I do not understand why the problem of Gettier cases has been so challenging to the theory that knowledge consists of justified true beliefs. Let's take an example from SEP, where you are trudging through a desert and see water in the distance. When you reach the water, it turns out you had seen a mirage, but there does in fact happen to be water under a rock. Did you have knowledge that there was water? No, you just got lucky. Edmund Gettier might say that this refutes JTB=K, but it seems to me that you just did not have good enough justification to claim knowledge that there was water (because how do you know you're not looking at a mirage, or a mirror that looks like water?).

It seems to me that Gettier cases call into question the nature of "justification" and how hard it is to get good justification for a belief, and thus knowledge. It is easy to concede that your knowledge is dependent on the strength of your justification (if I drive down a road and see the sides of barns, do I know that there are barns there? How strong is my justification?), but I do not understand how this refutes JTBs as necessary and sufficient conditions for Knowledges.

  • 1
    Because Zagzebski came up with a recipe that defeats any non-redundant strengthenings of justification in advance: start with an example with a justified false belief in whatever sense of "justification", then modify context to make it true by luck. If this is impossible then "true" is implied by "justified" and redundant, otherwise K=JTB is false. And if "true" is implied by "justified" then the notion of "justification" involved is too demanding to be of much use. It might be available to God, but not fallible humans.
    – Conifold
    Apr 19 '20 at 7:48
  • Whether it is too demanding to be of much use seems irrelevant to the structure of knowledge
    – jeremy909
    Apr 19 '20 at 14:40
  • As usual Conifold sums up the issues nicely. Where would we be without him. I would just quibble with the idea that human beings are not as capable of knowledge as God, as long as they do not mistake JTB for knowledge. By most definitions belief is not-knowledge. So I'd say the Gettier issue is not significant, since JTB is in any case not knowledge. .
    – user20253
    Apr 19 '20 at 14:56
  • To the contrary, humans are naturally interested in what the human knowledge is or can be. If the definition of "knowledge" is such that its range is empty the concept becomes redundant.
    – Conifold
    Apr 20 '20 at 6:13
  • @Conifold But the Gettier cases are not what make such a definition of knowledge restrictive. If I see an oasis in the distance while walking through the desert, whether or not the oasis is a mirage, I don't "know" that there's an oasis because I don't have adequate justification to know it's not a mirage. Just like I don't know the moon isn't made of cheese and I'm not the true king of England. What does Gettier have to do with it? Thank you for the responses by the way.
    – jeremy909
    Apr 23 '20 at 15:19

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.