Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The possibility of Gettier cases

This passage from an old paper of Ernest Sosa's ("Propositional Knowledge", Phil Studies 1969):
THE received definition of knowledge (as true, evident belief) has recently been questioned by Edmund Gettier with an example whose principle is as follows. A proposition, p, is both evident to and accepted by someone S, who sees that its truth entails (would entail) (that either p is true or q is true). This last is thereby made evident to him, and he accepts it, but it happens to be true only because q is true, since p is in fact false. Hence, inasmuch as he has no evidence for the proposition q, S can hardly be said to know (that either p is true or q is true). Here then is a formula for true, evident beliefs that are not cases of knowledge.

I'm revising a paper on Gettier cases right now. I'm addressing some of Williamson's critics who think that he has to say that Gettier cases are impossible because he thinks that evidence consists of truths (known to us). The criticism assumes that any p justifiably believed is included in the subject's evidence. (Without this assumption, the objection fails.) I could be wrong, but it seems that Sosa is assuming precisely the opposite of what W's critics are assuming. According to Sosa, Gettier assumes that our evidence consists only of truths and the mere fact that p is justifiably believed does not suffice for p's inclusion in a subject's evidence (since, after all, we have a case of justified belief in a false proposition).

Any literature on the evidence and truth stuff worth looking at? In particular, I'm interested in discussions of Gettier's cases where authors either say that G assumes that E doesn't require T or describe the cases in a way that shows that they are assuming that E does require T.

[In responding to Richard's question, I saw that I made a mistake in reading Sosa as saying that there's no evidence for the disjunction when he's saying that there's no evidence for the disjunct. Sorry, I'm tired. Still, keep sending in suggestions for pieces on truth, evidence, and Gettier.]


Arturs Logins said...

I dont know whether it can help, but i have come accros a paper of Juan Comesana, critisizing Williamson (his main point includes discussion of Gettier cases).
Here is his abstract (from:

"Forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

We argue that if evidence were knowledge, then there wouldn't be any Gettier cases, and justification would fail to be closed in egregious ways. But there are Gettier cases, and justification does not fail to be close in egregious ways. Therefore, evidence isn't knowledge."

Richard said...

Can you clarify what part of the Sosa quote you're drawing on here when you claim, "According to Sosa..."?

Clayton said...

Hey Arturs,

Thanks for that, that's actually the piece I had in mind. The piece I'm revising started as a response to that article, but has morphed into something bigger.

Hey Richard,

I didn't get enough sleep last night. I had read Sosa as saying that there's no evidence for the disjunction, but he's saying that there's no evidence for the true disjunct. The former would entail that p is not part of the suject's evidence, but the latter does not. Embarrassing mistake on my part.