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Edmund Gettier's paper refuting the Justified True Belief (JTB) account of knowledge has been described as 'landmark' and 'legendary'. I more or less understand how it proved, using counterexamples, that a true belief that's justified isn't the same as knowledge. But I wonder, does this discovery have an impact outside the field of epistemology? For example, in science, have we since discarded theories or laws that turned out to be merely justified true belief, and not knowledge?

  • No. Gettier problem is no more relevant to the practice of science than Russell's paradox is (or was) to the practice of mathematics. It is an interesting puzzle but only for philosophers and logicians, in science we are never in a position to have truth beyond justification, so Gettier issues are moot (unless we look at historical state of knowledge retroactively). Presumably like semantic paradoxes it bears some relevance to constructing cognizing systems in AI research, but I am not aware of anything specific (and they usually don't define knowledge as JTB). – Conifold May 15 '16 at 19:08
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As far as I know, Gettier examples have not caused scientsts to abandon theories on the basis that they were just JTB and not knowledge. I'm not actually sure what this kind of scenario would look like. A team of scientists would have to hold that their justified true belief was a result of a Gettier-style counterexample, and not actually knowledge. It will never appear to scientists (or us) that we have a justified true belief, but that our belief was not justified on the right grounds.

The Gettier examples, however, did change the course of epistemology in two main ways, some of which have had far-reaching implications. There has been much interesting literature in response. Gettier-type worries about knowedge (in conjunction with other worries about knowledge) may motivate contextualism about knowledge, which holds that in some contexts it is true (or assertable) that one has knowledge of some truth, but in other contexts, it is not. Gettier cases may have some philosophers throwing up their hands at the whole study of knowledge, finding interesting work to do in other areas of epistemology, some of which have been fruitful for other areas (Bayesian epistemology, for example.)

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