Up@dawn 2.0

Friday, April 28, 2017

Gettier Problems

       As I read over and over different examples of Gettier’s Problems, I cannot help but find myself going back to the aliment of the subjects (S) interpretation of justification. It almost seems like a catch 22, in order to have justification, you have to have knowledge of the justification, yet you also have to believe it. But in order to believe in it there had to have been some sort of justification to persuade you to believe. The belief roots in the senses of the subject and how they perceive the information as well as trust in the source of justification. Smith sees the clock and believes what it says, 1) because his senses (eyes- he sees the hands on the clock) tell him the time shown on the clock and 2) his belief in the clock working.

The problem is our trust in the belief that the source of the justification is doing exactly what we assume it was meant to do because in past experiences they have done exactly that. For example, Smith’s belief in the clock stemmed from his assumption that the clock was working. Every other time he has used the clock for accuracy, it has been correct because it had been operational. The fake barn, again… the subject’s belief that when he sees an outline of a barn in the middle of a field, his belief in that being just that comes from his assumption that every other time he has seen a barn in a field, it has been a barn. 

After examining several different possible solutions to Gettier Problem’s, I noticed most had to deal with the justification piece of JTB. For example, Alvin Goldman’s theory called No False Lemmas states ’S’s belief the p is no inferred from any falsehood.’ If we take the Barn County example and we see that the problem for S is that their justification for believing the barn is a barn is false. S assumes the barn is real because every other time S has seen a barn, it has been a barn. That is basing an answer off of the assumption that from insight collected on previous occasions, the pattern proves when S sees a barn, it has always been a barn in the past, therefore the current barn must be a barn. S does not take into account the very ever so slight possibility that in this ONE instance, the barn may not actually be a barn. But how often does that happen in our daily lives? How often do we stop and think about the authenticity of our perceived justification? As humans, we are design to spot patterns. In fact it has helped us survive since we first began. Spotting patterns and remembering those patterns help expedite certain tasks, which in turn has helped us evolve into the dominant species on the planet. If we had to stop and think about every decision we make daily, we would never get anything done. Things that occur over and over again with the same outcome turn into routines that we go through almost on autopilot without a second thought. I explain all of this because that is how S responds in Gettier Problems. Their (S’s)  justifications are based off of assumptions of repetition. For example, in the Mr. Smith and the clock example, clearly Mr. Smith has used a clock before, albite maybe not that exact one, however Mr. Smith has used them enough to know how they work, and what their purpose is. To tell time. And in every time before (or enough times for Mr. Smith to not second guess the clock in the example) the clock has always given Mr. Smith the correct time. So the entire problem is based off of S’s assumption. The definition of assumption is “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof” and justification is “ the action of showing something to be right or reasonable”… so… you cannot have justification based on assumption... it leaves room for error. In fact an antonym for assumption is knowledge! But that is the whole point of JTB is it not?!? Knowledge?!? So you have to have knowledge in obtain knowledge?!? 

Here’s an idea though, what if we both are the ones with knowledge, us the reader and S. For example, in the case of the clock and Mr. Smith, Mr. Smith never finds out the clock was not working nor that the clock just happened to be on the correct time when he looked at it. We, the outsiders, know the clock is broken, thus giving us the advantage of making a realization that Mr. Smith made an error in his justification, in turn altering the knowledge for us, but not for Mr. Smith. We have knowledge given the data and perspective we have, as does Mr. Smith from his data and perspective.


I’m still digging through pages and pages of different ‘solutions’… I cannot believe how many there are, and even more so I cannot believe how so many seem to solve it only to present its own set of problems. This rabbit hole seems to go deeper and deeper the more I read on.

1 comment:

  1. "It almost seems like a catch 22" - indeed! Some of my best epistemologist friends have spent their professional lives like Yossarian,"moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity" of the quest for "justified true beliefs." They turn up at philosophy gatherings year after year, to showcase their latest minor adjustments and tinkering tweaks to get around the catch. Gettier gets 'em every time.

    I'm tempted to indulge myself with more Heller quotes. Just one: “[They] agreed that it was neither possible nor necessary to educate people who never questioned anything.”

    But that's not our problem with Gettier and his successors, who always question everything except maybe the ultimate futility of Gettier problems.

    "The problem is our trust... in past experiences" - In fact we have to begin with past experiences, the problem is really that we're too quick to elide present contingencies that we've not encountered before. But past experience ought to have taught us to expect future deviations from inductive expectation. If we've not learned that, it's because (as you say" it would just be too impractical most of the time to ponder improbabilities like the false barn. "If we had to stop and think about every decision we make daily, we would never get anything done." We'd not even solve Gettier's problems, and it's important to realize that we have more urgent daily problems than Gettier's.

    "So you have to have knowledge in obtain knowledge?!?" Crazy,isn't it? My pal in Huntsville has been pounding away on the Problem of the Criterion long enough to make anyone insane, but he claims to be making progress on it. Maybe he'll get his discharge.

    "We have knowledge given the data and perspective we have" - I think this is the right track, though of course it risks begging the question as to whether the perspective we have can support the knowledge we claim. But we do have to start somewhere. Happy digging. Beware the rabbit hole. And remember, there is a pragmatic alternative to all that digging. (The epistemologists will warn you away from it, but what do they know?)

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