2.2. INTROPHIL – The Classical Account of Knowledge and the Gettier Problem


So we saw in part one that knowledge
requires true belief, that is, it requires getting it right, but we
also saw that this [INAUDIBLE] actually requires a lot more then mere
true belief. And the question then became, what do we
need to add to true belief in order to know? Will it be one very influential account
of, of what it takes to turn true belief into knowledge which has been and two
quiet reason the dominant view in theory of
knowledge. And this is known as the Classical Account
of Knowledge. The Classical Account of Knowledge is been
defended right back into antiquity, there’s a
version of this position in Plato for example. Until quite recently, it was just the standard view about the nature of
knowledge. Here is what it says. It says knowledge is true belief.
That is, knowledge requires truth. It requires belief. And then it also requires a third condition, which is usually called a
justification condition. So what is the difference on this view
between knowledge and mere true belief, merely
getting it right? Well, the difference is that when one
knows what has a justification for what one, one
believes. Well, that means one has good reasons that one can offer in support of what one
believes. So go back to our example from part one of
the, the dura forming their beliefs through prejudice as
opposed to the dura forming their belief. through carefully attending to the, the
evidence as offered and thinking their way through that evidence and the
directions they’ve been given. In the one case, the case the person believing through
prejudice. Although, they get it right, although,
they end up with a true belief, they can’t offer good reasons in
favor of what they believe. I mean, the best. They can say is that, that they believe
what they do because of prejudice. But of course that’s a terrible reason for
believing a proposition in this case. Because aside from anything else,
prejudice isn’t a good way of forming true beliefs about whether or
not someone’s guilty. In contrast, the juror who carefully
attends to the evidence and thinks things through. When asked why they believe what they do they can offer a justification for what
they do. They can offer good reasons in support of
their belief. So it seems then the difference between
knowing as opposed to merely getting it right, is the
possession of a justification. The possession of good reasons in support
of why you believe what you do. And think again about those two intuitions
that we encountered at the end of part one, the anti luck intuition
and the ability intuition. Well, take the anti luck intuition first. That says that if you know then your true
belief is not simply a matter of luck. Well if you’ve got good reasons in support
of your belief, well then it isn’t a matter of
luck, is it? It’s obviously if you’ve got good reasons,
that means that you got to the truth because you
formed your belief in the right kind of way. And similarly, the ability intuition, the
claim that if you know then your true belief is down to your cognitive
abilities in some important way. Well, if you can offer good reasons, well,
where did those reasons come from if they weren’t derived from you
using your cognitive abilities? Just like. I, a juror who knows, uses that counter
abilities to attend to the evidence, and think their way through the
evidence, in order to form a correct judgement. So the classical account looks very
plausible. The difference between knowing as opposed
to merely getting it right, is that one has a
justification. So the classical account was very dominant
for a long time and that’s because it just looks so
incredibly plausible. Knowledge is justified, true belief. The view is often called a tripartite
analysis of knowledge, because it has three parts
to it. It’s very simple.
Truth, belief, justification. That’s all that is required for knowledge. Unfortunately, the Classical Account of
Knowledge, doesn’t work. This came to light in the early 60s on
account of a very famous paper general article by a
man called Edmund Gettier. This paper is the stuff of legend and philosophies, just two and a half pages
long. But it completely demolishes the Classical
Account of Knowledge. What Gettier offered were cases where you have agents who have got true justified
beliefs. So that is, they meet the conditions imposed by the Classical Account of
Knowledge. And yet, they don’t know. In particular, what’s distinctive of
Gettier cases is that the, the agent concerned doesn’t know, because it’s just a matter
of luck that their beliefs are true. So these are what’s called Gettier
counterexamples. And we’re going to look at some of these,
these counterexamples, these cases, right now. Now, notice the examples that we’re
going to look at, they’re not the original examples that
Gettier offered. His examples are quite complicated. but we don’t need to use Gettier’s
complicated examples to make the point that he wanted to make. There are much simpler examples that can
make this point. The first one we’re going to look at is
the famous Stopped Clock Case. So this was first offered by Bertrand
Russell, though at the time he didn’t realize it was a
Gettier case. He was, he used this example to illustrate a
different point. But imagine though someone came downstairs
one morning and they formed that belief about what time is by looking at
the clock on their wall. And let’s suppose that this clock has been
very reliable up until now, there’s no reason to think there’s
anything wrong with it today. The time it’s telling looks plausible.
It’s roughly correct and so on, you know. So you know it’s roughly what time it is
in the morning and what the clock says pretty much corresponds to that. So you’ve formed a belief about what time
it is by looking at the clock. And now, let’s stipulate that the belief
that you’ve formed is true, so you formed a true belief by
looking at this clock. Now, the belief is clearly justified,
because you’ve got good reasons for believing what you
do. the clock is a reliable clock. You’ve got independent reasons for
thinking that what the clock says is broadly correct. You’ve no reason to doubt that the, the clock is giving you a
wrong answer, and so on. So you got a justified true belief. Here’s the twist in the tale, though. Suppose the clock has stopped, suppose it
stopped 12 hours ago, or 24 hours ago, if you’re using a 24 hour
clock. So, what you’re looking at right now is a
stop clock. However, you just so happened to be
looking at the stop clock in the one time in the day. You know, two times in the day, depending
on whether it’s a 12 or 24 hour clock, when it’s showing you the correct time.
Here’s the crux of the matter. You can’t come to know what the time is by
looking at a stopped clock. Even if you happen to get a true belief
about what the time is. As has happened in this case. And part of the reason for that is that
getting a true belief about the time by looking at a stopped
clock, it’s just too lucky. If you’ve got a true belief it’s just a
matter of luck that your belief is true. And so, we’re offending here against the anti luck intuition on
knowledge in which we saw in part one. So it seems what we’ve got is justified
true belief, so we got a belief that satisfies the condition of the
Classical Account of Knowledge, and yet we haven’t got
knowledge. And in particular, we haven’t got
knowledge because we’ve got a true belief where it’s just a matter of luck
that the belief is true. Here’s a second Gettier’s star case, this
time due to Roderick Chisholm, who was a, who was an American
philosopher. Imagine a farmer looking into a field and
seeing in clear daylight and so forth. What looks very much like a sheep in the
field. And so on this basis they form the belief
that there’s a sheep in the field. And if this belief is true there really is
a sheep in the field, so we’ve got a true
belief. And indeed on any plausible conception of
what justification unfolds they got a justified true belief there’s a
sheep in the field. I mean after all normally that you can see something in clear
daylight, which looks like something which your very
familiar with. In this case, a sheep, if you’re a farmer. That’s a good reason that walking off, or
good justification, for why one has the belief
that one does. So the farmer it seems has a justified
true belief. Here’s the crocks though. Imagine we set the case up so that what the farmer’s looking at is not a real
sheep. What they’re looking at is some
sheep-shaped object. Let’s suppose it’s a big hairy dog, or a, a sheep-shaped rock, or
something like that, so something that looks like a sheep, but which isn’t
in fact a sheep. But now imagine that there really is a
sheep in the field, it’s just it’s hidden from view behind the
thing that the farmer’s looking at. So what the farmer’s got is a, is a true
belief and a justified true belief but intuitively doesn’t know that there’s a
sheep in the field because what he’s looking at isn’t a
sheep. And again, the moral of this seems to be
he doesn’t know because his belief is just lucky. He’s got a true belief that could very
easily have been false. And the reason why it could very easily
have been false is because what he’s looking at isn’t a
sheep, but just a sheep-shaped object. If there hadn’t by chance, been a sheep
hidden from view behind the sheep-shaped object he’s looking at,
then his belief wouldn’t have been true. So again, we’ve got a Gettier case. Justified, true belief which doesn’t
amount to knowledge. And it doesn’t amount to knowledge because
even though the belief is true and justified. It’s just a matter of luck if that belief
is true. Now one way of responding to Gettier
cases, is to try and criticize the cases
themselves. So for example, in the sheep cases you
might say, well is the father really believing that
there’s a sheep in the field as to opposed to believe in,
that thing out there that they looking at is a
sheep. I mean if that were true, then this would
make a big difference. Because of course, the belief that that thing over there is a sheep. Well that’s a false belief, as opposed to
the belief of the sheep in the field. And in general with Gettier cases, there’s
usually a bit of fancy footwork that won’t can do, to try to get out of the problem
by thinking about the case. But it ought to be clear that although
this might work for particular kinds of cases,
it’s not in general going to be a good way of
dealing with Gettier cases and with the problem
that they pose. The point is that there is a general formula for creating Gettier cases. So, in so far as one can find a problem
with a particular kind of case, then we just go back to the
formula and create a new one. And so if you want to deal with the
Gettier problem, we’ve go to engage with these cases on masse and not simply
deal with them peacemeal, one by one. So, what’s the formula for creating
Gettier cases. Well, it basically has two steps. The first step is to have an agent form
your beliefs in such a way where the belief would
normally be false. So, think about the the farmer forming a
belief by looking at a sheep shaped object, rather
than the sheep. So they form a belief about where there’s
a sheep in the field by looking at something which
isn’t a sheep. Or think about the agent looking at a
stopped clock in order to find out what the time
is. So, in both cases, you’ve got informing
that belief in such a way, they would normally end up with a
false belief. But now we just adapt the case so that, as it happens, they end up with a
true belief. So, in the stopped clock case, we just
stipulate that they, they happen to look at the clock at the one time of the day
when it’s showing the right time. In the sheep case, we stipulate that they
just happen to be looking at a sheep shaped object which has a
genuine sheep hidden from view behind. So with that formula in play, we can
construct Gettier cases at will. And that means that the Gettier problem
is, is quite a serious problem. It’s not a problem that can be dealt with simply by focusing on the details of each
particular case. Rather, one needs to find a, a very
general way of excluding Gettier cases in one’s
theory of knowledge. So in the immediate aftermath of Gettier’s
article, people thought that maybe there would be a simple
solution to this. Or maybe, for example, all we need to do
is to take the classical account, the
tripartite account, the three part account and just add a fourth part
onto it. Add some fourth condition which gets
around the Gettier problem. But it soon became clear that, this is,
it’s not as straightforward as it looked. In fact, it’s, I think pretty much widely accepted now, that there is no
straightforward way of simply adding extra condition onto the
classical account, to fix the problem caused by
Gettier cases. Now, I can’t go through all the different
proposals people have made in this regard. So what I want to do is pick out one Proposal, which might on the face of it
look very plausible, and try and give you a
sense of some of the problems that this proposal
faces. So here’s, here’s a, a, a view that someone called, Keith Lehrer has put
forward. And various other people have tried to
defend versions of this. The thought is that we need to add to the classical account a fourth
condition, which says that your belief is not based on any false
assumptions or false lemmas. So a lemma is just a for our purposes, we
can just think of as an assumption. So this is called the no false lemmas
view. So knowledge becomes justified, true
belief. Where the true belief is not based on any
false lemmas. So the no false lemmas account looks quite
plausible on the face of it. You just add this extra condition of knowledge, and thereby you exclude the
Gettier cases. The devil, however, as so often in
philosophy, is in the details. In particular, we need to be given a
principled way of understanding what an assumption is, what
a lemma is, in this context. And that’s actually quite a tricky thing
to do. In particular, we don’t want to [UNKNOWN] a way of thinking about assumptions about
lemmas which is so broad, that it excludes even genuine cases
of knowledge as being knowledge. But equally, we don’t want it so narrow
that it fails to exclude Gettier cases as cases
of knowledge. So, consider for example, a very narrow
way of thinking about assumptions. We might think that an assumption is
something that one actually thinks about as an
assumption, informing one’s beliefs. So, in the stopped clock case, for
example, we might imagine that informing the belief about the time by consulting the clock, our agent actually thinks
themselves. I, I’m assuming here that the clock is
working or something like that. Of course the problem with that is that it
seems psychologically implausible. You know, when we form beliefs about the
time we seem quite properly to just simply
directly form the belief. We don’t think to ourselves, you know, it sort of lists in our minds
what assumptions we’re making in making, in forming beliefs
that we do. [NOISE] And remember, the subject has no reason to think that the clock isn’t working, so
they might, they might go through this process if
they’ve got a reason for thinking the clock isn’t
working. But insofar as the, what they’re faced
with is a working clock, it seems the right thing to do is just form
your belief about the time. So this conception is a narrow conception
of what an assumption is, doesn’t seem to do the work that it’s meant to do, it
doesn’t exclude Gettier cases. But now imagine a broad conception of assumptions. Suppose we think an assumption is just
some false belief that one has which is germane in some way to to the, the target belief
that you’re forming in the Gettier case. [INAUDIBLE] And which is false. So here we get the right result in the
Gettier cases. So, it probably is true, in the case of
the stopped clock for example, that our subject believes, falsely as it
turns out, that the clock is working. So, they’re not consciously thinking about
this at the time, but they do on some level believe
it. Here’s the tricky thing though, if you think of assumptions in this very broad
way. Then the dangers is that lots of genuine
case of knowledge are now going to be excluded. After all, of all the many things that we
believe at any one time some of those things that we
believe will be false. So who is to say these false things that
you believe which may be very peripheral. To the kinds of beliefs that you’re
forming right now. How is to say that they, in virtue of
being false, shouldn’t deprive you of knowledge of the
things you’re believing right now. So what is it that says that there are not somehow assumptions in play, in some
implicit way, in your forming your beliefs.
So that’s a tricky thing. We have to be given some principal way of
understanding what an assumption is, such that it generates
the right kind of result. And that’s actually notoriously difficult
to do. So the Gettier problem is much more
difficult to resolve then it may at first appear. In particular, it’s not amenable to a
quick fix. Now, there is two sorts of very general questions, issues that are raised by the
Gettier problem. The first is whether or not justification
is even necessary for knowledge. So, the Gettier problem demonstrates that
justification isn’t sufficient with true belief or
knowledge. That, you need, at the very least, something else. But, of course, one might, at this point, wonder whether, whether maybe
justification is the problem here. Maybe, rather than trying to find some
extra condition to add to justification. [NOISE] Maybe we should th, rethink what we
require of knowledge over and above mere true
belief. Maybe we don’t need justification at all. Maybe some other kind of condition is what
we should add to knowledge. [NOISE] And this is one possibility that
epistemologists have explored in the aftermath of the, of Gettier’s
famous article. [NOISE] And the second problem which might be
related to the first is the issue of, well. If the justification condition doesn’t eliminate knowledge undermining luck,
right. If the justification by itself can’t
respond to our intuition about the, what we call part one, the
anti-luck intuition. Can’t explain how, when we know we’ve got
true belief that it’s down to luck, well then, what kind of
condition would do that? So it seems we got a basic demand that we lay down on
the theory of knowledge that we want to account to how it is when we know that
our true belief isn’t down to luck. Gettier cases show that one can have
justified true beliefs that are down to luck and so the question that we comes to, what kind of condition must we add to
knowledge. In order to be confident that we’ve got cognitive success, true belief that isn’t
down to luck. And that, that’s quite a puzzle. We thought justification would do that, it
doesn’t do that. So what kind of condition would do that? Okay, here are conclusions from part two. First thing we looked at was the, the
Classical Account of Knowledge. This is the idea that when one knows one
has a true belief, one gets it right, and in addition
one has a justification. That is, one can offer good reasons in
support of what one believes. We saw this bit of very intellectual
theory of knowledge. But we also saw that it, it’s not tenable on closer inspection. And the reason why it’s not tenable is
down to Gettier cases or the Gettier problem in
general. So Gettier cases are cases of justified
true belief where you don’t have knowledge, and the
reason why you don’t have knowledge is that it’s just a
matter of luck that your belief is true in these
cases. And then finally, we saw that the, the Gettier problem isn’t amenable to an
obvious solution. to illustrate this, we looked briefly at
the, No False Lemmas Account of Knowledge which
tries to simply add a fourth condition onto the theory of
knowledge, onto the classical account, in order to
solve Gettier problems. And we saw that the, the devil lay in the
details there. It was very difficult to get this formula
formulation of this view such that it, it did the work that it was
meant to do. So we’re left in with fundamental problem.
The problem is what is knowledge? If it’s not justified true belief, then in
saying it isn’t, that’s the more of the [INAUDIBLE] cases.
Well then, what is knowledge?

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