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    The Gettier Problem

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    For about 2000 years, most philosophers have been satisfied with the traditional definition of knowledge given by Plato as "justified true belief" (discussed in the presentation). However, in 1963, Edmund Gettier, a philosophy instructor struggling to gain tenure, wrote a three page article that challenged the way philosophers think about what knowledge is by providing a counterexample to the traditional definition. This challenge has come to be known as "The Gettier Problem." In a nutshell, Gettier claimed that it was possible to have "justified true belief" about something, and yet it would not be considered knowledge. In other words, justified true belief might be necessary for knowledge, but it isn't sufficient for claiming that one really knows something.

    Here is an example of a Gettier-type counterexample. Suppose you have been studying in the library for quite some time and you glance up at the clock to see what time it is, and it reads 2:10 in the afternoon. You then conclude that it is in fact 2:10pm. However, unknown to you, that clock happened to stop working at 2:10 several days ago. But it just so happens that at the moment you glanced up at the clock it actually was, quite coincidently, 2:10 p.m. Therefore, you formed a belief that it was 2:10pm; the belief was true, and you were justified in believing it was true (you had no reason to doubt the clock's accuracy). Therefore, you had a justified true belief. However, you did not know it was 2:10pm; it was just a coincidence. (You can read Gettier's original short article "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?" online.)

    Several philosophers have attempted to solve "The Gettier Problem." These solutions have fallen into three general strategies. (1) Some have decided to keep the traditional definition of knowledge and just show that the Gettier counterexamples don't qualify as real justification for beliefs. (2) Some have held to the traditional definition of knowledge, but add a fourth condition to knowledge ("justified true belief + ??"). Finally, (3) some have said that a new definition of knowledge is needed that replaces "justification" with something else ("?? true belief"). As we will see later in the course, this is the strategy used among many reliabilists and other externalists.

    Respond to "The Gettier Problem," suggesting what you think might be a way to resolve it. As you reflect on your response, consider the following questions:

    * If the characters in Gettier-type examples don't have knowledge, what do they have?
    * What more do you think you need in order to say you know something besides the three criteria of justified true belief?
    * Do you think the Getteir counterexamples to "justified true belief" are valid?
    * Can you create a counterexample to Gettier's counterexamples?
    * In the end, what does it mean to say we "know" something?

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    The Gettier problem is a reaction to the longstanding epistemological theory of justified true belief. In the Theaetetus, Plato bases justified true belief on the premise that when A believes B to be true, and B is true, and then A is justified in its belief. Edmund Gettier felt that this was not necessarily the case. Gettier held that justified true belief was not a matter of direct knowledge, but only a justification of a belief, or presupposition. Knowledge, as Plato outlines, does not necessarily constitute of formal consequence of the process. As far as the Guttier problem goes, knowledge is a direct relation that must accompany the premise. For example, Plato might argue that a student believes someone in my class is from Texas and it turns out someone in my class actually is from Texas, therefore the student is justified in his belief and has knowledge that a fellow student is from Texas. Gettier would counter saying the student never had knowledge of anyone being from Texas, but only believed it so. Anyone actually being from Texas has nothing to do with the student's knowledge. He believed it, and there actually was someone from Texas, but that is indifferent to his actual knowledge of the person from Texas.

    Gettier seems to be arguing that presuppositions are not grounds for knowledge. Even in the right environment, with the appropriate reasons for assuming something, knowledge appears to be accidental or consequential to actual and direct knowledge. As it seems, there are many ...

    Solution Summary

    The solution is a comprehensive essay on the Gettier Problem.