From what I can tell, it seems like the Gettier problem comes down to Smith not knowing that the man who has ten coins in his pocket is going to get the job. What about Smith knowing what the successful job-applicant has in his pocket?

I imagine that Smith also doesn't know why or how said man has those coins. Smith doesn't even know whether those coins are there. By stipulation of the problem, of course, he doesn't know who has ten coins in their pocket (this is equivalent to the "what" version of the question, just less "impersonal"). However, it seems as if a slightly different version of this Gettier case would be (epistemically) possibly compatible with Smith not knowing that Jones has ten coins in his pocket, and yet Smith might know half the answer to, "Who has ten coins in his pocket?" (the full answer being, "You and me both," between those two men).

If knowledge has this wh-complement character all across the board, like the concept of knowledge is an elementary function of erotetic logic, then can we frame the Gettier problem in terms of which(!) wh-complements are known in a given case, and which are not, such that we can rank specific Gettier problems by how many wh-complements are defaulted on in any given case? Or does making note of the intersection of the Gettier problem scheme on the one hand, and this interval in erotetic logic on the other, only trivially reinforce the fact(?) that Smith doesn't know that the man with ten coins has in his pocket is going to get the job? As if it would be "pointless" (or not very "productive") to emphasize or otherwise focus on Smith's lack of knowledge-what, knowledge-why, etc., these all being subsumed by Smith's lack of knowledge-that.

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    Hi! Interesting question, but one that is difficult to answer I'm afraid, because your description of the Gettier case is inaccurate. In the original case, Smith does know that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. You can find this on page 122 of Gettier (1963).
    – Quae
    Aug 22, 2022 at 19:14
  • @Quae, damn, I should've reread the essay. I forgot about the job application bit. Aug 22, 2022 at 21:28
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    All the knowledge [question word] types are varieties of knowledge-that (propositional), even when the question word is "how". They are all distinct from the (presumably) non-propositional ability "knowledge-how". Are you deliberately playing on the ambiguity? Cath discusses how the interplay between ability knowledge and Gettier cases forces a revision of what we take as knowledge that. See also Carter et al.
    – Conifold
    Aug 23, 2022 at 10:50
  • @Conifold, it's likely that I'm playing catch-up, as usual. I did expect that there'd be an essay addressing the relationship between techne and the Gettier problem, but I was less sure about analysis of knowledge-wh vs. Gettier problems. Aug 23, 2022 at 11:03

1 Answer 1


I'm not at all sure that I understand what is going here properly, but it might help others if they could see a concrete example cashed out in your terms. Since you mention Gettier's first case, let's consider that.

It seems to me that Smith does not know who will get the job and that he does know how many coins Jones has in his pocket.

Gettier tries to persuade us to answer the question whether Smith knows that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.

But the question is inappropriate (i.e. cannot be answered properly) unless and until he (Smith) knows who will get the job. Gettier doesn't tell us how many coins Smith has in his pocket, so even when Smith's success is known to the characters in the story, the question still cannot be answered. I think that even if we (the readers) knew, Smith would have to know as well.

Does this help at all?

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