decía también que el humor podía ser depurativo individual y socialmente, o podía ser un arma de ataque y humillación. Estar a un lado u a otro del límite marcado por el contexto de un chiste hace que este sea positivo para todos, o que sea destructivo.

Dado que generalmente, en un acto comunicativo como es un chiste, suele haber dos tipos de agente –emisores y receptores– se pueden dar las siguientes situaciones ante un chiste:

(i) Que el emisor no tenga intención de ofender, y que el receptor no se sienta ofendido.
(ii) Que el emisor no tenga intención de ofender, pero que el receptor se sienta ofendido.
(iii) Que el emisor tenga intención de ofender y que el receptor se sienta ofendido.
(iv)) Que el emisor no tenga intención de ofender, pero que el receptor se sienta ofendido..

El no tener la intención de ofender, el saber en qué contexto es adecuado el acto de humor y también el saber asimilarlo también cuando la crítica se lanza constructivamente por la otra persona es lo que consigue hacer del acto de humor un acto de crítica positiva y depurativa, Así, saber utilizar el humor como una herramienta constructiva depende tanto del emisor como del receptor

Humor constructivo: no tener mala intención (emisor) + saber asimilar (receptor) + controlar el contexto.

¿Qué es lo que ocurre en las redes sociales?

Si tradicionalmente el acto de humor ha tenido uno (o unos pocos) emisores y uno (o unos pocos) receptores, acotando el contexto (esto es, conociendo las características de los interlocutores y hasta qué punto son capaces de asimilar chistes según su personalidad y según su estado emocional), en las redes sociales este acotamiento se rompe. El chiste lo pueden recibir miles -hasta millones- de personas, cada una con sus límites (además variables según factores personales, como la situación anímica en el momento), personas que además no conocen al emisor, su forma de ser ni la intención con la que realizó el acto de humor.

Así, el emisor puede hacer el chiste con o sin intención de ofender, pero incluso cuando no tenga intención de ofender, en las redes sociales lo más probable es que haya receptores que se sientan ofendidos.

Addenda: En mi affaire con la escena de los Simpsons y la virgen del Pilar, una de las cosas que más me intriga es cómo hubo no pocas personas que inicialmente vieron una crítica constructiva y sin mala intención en todo aquello, y que tras las noticias de Heraldo de Aragón, Infovaticana y La Gaceta de Intereconomía (medios a los que además estas personas eran bastante contrarias) acabaron viendo mala intención por mi parte y un ataque inexistente. Pero a este hecho en concreto ya le dedicaré otros posts.

Ulrich Beck, Teoría de la Información y Sobreinformación

At Aragón Radio

At Aragón Radio

Aragonés: Charrando d’as ideyas de Ulrich Beck, d’a sociedat d’o risque, teoría d’a información y sobreinformación en Aragón Fin De Semana, programa d’a radio publica aragonesa Aragón Radio (en espanyol):

English: Talking about Ulrich Beck ideas, risk society, theory of information and information overload at Aragón Fin De Semana, radio program of the aragonese public radio Aragón Radio (in Spanish):

Español: Hablando de Ulrich Beck, sociedad del riesgo, teoría de la información y sobreinformación en Aragón Fin De Semana, programa de radio de la radio pública aragonesa Aragón Radio (en español):

Ernest Sosa, beliefs, judgments and reliability


                    Ernest Sosa

Abstract: Some days ago I read Ernest Sosa’s paper Epistemic Agency and Judgment. Here I show a brief sketch of his interesting ideas about belief, justification and reliability.

Resumen (aragonés): Fa bells diyas leyé l’articlo de Ernest Sosa Epistemic Agency and Judgment. Aquí amuestro un breu esquema d’as suyas intresants ideyas tocants a la creyencia, a chustificación y a confitanza.

Resumen (español): Hace unos días leí el artículo de Ernest Sosa Epistemic Agency and Judgment. Aquí muestro un pequeño esquema de sus interesantes ideas sobre la creencia, la justificación y la confianza.

For Sosa, beliefs that are shared are judgamental beliefs: beliefs that the agent is disposed to state and defend as she thinks they are true. So judgments cannot be arbitrary if we want them to be epistemically rationals: “free judgment is involved in a further epistemic paradox, deriving from a clash between diachronic reliability and synchronic rationality” (174).

While justifying beliefs, reflection comes into play. Nevertheless, when asking what a reflection is, we have two different kinds of reflection: a straight one and a higher-order one that turns back on itself. Moreover, there can be a conscious straight reflection, a conscious higher-order reflection and also both subconscious higher-order reflection and subconscious straight reflection. Anyway, the higher-order is important to manage risks while searching for truth when believing. Beyond a reliable (properly justified, if preferred) belief, there are second-order judgments and reflective competences. However, our everyday knowledge does not have to be always consciously reflective: in fact, that would originate many problems to people. It also should be noted that “conscioussness” emerges in both private an public contexts.

Reflection of the highest degree supposes reflective thought that is both conscious and higher-order: it is reliable enough. Its threat is that it can suppose a vicious circle or regress: requiring second-order endorsement supposes paying attention to the straight first-order belief and its justification resides precisely on the second-order reflection, and so on. Sosa refers to these second-order or higher-order capacities (reflection) like ‘human’ competences in contrast to the first-order capacities (instintive) that he calls ‘animal’ competences. I find the names quite polemic, and I also find that the distinction, thought interesting, is not accepted by everybody.

In his view both suspension of belief and proper reflection are second-order: in cases where suspension and judgment come into play, we have beliefs that obey to second-order intentions (justifications, reflections) that guide the believer implicitly. While suspending judgments, there is a double-omission: the omission of judging now and latter. These intentions may be committed to evidences. Our author also pays attention to a distinction between the act of judgment and the disposition to so judge (on others).

Behind this view of beliefs, judgments and reflection we have a difference between diachronical and synchronical causes while believing:

First, there is the status the belief gains diachronically through the subject’s experience, thought, and memory; no matter how internal such experience, thought, and memory may be over time, nor how internal the subject’s initial data may have been.

Second, there is the status a belief gains synchronically through the support of reasons present to the thinker’s consciousness at that very moment (185).

While considering how to judge, Sosa defends synchronic competences, the present-time-slice: “What you can consciously affirm depends on your synchornic rational basis” (188).

That relates justified judgment, second-order competences (reflection) with the synchronic thought, in order to precisely be able to assess both first-order and second-order competences, because scrutinized beliefs gains their prestige due to reflective, endorsement and current thinking.

References and bibliography

Sosa, E. (2013). Epistemic Agency and Judgment. Epistemic Norms: new essays on action, belief, and assertion (Littlejohn, C. & Turri, J.). Oxford University Press.

A brief sketch of Gibbons and commitment

: In this post I roughly show Gibbons’ ideas (2013, 2014). I pay special attention to his notion of commitment and its epistemic consequences in the difference between truth and knowledge.

Resumen (aragonés): En iste post amuestro de traza zaborrera as ideyas de Gibbons (2013, 2014), fendo ficacio en a suya noción de compromiso y as suyas consequencias epistemicas en a esferencia entre verdat y conoiximiento.

Resumen (español): En este post muestro toscamente las ideas de Gibbons (2013, 2014). Presto especial atención en su noción de compromiso y sus consecuencias epistémicas en la diferencia entre verdad y conocimiento.

Following my keystone, ‘Belief aims at truth’ (Williams, 1970), I consider Gibbons’ ideas very interesting to its analysis and its applications.

Gibbons considers that epistemic commitment is intrinsic of truth and knowledge. So, when we say that an agent develops a belief P aiming at truth, we say that this agent is committed with true in P. Nevertheless, the grade of commitment in knowledge is bigger than in belief.

Apart from that, Gibbons considers that belief is not the only state or propositional attitude that aims at truth. Desire and guess also aim at truth. He finally establish that ‘belief aims at knowledge’ analyzing Gettier examples and Pollock conditionals.

Desire aims at truth

When we desire something, we would like it to be true. I desire to be Natalie Portman’s boyfriend, I would like it to be true. If we consider ‘aiming’ in that way, we are considering it in a connative manner. But in that case, that meaning of ‘aiming’ is different from the one I am studying about belief. In short, we are talking of different things: this aim is not epistemic, and I am aware that it is very unlikely that I can be Natalie Portman’s boyfriend.

Guess aims at truth

This is a more interesting case. As it happens when believing, when we try to guess something, we are looking for the epistemic truth. Let’s think of a guess: “I am between mountain and valley, but I am not a mountain nor a valley. What I am?” We may think of a lot of possible answers, but mountain and valley are not. As guess aims at truth, we cannot say ‘mountain’ or ‘valley’. But our epistemic commitment is weaker here than in beliefs: I guess that it can be a forest, a river or a deer (actually, the answer is ‘and’), I aim at truth when guessing, but my epistemic commitment is very weak.

If you guess that p, then you’re aiming at the truth or trying to get things right (..) But when you believe that p, you’re not just hoping or trying to get it right. You commit yourself to having done so. If you merely guess that p, it’s still an open question whether or not you’ve gotten it right. But then you believe that p, it can’t be an open question whether or not you’ve gotten it right (Gibbons, 2014, 112).

The epistemic commitment of beliefs is stronger than the one guesses have. Beliefs are better justified than guesses. Gibbons (2013, 2014) applies the notion of commitment to this question, but he does not apply it making differences between kinds of ‘aims’. He prefers to establish a difference between ‘truth’ (weak commitment and epistemic justification) and ‘knowledge’ (strong commitment and epistemic justification). So, his final proposal is: belief aims at knowledge.

Knowledge is justified, true belief plus X, where X is whatever it is that rules out Gettier cases. From the point of view of belief, knowledge is an added accretion or an optional extra (…) [But] knowledge is not an optional extra. For you, the question of whether you ought to believe that p is simply not independent of the question of whether you know that p (Gibbons, 2014, 112-3).

The kind of extra that assures a correct justification (observational, social…) is not clear in Gibbons (2014):

At very least you need evidence, and what we look for in evidence is a genuine connection to the facts. The connection can come in many forms. There’s seeing that p; being told by someone who knows; or figuring it out on the basis of other things we know. This isn’t always what we get. Appearances, like people, are sometimes defective. But it’s what we are looking for. And it’s what we commit ourselves to having when we make up our minds. Taking a stand on how things are, like taking a stand on what to do, commits you not only to being in the world. It commits you to being connected to the world. And the connection we’re looking for and that we’re committed to is not just safety, or sensitivity, or reliability, but knowledge, perception and intentional action (113).


Gibbons, J. (2013). The Norm of Belief. Oxford University Press.
Gibbons, J. (2014). Knowledge versus Truth. In Littlejohn, C. & Turri, J, Epistemic Norms: new essays on action, belief and assertion. Oxford University Press.