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Gettier and Justified True Belief

Matthew Paisner This report will be divided into three sections. The first will contain a description of the idea of knowledge as justified true belief (JBT) and the Gettier and Gettier st!le objections to it. The second will describe a nu"ber of atte"pts to fi# the Gettier proble" fro" a variet! of angles$ and the third will briefl! address the broader %uestion of wh! this subject has proven so see"ingl! intractable.

& ' JTB and Gettier


The JTB theor! of knowledge is an atte"pt to provide a set necessar! and sufficient conditions under which a person can be said to know so"ething. The theor! suggests that if a person p has a belief b$ if b is in fact true$ and if p is justified in believing b$ then p knows that b. (or e#a"ple$ ) believe ) have two hands$ ) do in fact have two hands$ and ) have good justification for believing ) have two hands$ because ) a" using the" to t!pe. Therefore$ under the JTB theor! of knowledge$ ) know ) have two hands. *s far as appendages go$ this theor! see"s fairl! unproble"atic + unless we are skeptics$ we would like to sa! that ) do in fact know that ) have two hands. ,owever$ it turns out that there are a nu"ber of cases in which a person could have justified true beliefs and still see" to not have knowledge. -ver the past several decades$ a ver! large nu"ber of broadl! si"ilar e#a"ples have been produced. )n Gettier.s original paper$ his first e#a"ple describes a "an na"ed /"ith who is co"peting with Jones for a job. /"ith has been told b! the President of the co"pan! that Jones is going to get the job$ and he happens to know that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. Therefore$ he reasons that the person who gets the job will have ten coins in his pocket$ which see"s to be a perfectl! justified conclusion. *s it happens$ the President turns out to have been "istaken$ and it is /"ith hi"self who gets the job. 0oincidentall! he also has ten coins in his pocket$ and so his belief that the person who gets the job will have ten coins in his pocket is true. )n this e#a"ple$ /"ith has the belief b that the person who gets the job will have ten coins in his pocket$ he is justified in believing b because he has been told b! a reliable source that Jones will get it and Jones has ten coins in his pocket$ and$ lastl!$ it turns out that b is in fact true. Therefore$ b! the JTB theor!$ /"ith knew that the person who got the job would have ten coins in his pocket. ,owever$ Gettier and "an! others argue that it does not see"$ intuitivel!$ that this is an actual case of knowledge as we would want it to be defined. )t see"s that /"ith was correct not because he knew (his infor"ation was in fact "isleading)$ but "erel! because he got luck!.

1 ' /olutions
Gettier.s countere#a"ple$ and others like it (hereafter all of these will be referred to as 2Gettier e#a"ples3$ although he hi"self onl! posited two)$ have led to a reevaluation of the JTB theor!. Man! atte"pts have been "ade to "odif! JTB to account for these e#a"ples in such a wa! that the! will no longer be categori4ed as knowledge$ without eli"inating actual instances of knowledge. /everal of these atte"pts are outlined below. Perhaps the "ost obvious response to Gettier.s challenge is to %uestion the 2J3 part of JTB. )t see"s fairl! clear what we "ean b! 2True3 and 2Belief$3 but 2Justified3 is another "atter. *t one end of the spectru"$ the Gettier proble" can be avoided rather si"pl! b! e"plo!ing a ver! strict definition of justification' infallibilit!. )n other words$ no belief is justified if our rationale for believing it leaves open the possibilit! of error. )n Gettier.s e#a"ple$ /"ith was not justified in his belief because he assu"ed that the co"pan! President was correct and truthful$ and that itself was not necessaril! true (in fact$ it turned out to be false).

This 2)nfallibilist3 position certainl! defeats Gettier.s countere#a"ples. ,owever$ it faces the sa"e proble" as the skepticist argu"ents that it springs fro"' it is not particularl! useful or interesting. There si"pl! are not "an! facts about the world that we can believe infallibl!$ and so knowledge in this sense would be restricted to basic self awareness + ) think$ therefore ) a" and perhaps so"e propositions of "athe"atics or logic (although even those "ight be wondered about). *nother proposed "odification to the idea of justification is the 25o false 6e""as3 approach. The idea here is that for a belief to be justified$ the process of reasoning used to discover it cannot contain an! false le""as$ or sub conclusions. Gettier.s /"ith e#a"ple would then be disallowed as knowledge$ since /"ith falsel! believed that Jones would get the job$ and that led to his eventual belief that so"eone with &7 coins would get it. ,owever$ ) could still know that ) have two hands$ because ever! step in "! justification of that belief was correct + ) a" in fact t!ping$ the hands in front of "e are the ones controlled b! "! brain$ etc. /everal countere#a"ples have been proposed for this for"ulation as well. )n general$ the! rel! on a t!pe of justification in which the reasoner does not actuall! think through each step of his reasoning. (or e#a"ple$ a person "ight look at a broken clock stuck at 1'&8 without knowing it was broken$ and conclude reasonabl! that the ti"e was 1'&8. 0oincidentall!$ it "ight be that it actuall! was 1'&8$ and so he had a justified true belief. Because he never thought about the fact that the clock "ight be broken$ he did not actuall! use an! false le""as in his justification$ so his belief that the ti"e is 1'&8 should %ualif! as knowledge$ but$ again$ it does not intuitivel! see" to do so. 6!can (1779) proposes a solution to this apparent weakness in the no false le""as approach. ,e suggests that we count tacit assu"ptions or beliefs as part of the justification process$ so in the clock e#a"ple$ while the person did not ever think 2) believe the clock is not broken$3 he did tacitl! believe it$ and that assu"ption contributed to his end belief that the ti"e was 1'&8. Therefore$ his belief was not knowledge$ since it relied on a false tacit assu"ption. This approach relies on the tacit assu"ption that a belief can be subconscious and still have an effect on a conscious reasoning process$ but that presupposition does not see" particularl! proble"atic since both intuition and ps!chological research see" to support it. -f course$ there are countere#a"ples intended to disprove this version of no false le""as as well. -ne involves a fa"il!$ the Togethers"iths (:o4eboo" &;9<)$ who all take a drive in the countr! together ever! /unda!. *n observer who knows this fact sees the fa"il! car leaving on a /unda!$ and concludes that Mrs. Togethers"ith is not at ho"e$ since the Togethers"iths are in the car. ,owever$ while he is right about Mrs. Togethers"ith$ it is not true that all of the" are in the car$ since one of the children is awa! at a friend.s birthda! part!. This$ then$ is supposed to be an instance of actual knowledge in which a false assu"ption is involved. ,ar"an (&;<8) responds that a false assu"ption "ust be essential to the conclusion for it to invalidate the latter as knowledge. /ince the observer did not use the false infor"ation about whether or not the "issing child was in the car in reaching his conclusion about Mrs. Togethers"ith$ he can still be said to have known that she was in the car. -n the other side of the spectru"$ we "ight wonder whether this is in fact an instance of knowledge at all. Tellingl!$ it see"s as though the degree to which we would call it knowledge is related with the degree to which we think the observer relied on the assu"ption that all the Togethers"iths were in the car. )f he had so"e additional specific knowledge (2Mrs. T. never "isses that /unda! drive3)$ then it see"s "ore plausible$ but if his onl! supporting evidence was general knowledge about the whole fa"il!$ then it see"s "ore like he was in so"e sense "istaken in his belief$ although it turned out to be true. There are countere#a"ples directed at ,ar"an.s approach as well$ though the! see" generall! less convincing. There are also several other variations on the atte"pt to redefine 2justified$3 including an inverse approach to the one above in which a justified belief is one such that no true fact could$ if known$ invalidate the justification (such a fact is known as a defeater$ and the approach is called indefeasibilit!). =nfortunatel!$ a co"prehensive review of these theories and countere#a"ples is far be!ond the scope of this su""ar!$ and interested readers are advised to consult the bibliograph!.

8 ' 6arger Thoughts


>h! is the Gettier proble" such a pu44le? 6!can.s paper is largel! devoted to this subject$ and he presents so"e interesting thoughts. -ne is that the project is too a"bitious + he cites a paper b! (odor et al. (&;@7) which argues that no interesting philosophical concept can be strictl! defined as a set of necessar! and sufficient conditions. *nother theor! is that the research "ethods used in these endeavors are flawed. 5a"el!$ the results suggested b! a certain theor! on a given set of instances are tested not against so"e scientific data about the actual state of knowledge in those instances + no such data e#ist + but against the intuitions of the researcher. )t is not an overstate"ent to sa! that this "ethodolog! would be considered unscientific in other fields$ though in philosoph!.s defense it is difficult to identif! an alternative. )n view of this highl! subjective treat"ent of what could be considered the dependent variable of these thought e#peri"ents$ perhaps it is unsurprising that results are inconsistent and inconclusive. (urther$ there is so"e evidence to suggest that intuitions about knowledge in Gettier cases var! b! culture (>einberg$ /tich and 5ichols$ 177&)$ which "ight weaken further the idea that such intuitions are reliable. ) will conclude with one final thought on Gettier cases. This entire discussion see"s$ in "an! wa!s$ to suffer fro" an oversi"plification of the wa! in which people know. There see"s to be an i"plicit assu"ption that people are possessed of sets of discrete facts$ each of which can be si"pl! e#pressed in natural language and anal!4ed separatel!. This could easil! be the subject for an entire paper in itself$ but that assu"ption see"s patentl! false. /"ith does not believe in isolation that so"eone with ten coins will get the jobA he believes it as part of a larger belief state that includes his assu"ption that the person in %uestion is Jones. )f the sentence 2/o"eone with ten coins in their pocket will get the job3 did so"ehow get retrieved fro" his "e"or! without an! reference to the associated circu"stances$ it would be ver! strange + we "ight call that a for" of a"nesia$ and we would certainl! not sa! that he knew that fact an!"ore. *gain$ this is far too large of an issue to address here$ but it see"s to be an essential dile""a with the wa! in which the %uestion of knowledge is being approached in this literature.

B ' Bibliograph!
Gettier$ C. (&;98)$ 2)s Justified True Belief Dnowledge3$ Analysis 18' &1& &18. http'EEwww.dite#t.co"EgettierEgettier.ht"l ,ar"an$ G. (&;<8)$ Thought. Princeton' Princeton=niversit! Press. ,etherington$ /$ 2Gettier Proble"s3$ Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy$ http'EEwww.iep.ut".eduEgettierEF,1 (odor$ J.*.$ M. Garrett$C. >alker$ and 0. Parkes (&;@7). G*gainst HefinitionsI. Cognition @' 198 89<. 6!can$ >. (1779)$ 2-n the Gettier Proble" proble"3$ in Epistemology Futures$ /tephen ,etherington (ed.)$ -#ford' -#ford =niversit! Press$ pp$ &B@ 9@. =:6' http'EEwww.unc.eduEJujanelEGettier.ht" :o4eboo"$ >.>. (&;9<). G>h! ) Dnow /o Much More than Kou HoI. American Philosophical Quarterly$ B' 1@& ;7. :eprinted in :oth and Galis (&;<7). :ussell$ Bruce$ LA Priori Justification and DnowledgeL$ The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall !" Edition#$ Cdward 5. Malta (ed.)$ =:6 N Ohttp'EEplato.stanford.eduEarchivesEfall17&1EentriesEaprioriEP >einberg$ J.M.$ /.P. /tich and /. 5ichols (177&). G5or"ativit! and Cpiste"ic )ntuitionsI. Philosophical Topics$ 1;' B1; 97. http'EEen.wikipedia.orgEwikiEGettierQproble"