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Sociology undergraduate here, who is struggling to "see the wood for the trees", as the idiom goes. My two brief questions are the following: Is there anything unique within sociological theory, or is it just a spin-off of philosophy that lacks training on how to think? Additionally, is it the case that a philosophy degree can open doors into other fields, but sociology is more limiting to academic mobility?

This will be a very subjective response; others who have some acquaintance with the two fields will answer differently. Also I'm pretty out of date on sociology. One thing that has not changed much there, though, as far as I'm aware, is that like many social sciences, it is deeply split between two subfields, which differ so much from each other that they might as well be separate fields. On the one side, there is mathematical and quantitative sociology, which operates largely with rational-choice models, treated quasi-formally, and on the other side there is qualitative sociology, which is no less empirical, but relies more on participant observation and what Clifford Geertz called "thick description." I think the answers to your questions depend to some extent on which of these two you are primarily interested in. Or you might, as a third option, be one of those hopeless idealists like James Coleman, who thought the two mutually alienated sides belonged inseparably together and that the example given by the founders (Simmel, Weber, Durkheim, etc.) in this respect should go on being followed. Coleman was said by many (not only at the University of Chicago) to have been the last sociologist who successfully bridged that gap. (Which shouldn't intimidate you!)

To your first question: Sociologists of all three kinds are of a much more empirical cast of mind than philosophers, and that makes a big difference. They are also, in their very different ways, more empirically-minded than most other social scientists, especially economists. I think this is a big advantage, since one of the significant weaknesses of philosophy is that there is too much meta-stuff and not enough obect-stuff. Philosophy certainly does offer a certain kind of training in "how to think," but sociology gives a *different* kind of training in how to think, a more concrete and straightforward one less easily bamboozled by useless verbal gymnastics and endless hair-splitting. It gets more happily down to the business of addressing real and important, if sometimes rather ill-defined problems. However, there are differences in this respect among the three kinds of sociologists I've listed. The first kind is pretty narrow, at the extreme they're a bit like economists and don't think much at all; they just apply their models to large datasets. The second kind have to engage in a bit more thought just because the responsibility for processing and organizing the vast quantity of information they gather falls on themselves. But it's often not a very systematic or disciplined kind of thought. The third kind (and yes, I realize, the cardinality of this set may presently be zero, but that shouldn't prevent an undergraduate from striving to emulate the previous members of the set, from Weber to Coleman) is the best model for learning how to think. Especially because it's out of favor, and nearly all the members of any department (who will each be on one of the first two sides) will think you're daft, and you'll constantly be having to defend yourself -- which is in itself a good training in how to think.

However, I can see why you ask the question. If you look at the founders (who are still live figures in the field; their key texts are taught to undergraduates), and many sociologists since then (esp. those of the third sort listed above), it's certainly true that they were not only philosophically literate but often motivated by philosophical questions. In some cases, as in Alfred Schutz, the philosophical dimension seems almost dominant, and in those cases one can certainly sympathize with your question whether sociology is just an inferior spin-off of philosophy. However, even in Schutz the empirical dimension is much more high-profile than in Husserl (whose ideas he largely relied on in his sociological work). So I would say that it really depends on your tastes and sympathies. If you like thinking about stuff in the abstract, without being weighed down by facts or specific questions, then you might prefer philosophy. If you actually care about getting any sort of insight into real social questions, sticking with sociology may be the way to go.

Now to the second question: If your training is mostly in the first sort of sociology, you're probably better off switching to economics or political science, where you'll learn more about that sort of modelling than you will in sociology (and math would of course be best of all, since those tools will be useful anywhere). A degree focused mainly on the second sort of sociology might feed into a broader range of possible options, especially since that sort of skill has become pretty rare these days -- even anthropology, which used to turn out battalions of people trained in that skill, has backed away from it somewhat. But the best and most flexible degree, in terms of fields it could lead into eventually, is in the third sort of sociology -- i.e. in a sociology that still tries to bridge the gap between the formal and the qualitative. I really don't know whether anything remotely resembling that is still possible, but if it is at your university, then I'd definitely stick with sociology -- certainly over philosophy, anyway. It would have a better balance than philosophy between the abstract/theoretical and the concrete/empirical kinds of learning to think; probably even the first or second sorts of sociology could have that advantage if they weren't too one-sided.

So a really old question would be "what's the meaning of life?". I wanna switch it up and ask "why do we even exist?". We've done so many negative things throughout history. The importance of knowing what we're made of and how we work means nothing to me, if I don't know why we exist on this planet we call earth.

I am not sure how old the question is, in exactly the form you give it. I suspect it is quite new. In the Nichomachean Ethics Aristotle asks whether 'there is some end of the things we do, which we desire for its own sake (everything else being desired for the sake of this) . . .' (W.D. Ross trans.). But this is a very different question. There is no mention of meaning, and there is no mention of life. So I think it makes matters worse to think that 'Why do we even exist?' is the same question. (I wonder about the implication of the word "even". What is it suggesting? (Cf. 'Why does he even bother to come to the meeting, since he never utters a word, and sleeps through them?')) Another bit of phrasing bothers me. You say that what we are made of means nothing to you, 'if I don't know why we exist on this planet we call earth.' Are you thinking that it's not really called earth, but we, we ignorant fools, we call it that? So what is it's real name? We need to get the main question very clearly in mind, without the noise, before we can hope to begin to answer it. I suspect it has as much to do with the dislocation produced by the destruction by science of the mediaeval world picture, which gives a picture of life ending up in Heaven in the eternal life of God. Once science had destroyed the cosy Judeo-Christian metaphysics, there was a vacuum in which one could ask, 'What - what then - is going on? What does life amount to? What does it mean?' The question is an essentially secular one. It is important to note that here by life is meant life in a quasi-biographical sense, not in a biological sense. John Wisdom asks us to imagine that 'we come into a theatre after a play has started and are obliged to leave before it ends.' We may then be puzzled by some action in the part of the play that we have seen. 'What does it mean?' we can ask. "Why did the heroine raise her left arm three times without any explanation as the clock struck one?' (This is my example, not Wisdom's.) The important point about this question is that the narrative is taken to be incomplete. Is that assumption satisfied in the case of a human life and biography? Not necessarily, it seems to me, since much in life is explicable and much may be complete. Many obituaries point to a kind of completeness and fulness of a life well lived, and novels can too. If a beloved father dies, one need not conclude that life is meaningless, whatever that is supposed to mean. One will mourn, and yet one may not be troubled by the onset of meaninglessness. One might of course think that death implies incompleteness, but that is far from obvious. Suppose we think that the question, 'What is this nice log fire for can be expressed (which I doubt) as, 'What is the meaning of this fire?' The fire is to provide heat for those around it. That does not mean that when it ends (provided it does not end too early) and dies down, we can infer that it has or had no end or that it was meaningless. The reverse is true. If the end comes at the right time, that simply underscores the "point" of having the fire. I should add finally that I do not believe that the "negative things" that we have done in history have any connection with "why we exist on this planet" or with "What is the meaning of life?" or at least one would want to see an argument making the connection.

Is there any reason to think that professional philosophers change their minds more than other people?

I suspect, and this is confirmed by experience, that professional philosophers if anything change their minds somewhat less than other people. Your early experience with philosophy is that you change your mind all the time. As a learner, every new paper or book seems to have an unassailable and persuasive argument, and you feel yourself pushed all over the place in your views (at least on topics where you are malleable because you haven't already thought much about them - which connects to my point below).

But professional philosophers have had the opportunity to read, absorb, and evaluate many many points of views and accompanying arguments. If they have got that far they have probably formed, or reinforced, their own views on very many topics, and those views are correspondingly harder to alter from outside. It is surprisingly difficult to get a philosopher to change his or her mind. That's not because they are especially stubborn (though some are; and also not to be underestimated is the factor that many philosophers have a professional stake in preserving, or being seen to preserve, the view with which they are associated). It is rather because they have very likely already heard arguments similar to the one you are now trying to use to change their mind, and have already made up their mind as to why that argument does not budge them. Even a new argument has to run up against the whole established and carefully built worldview in the philosopher's mind, and so has that much more to do to cause a change in opinion.

Outside of their speciality, say in more everyday topics like politics, the philosophical skillset I think also tends to make philosophers less likely to shift opinion. Speaking just for myself, I can say for sure that the really big changes in various parts of my worldview happened, for the most part, prior to becoming a professional philosopher.

That said, and you can be sure that other philosophers with their own equally set ideas will disagree with all I've just said, there are notable examples of philosophers changing their minds. One example that occurs to me is Frank Jackson, who in 1982 devised the famous knowledge argument to show that physicalism is false - the idea that we and the world around us consist of nothing but matter as described by physics. This anti-physicalist argument became very influential. But Jackson became persuaded of physicalism's truth in the 1990's, and now spends much of his time explaining why in his view his original argument was mistaken. I think we would all like to think that if good reasons are presented to us we will change our minds.

Not everyone who smokes gets cancer, but we still say things like "smoking causes cancer." How should we understand causal statements like this?

A good question, but as you no doubt guessed, one that people have thought about. The short answer is that we'll say that X causes Y if X raises the probability of Y, even if it doesn't raise the probability to 100%

Let's be a bit more concrete. Think about clinical trials of a medication. Suppose we think that some new compound lowers blood pressure. We might test this by selecting a set of test subjects with hypertension, and then randomly assigning some of them to the treatment group and others to the control group. Ideally the test would be a double-blind test. That is, neither the people administering the treatment nor the people being treated would know if they were getting the actual medicine or a mere placebo. We'd measure everyone's blood pressure before the trial, and then after. And then we'd compare. Normally we wouldn't expect that everyone who received the actual treatment would have lower blood pressure at the end, and we also wouldn't expect that no one who got the placebo would end up with lower blood pressure. What we would be looking for, roughly, is a statistically significant difference between the two groups, with the people in the treatment group having a lower average blood pressure after the treatment than before, and by a larger margin than the control group. I haven't stated that carefully or precisely, but you get the idea.

So the effect is statistical. If the trial is successful, we would say that administering the medication makes it likely that the patient's blood pressure will be lowered, and makes is more likely than if the patient were left untreated.

What I've said here leaves out important nuances and qualifications, but I hope it gets the idea across. We don't think that X must invariably bring about Y to say that X causes Y, but we do think that for X to cause Y, X has to make Y more likely.

Did Socrates believe that animals possessed souls? I come to a logical contradiction when I apply his teachings to the question.

I would be curious to hear what contradiction you arrive at. It's hard to guess from what you say just which aspects of his teaching imply that animals do have souls and which aspects imply that they don't. But I can summarize some of the things he says in Plato's dialogues and suggest one path to a contradiction.

By the way, I say "in Plato's dialogues" by way of making clear that I will talk about the Socrates we encounter in those works, not about a version of Socrates we get from other authors and not about the hypothetical, hard to pin down, "Socrates who really existed." The Socrates in Plato's dialogues says a lot more of a philosophical nature about souls than any other Socrates, so we should begin with him.

Although there are many dialogues in which Socrates does not discuss the soul, at some points Plato has him argue at length that it survives a person's death. Plato's PHAEDO is devoted to this question, but we also find arguments for immortality of the soul in MENO, PHAEDRUS, and REPUBLIC. And in addition to those arguments there are stories or myths about the afterlife in the GORGIAS, PHAEDO, PHAEDRUS, and REPUBLIC.

Finally Plato's TIMAEUS describes the passage of souls into and out of bodies; you may or may not want to call this a myth, but it probably shouldn't enter the discussion given that Plato makes Timaeus talk about souls there and not Socrates. Socrates is just present in that dialogue and listening.

The arguments for immortality presuppose or assert different conceptions of the soul. In one argument, the essential quality of the soul seems to be that it knows the Forms. In another one, it is the cause of life (alternatively, the cause of motion) in an organism that has a soul. Or the soul may be that which acts virtuously when healthy, viciously otherwise. In each case the conclusion that Socrates reaches is that the soul survives the death of the body and has some type of existence apart from the body it is now in.

And depending on which conception of the soul is being assumed, animals may have souls or may not. If a soul is the cause of life or cause of motion, then horses and fish and even trees and blades of grass ought to have souls. But if the essential property of the soul is that it knows the Forms (beauty as such, justice as such), souls in non-human animals would seem to be impossible. Nothing in any Platonic dialogue suggests that a squirrel has a conception of true justice, or that a spider knows what largeness as such is.

That is what we end up with when we come to the question through arguments about the soul. Stories about the afterlife are less ambiguous. Socrates generally presents some version of a theory of reincarnation such as the reincarnation associated with Pythagorean philosophers. The Pythagoreans apparently believed that non-human animals not only had souls, but could specifically have souls that had previously belonged to human beings. You are human now but you might come back as a dog, and then (it seems) come back from being a dog to a new human life.

Plato's REPUBLIC associates your next life with a life your soul would choose in the period between lives; and that myth (the myth of Er, told in the second half of Book 10 of the REPUBLIC) has some people choosing the lives of animals: an eagle, an ape. If this story is true, then the animals we encounter have formerly human souls -- although the myth does not specify that they all do. In other words, some eagles might have the souls of former humans while other eagles just have souls that had previously belonged to eagles. It's not clear whether you can tell from looking at an eagle which kind of soul it possesses.

We come back to the question of whether these human souls in animal bodies would know philosophical generalities as souls in human bodies do.

Some passages in Plato try to draw a distinction between the types of human souls that can wind up in animals. In the PHAEDRUS we are told that souls go into humans, in their first incarnation, if they have experienced the Forms during their otherworldly existence. So there's some qualitative difference between the soul to be found in a human and the soul found in another animal. The TIMAEUS (which again is not attributed to Socrates) makes reincarnation as a non-human the punishment for not being virtuous. Like the PHAEDRUS, this account at least makes human and non-human souls different. If you are flighty as a human you come back as a bird; and so on.

You asked for one answer and I gave several. That's because there are several answers available in the dialogues. Sometimes it has to follow from an argument about the soul that all living things possess souls, sometimes that only humans do. That's one kind of contradiction. If we go by what the myths say in the dialogues, we get the closest thing to a mixed answer, namely that humans have human souls and non-humans have a different kind.

To know what beauty is, shouldn't one observe examples of it? But if one doesn't know what beauty is in the first place, how can one tell if one is observing examples of it?

Nice question! Here's a quick reconstruction of your reasoning:
(1) In order to know what X is, you need to observe instances of X.
(2) But one could only know one is observing instances of X if one already knew what X is.
(3) Hence, one can neither know what X is nor know whether one is observing instances of X.

(3) looks like a pretty powerful skeptical conclusion: It would seem like we can't know whether a certain thing is beautiful unless we know what beauty is, but we can't know what beauty is unless we know which things are beautiful. We certainly seem stuck -- and the same reasoning could be used to generate skeptical conclusions about other important philosophical concepts (such as goodness, virtue, and so on).

Is there a way out of this conundrum? There are a lot of complex issues here, so let me just mention some possible ways out and leave it to you to assess their plausibility:

Testimony Others might be in a credible position to tell us which things are beautiful or what beauty is. Accepting the testimony of such experts would allow us to break out of this circle. With testimonial knowledge of which things are beautiful, we could then figure out what beauty is; with testimonial knowledge of what beauty is, we could then correctly classify which things are beautiful. (Granted, others' testimony may not seem like a very promising solution. After all, we may reasonably wonder how those experts whose testimony we accept came to their knowledge -- how, in other words, did they break out of the skeptical circle with which we started?)

Reject (1): Platonic rationalism Plato (and many other philosophers dubbed 'rationalists') seem to hold that while we may need to have our attention drawn to something in order to understand its nature, we do not come to understand its nature through observing instances of it by through an intellectual grasp of its essence. Upon seeing a triangle, one perceives that it must also be trilateral. This inference, according to rationalists, involves an intellectual grasp of the nature of triangles. One comes to understand its essence (and one is thereby able to classify any future geometrical figures one encounters as triangles) not by forming a hypothesis (every triangle is trilateral) based on perceiving this triangle and then 'confirming' this hypothesis. Rather, perceiving the triangle led to an immediate acquisition of a priori (i.e., non-empirical) knowledge.

Reject (2): Empiricism: We might be able to learn what X is by observing instances of things we believe to be X and trying to suss out the essential features of X. After observing a number of seemingly beautiful things, we might frame the hypothesis that 'because all beautiful things are F, beauty = F'. We might then observe further seemingly beautiful things to determine they have property F. If so, then our hypothesis is confirmed; if not, it is disconfirmed. With a sufficiently large number of observations, we might come to be satisfied that we have hit upon the real essence of beauty.

Nominalism: Deny real essences: Your question seemed to assume that there is something real about beauty -- that beauty is or is based on properties all beautiful things share. But one might reject that assumption. 'Nominalism' about some notion holds that there is no real essence to it. Nominalism about 'beauty' would amount to saying that there is no 'universal' beauty -- only many things that we judge to be beautiful based on convention.

As a non physicist, non scientist, I have a question, which may be really stupid. If quantum mechanics expounds that at an atomic level matter can be in 2 places, at one point in time, does this matter have mass in these 2 different places? If this matter can have a mass in more than one place, at one point in time, how can we attempt to calculate the mass of matter present in the universe as surely it would depend on what proportion of matter was in what number of places at any point in time? Does that mean its unit of measurement would need to include number of atoms, the proportions of this matter in what numbers of places, at a fixed point in time? Is there some basic reading that might help me understand this a bit more? Thank you.

It's not a stupid question. The way that popular accounts "explain" quantum mechanics leads naturally to your question. The moral is that those popular accounts are not to be trusted.

Quantum mechanics is unusual in that on the one hand, we understand very well how to apply it and what we should expect to find in experiments if it's correct, but on the other hand there is sharp disagreement over what quantum mechanics is telling us about the nature of the things we use it to predict and explain. The problem you're raising comes from the superposition principle. A quantum system can be in a superposition of being in two different, non-overlapping places, for example. When that happens, there's some probability that if we "look" (make an appropriate measurement) we'll find the system in one of the places, and some probability that we'll find it in the other. However, we can't understand this as a simple case of ignorance --- as a case where the system really is in one place or really is in the other and we simply happen not to know which until we look. Quantum mechanics allows this latter sort of case, but if we perform other experiments, we find measurable differences between the superposition case and the mere ignorance case. It's superposition that leads people to talk as though the system really is in two places at once, but the math doesn't force any such thing on us, and if we thought it did we'd be left with questions like the one you ask.

What quantum mechanics unarguably does is give us probabilities for experimental results. (I'm not saying that's all it does, but it at least does that much.) Those probabilities have some surprising features. They lead to experimental predictions that we can't squeeze out of classical theories or, perhaps more accurately, can mimic classically only if we make other assumptions that depart from our classical picture. The superposition principle is the source of the differences, and is what provokes people to talk in the ways that lead to your question. Unfortunately there's no way to set forth the superposition principle in a couple of sentences, but perhaps this will do for now: the mathematical basis for quantum probability is closer to adding the amplitudes of waves (which can interfere with one another) than it is to counting how often things happen. The lab data gives us counts (we find a particle "here" some percent of the time and "there" some other percent), but the counts come from talking amplitudes, which can be positive, negative or imaginary, and squaring. The probabilities don't come from garden-variety ignorance of exactly what's going on at the micro-level, and they also don't come from assuming that particles can be in many places at once.

At this point you're probably finding this maddeningly abstract and hard to picture. That's because it is. In fact, some of the earliest debates about the foundations of quantum mechanics were about this very issue of whether there's a way to "picture" the quantum world. Those debates haven't simply gone away, but we don't need to resolve them to take quantum theory seriously. Physicists learn how to think about quantum systems by learning how to connect the quantum math with what goes on in the lab. In order to do that, they don't need to think of superposition as a matter of contradictory things being true at once. Popularizers may think they do their readers a service when they talk about one thing being in two places at once, but my own sense is that in the long run this makes for more confusion than enlightenment.

As for basic readings, here are a couple of suggestions. One is a short little book by Valerio Scarani, called Quantum Physics: A First Encounter. The other is longer but still approachable. It's by David Z. Albert, and it's called Quantum Mechanics and Experience. Best of luck!

what is a perfect person? we all know that something that is perfect is impossible to find. Since there is no such thing as a perfect line, circle, machine even with all the technology in our current time. What makes a person perfect? symmetrical facial and body recognition? ones inner self is that it? maybe im too young to seek the answer myself.

We don't all agree that there is no such thing as a perfect line, and all the rest. A line, say from point P to point Q is easy to find, but we have to know what a line is. Take a comparison. A captain may instruct his helmsman to set a course to Q. It may be that the waves or the tides push the ship slightly off course here and there, but the course is set. Is it impossible for the captain to ask for the course to be set? Is it impossible to follow the course? And finally, is it impossible for the ship to arrive at the point Q? Maybe you think that there is no such point, because a point is not physical. But this isn't quite right. The thing that's important is that though the point does not extend into any of its dimensions, it can be located on a map using two dimensions, or in physical space using three.

Or again, compare the line to the direction. The fact that a direction is like a line itself is one-dimensional (though it is a vector not just a line) has no relevance to its reality.

The difficulty is that we allow distorting physical images to disrupt our thinking. To take a line from one point to another, as an architect might, is not a matter of painting a thick white line as on a tennis court. A line itself has only one dimension. But this concept of low dimensionality has nothing to do with whether or not the thing exists.

As to the perfect person, the usual sense given to such phrases is a moral one. And here the difficulty evaporates. There is nothing contradictory about a person who is without fault morally. In Christian theology there actually is such a person.

Aesthetic perfection is perhaps harder to understand, because it is harder to conceive of what an aesthetic flaw is. Still, we operate with the concept perfectly happily. 'What a perfect day!' we exclaim. We know what we mean, and it can be a true proposition. 'Hooray! This day is perfect!' or something that.

The origin of the word "perfect" is in the Latin perfectus, which is the past participle of perficere, to make perfect or whole. The sense of "flawless" is relatively new, appearing for the first time in the mid 19c with John Tyndall.

The idea you propose that the "inner self" is ones perfection or completion is a very interesting one. Is your thought that it is also flawless?

One point to bear in mind is that there is a sense of "perfect" in which it means a high order of excellence. Does perfection itself have to be perfect? Apparently not in all senses.

I am wondering if it is worth my time continuing to read philosophy. I have read quite widely in the hope of "broadening my mind", but lately I have noticed that while reading new material, I seize with pleasure on the points that confirm what I already believe--I am a practicing Roman Catholic--and sideline those I disagree with. I assume it would be the same, if I were a Marxist, Buddhist, agnostic, or nihilist, reading principally in search of what confirms my beliefs. I can see the point of reading philosophy, if you don't already have beliefs or opinions or simply need to produce an academic essay, but why bother when you know what you know? Have you had a different experience?

If you want to participate in the philosophy game, even passively, you have to pretend you have an open mind. Most philosophers don't, of course, but they do their best to pretend. And I have to say that the value system of the community (even among academics!) does seem to apportion the highest degree of respect and admiration to those who give the best appearance of having an open mind.

From a philosophical point of view, your complacent attitude toward your own observations about yourself ("lately I have noticed" etc. -- without the slightest twinge of any critical impulse toward yourself) puts you outside the pale. If you really think it's just too much trouble to change that comfortable attitude, you should give up any interest in philosophy. It is not worth your time, or anyone else's.

But before you settle into your comfortable ignorance, you should perhaps review, once again -- with care and attention, though -- the earliest Socratic dialogues, including especially the Apology of Socrates. He was the original critical intellectual, the inspiration for Voltaire and Diderot and all who followed. You reject their -- our -- attempts to replace traditional lore with better knowledge. If you're unwilling to consider even the possibility you might be wrong, you can't be helped. You're going into philosophy with the conviction it's a waste of time before you even start. What would be the point?

Hi! I wonder what "knowledge" is. I heard the JTB argument that says knowledge must be a justified, true belief. Then there is the Gettier problem in which JTB is not sufficient to describe knowledge. But I suppose, to say that "JTB is not enough for knowledge", one must have a definition of knowledge in the first place which is not "justified, true belief". So I was so curious what the definition of knowledge, about which philosophers have been discussing so long, actually is?

You're right that according to the JTB analysis of the concept of knowledge (it's really an analysis rather than an argument), propositional knowledge is identical to justified, true belief. Gettier cases, as you say, are meant to show that knowledge requires more than justified, true belief. But Gettier cases don't proceed by assuming a different analysis (or definition) of knowledge than the JTB analysis: if they did that, they would be guilty of begging the question against the JTB analysis.

Instead, Gettier cases involve scenarios in which intuitively the subject lacks knowledge of a proposition despite having a justified, true belief of the proposition. We're supposed to agree that, intuitively, Smith doesn't know the proposition Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona, even if we don't have in mind any specific definition of "knowledge."

Compare: If I propose an analysis of the concept of a lie on which a lie is nothing more than a false utterance, you can refute my analysis by pointing to any case in which someone innocently misspoke and got the facts wrong. You can do so without having in mind a specific definition of "a lie."

What, then, is the correct analysis of knowledge? Good question. See this SEP entry for an excellent discussion of the topic.