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The causal theory of knowledge says:

S knows P iff

(1) It is the case that P.

(2) S believes P.

(3) There is an appropriate causal connection between the fact that P and S's belief of P.

I'll construct a counter-example to the causal theory of knowledge as follows:

A is a person and B met A very long ago. So, today neither A nor B have enough knowledge to identify each other.

But A has enough knowledge to identify another person, C, since A met C recently. But A confuses a property, S, that C has with the same property, S, that B had when A met B. So, A thinks that C is B since she remembers B having property S.

Then A has a true belief that C is B because B had property S and that causes A to believe C is B. But, in that case, it is not generally considered the case that A knows C is B.

So, I think it is a kind of Gettier case.

Is this a well-constructed counter-example to causal theory, especially to the formulation in Goldman's old paper, "A Causal Theory of Knowing"? If not, why isn't it?


Goldman, A. I. (1967). A causal theory of knowing. The journal of Philosophy, 64(12), 357-372.

  • This is basically a Gettier case ? Perhaps could you remind us what the causal theory of perception says (does it say that a causal relation is enough to know?) and how your example contradicts it exactly? – Quentin Ruyant Nov 27 '15 at 19:10

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