# Gettier Problem Solved

gettier was wrong; while he was correct to claim that mistaken justification is problematic for determining whether one’s belief is ‘knowledge’, he nevertheless does NOT disprove nor falsify JTB=K. gettier thought that a mistaken reason which seems to justify P to S, but nonetheless is a mistaken reason (disconnected from P itself) (and in addition it is true that P obtains) leads to the falsification of JTB=K.

the cow example is good enough, read it if youre not famliar.

basically, gettier is right that

1. the reason/justification for S believing P is disconnected from P itself (insufficient)

but he is wrong to conclude that this means

1. JTB=K fails because even when the conditions of J, T and B obtain knowledge is still not obtained (this claim is false)

gettier is wrong because it is not the case that J obtains sufficiently to satisfy JTB=K in his example scenarios. the farmer sees the white and black paper and thinks its his cow, which it is not, but it is nonetheless true that his cow is indeed over there by the paper, out of sight. does the farmer have knowledge that his cow is there? no. gettier is correct here. BUT, does the farmer meet the criteria for JTB? no, he does not. gettier claims that the farmer DOES meet the conditons because his J is “reasonable”, however it is NOT reasonably nor is it justification, because by definition it is a case of mistaken identification, i.e. mistaken/false justification.

gettier did nothing to show that JTB=K is falsified, because gettier fails to show that J, T and B obtain and lead to ~K. that is the only way to falsify JTB=K, to show that the conditions J,T and B obtain but K is NOT generated (~K). gettier fails to show this, however, because his claim that JTB obtains along with ~K is itself false. J does not obtain in his examples.

he seeks to have it both ways: to have J be sufficient for B and for JTB=K itself, but insufficient to generate K due to the disconnect between J and the fact P itself. but he cant have it both ways; either J is sufficient or it is not. gettier, by trying to construct interpretations of scenarios which seek to have J be both sufficient to satisfy conditions JTB as well as insufficient to satisfy K, splits the conditions from the conclusion of the theory of JTB=K, and he constructs a falsification only of J itself, which therefore, in failing to meet the conditions of JTB, fails to disprove JTB=K.

I agree. In the cow example on Wikipedia, this part: “[the farmer] had evidence that this was so (his belief was justified)”, is simply wrong.

Yup.

I disagree. If you say that the farmer wasn’t justified when he saw the cow, then you’re making the conditions for justification way too stringent. And even if not, the example can be rewritten to make this point and ultimately have the Gettier problem still be a problem.

Suppose that there exists a mad genius out there who biologically engineers poodles to look and behave like sheep. A man then sees one such poodle and on this basis believes [There is a sheep in the field]. Let’s say that the guy actually went up to the poodle and looked at it closely, and let’s also say that he is a zoologist and observed the way the poodle behaved and saw that it was sheep-like. As it so happens, behind a rock or something, there really is a sheep. So the guy’s belief is true, and it is justified, but he still doesn’t have knowledge.

If you don’t think so, then suppose that the same guy runs into the same circumstance, except the animal he stops to look at and examine really is a sheep. So like before he looks at the animal, consoles his past experience of what a sheep is and what it looks like, and on that basis believes that it’s a sheep. If you say in the first example that he is not justified, then you would have to admit the absurd conclusion that he is not justified in this second case.

Yes: absolutely stringent. It could look, sound, feel, smell, taste, and behave like a cow and still not be a cow. The new question is then: when (if ever) is belief justified?

He’s only justified when it proves to really be a sheep.

That’s a big fucking question. My money’s on evidentialism. Reliabilism, coherentism, cartesian and modern foundationalism, foundherentism, etc. are flawed (or, I should say, more flawed than evidentialism).

By this I think you mean that a person is justified only if their belief is true. I don’t think this is right. A person can have a justified false belief. For example, another guy sees a poodle that looks like a sheep and like the other guy believes that there’s a sheep on the field, only this time there isn’t a sheep behind a rock or some bushes or something. So he’s got a false belief, but you would say that he’s not justified.

I would, as I have made the conditions for justification absolutely stringent. Until we determine alternative, only relatively stringent conditions, any statements about whether a belief is justified are worthless.

Yes, so stringent as to make the term absolutely useless. I don’t think knowledge is a natural kind, and so I don’t think there’s any sense in approaching justification from an externalist perspective. We have an intuition for when somebody is justified, and words should serve to capture these intuitions when they don’t refer to some real external thing. It is off course hard to capture this intuition in a definition, but just because it is hard, and probably not absolute, does not mean that one ought to define justification in such a way as to render it absolutely worthless. There is after all is said about the issue a difference between the guy who guesses and the guy who investigates and carefully arrives at a belief. It is this difference that a theory of justification ought to capture.

Evidentialism deals with it pretty straight forwards. If your belief is caused, sustained, and warranted by the totality of the evidence in your mind, and if the evidence in your mind is as plentiful as to be sufficient, then it can be said that you are justified in believing what you do. Who decides how much is enough? Well, we do. It’s in our hands, and based on intuition.

TTG et al,

What exactly is the farmer’s “justification” for his belief in his cow’s location? Is the justification an argument, an implicit inference, a chain of reasoning? Can you spell it out for me and point out where exactly the farmer’s justification becomes false?

It’s not that the justification is false. It’s that it is insufficient, and I assume because quickly glancing at a field at night at a distance is not a reliable belief producing mechanism. They want to say that the farmer should have done more than just glance at the field. But the example can be changed so that the farmer runs across Gettier’s problem even though he looks very closely and studies the matter attentively.

wrong, because the belief [There is a sheep in the field] is necessarily dependent on/based on the real belief which generates this generalization, namely: [this animal here is a sheep]. the claim [There is a sheep in the field] is a generalization of the specific belief in the sheep-ness of the animal in question (the poodle); so, while the generalization is true (because there is a sheep behind the rock) it is not true for the reasons the zoologist thinks it is. the zoologist does not have knowledge, because it is mistaken knowledge, which does not qualify as knowledge (in the same way that if i believe in God, and it turns out God is real, i still dont have KNOWLEDGE of God, because i have no justification for my belief).

now, say i believe in God, because i saw God once in a religious vision. the belief [God exists] is a generalization or further conclusion derived from the specific belief [I saw God in a religious vision]. if it turns out that this specific belief itself is false (because someone slipped me some lsd which caused the religious “vision”), then my JUSTIFICATION FOR [God exists] HAS FAILED, and therefore A) i do not have knowledge of God’s existence (even if indeed he does exist), and B) i have not met JTB, because i have no J (J has turned out to be false).

in the same way, the belief [There is a sheep in the field] is falsified if the belief WHICH GENERATED IT, or the belief upon which this generalization is based is itself false: the J for the belief is removed, and so, even if the generalization still is true for some other UNKNOWN reason, that is irrelevant, because the reason that the zoologist believes the generalization belief is that he has a specific belief, which is untrue: there are two beliefs, which is crutial to see in these gettier cases: in the case of the zoologist, the belief 1) “this animal is a sheep” and the belief 2) “there is a sheep in the field”. this first belief here generates the second. in the case of belief 1, it fails to meet JTB because of ~T (it is not the case that the animal is a sheep); in the case of belief 2, it fails to meet JTB because of ~J (the J for 2 rests upon the K resultant of the obtaining of JTB for belief 1, which has failed due to ~T).

basically, gettier wanted it both ways because he took two different beliefs, a specific belief and a generalization from that specific belief, and merged them into one vague statement, thereby generating a “contradiction” for JTB; but the mistake of gettier is easily seen when we properly separate out the beliefs from each other. the generalization fails because the K it is based off of (derived from necessarily) is false, due to the initial specific belief being untrue (~T)-- so you can see that BOTH BELIEFS fail to meet the standards of JTB, because either ~T or ~J is obtained in each case. ergo, gettier did not disprove anything.

Stringently, no degree of justification will ever be enough, when we have no way of knowing if the universe is not just a very elaborate version of candid camera, with God about to pop up from behind a bush with a microphone and a big toothy grin at any given minute.

That cow could have been scrupulously cloned, packed with cold custard pies and TNT, and placed in the field when no-one was looking. It could be being monitored by a guy in a clown suit with a pair of binoculars and a detonator.

That said. We do have to live. Which would require we add a measure of practicality to the equation. Cruciality.

Adequate knowledge = (Justification level / cruciality) True belief.

ie. I’m at a party, I’m a bit drunk. I put my beer down on the table and got up to dance. When I sat down again, I see there are another three beers on the table now. I’m not sure which is mine, I seem to remember I put it near the coffee stain, so I pick that up and drink. It’s beer.

Here, the cruciality of being ‘right’ - possessing adequate knowledege of this being “my beer” - is low. At the very most I get a mouthful of stale beer and cigarette butts. Which, though distasteful, isn’t life threatening.

ie.#2 I’m in a lab. I put my beaker of water down on the bench while I talked to my very pretty assistant. Veronica. She says, “God I’m parched - can I have some of your water…?” I look down.

On the bench are three other beakers, one of which I seem to remember had cyanide in it. I’m pretty sure the one with my water in it was nearest the chemical burn on the bench. I pick it up and hand it to her with a smile. “Sure, there you go V…”

She drinks. She doesn’t die, and gives me her phone number. Result.

But did I have adequate knowledge, given the circumstances…?

tab, i dont disagree with anything you say. of course pragmatically we need to operate as if we have knowledge, even though often we do not, or even though such “knowledge” may in fact be impossible.

however, my argument here is that gettier did not disprove JTB=K, which, the accuracy of your arguments aside, you do not address. your points go a long way to disproving JTB=K by arguing that true J is impossible, or even perhaps that K is always impossible… but thats just not what gettier claimed.

gettier was wrong because of the way he deliberately and subreptitiously blurs the beliefs in question; he takes the real belief “this is my beer” and obscures it with “my beer is over there”, which is NOT the belief in question, but a derivative of the belief itself. in doing so, he claims that J can be both sufficient to satisfy JTB yet insufficient to generate K. this is why gettier was wrong.

if he had rather just made arguments from practicality, such as you do here, he would have been on better footing… but then he wouldnt have been able to dazzle the analytic community with his linguistic wizardry and thus continue faking his own fame and importance to retain his teaching position.

I get the distinctions of ‘type’, ‘property’ and ‘location’ being parallel premises each interdependent on the others to create the whole.

“Go and see if my cow’s in the field.”

It’s a cow.
It’s my cow.
It’s in the field.

And that if dominoe one fails to fall, none of them do.

And I suppose, for all normal intents and purposes K=JTB remains workable. And that Gettier was probably full of hot air.

I just don’t beileve in knowledge, or justification as pure concepts, as contextless inviolates. Only as general benchmarks, dependent on the situation. Sure, there are ‘truths’ that are pretty rock-solid, but they are usually only of the most mundane variety.

If every cell in the body is replaced during a seven year span, and I leave my farm, kissing my favourite cow as I go, for a war that lasts 7 years. Then, when I come back to the farm, war over, is that cow there by the gate… The same cow…?

The whole “I saw God in a vision” bit falls into the ‘low-cruciality’ catagory. Unless you’re in some bizzare survival situation and everyone else is quietly shooting themselves in the head in despair, and you, having seen an angel who said “Stay alive bozo, you’re destined for great shit.” recently, decide to pass on the whole Russian-roulette thing.

“Justified Belief in God” falls slightly lower than “Remember to take your vitamins every morning” on the list of longevity.

of course, JTB=K is absurd. i am not here claiming otherwise. the concepts J, T and even B cannot ever meet some standard of “proof”, its not like its either yes or no, black or white. the theory relegates this fundamental uncertainty to J, saying it needs to be “sufficient”, but of course its all relative, and there is no place where you go “a ha! thats where i draw the line between sufficient and insufficient!” thats just not the way it works.

each belief is predicated necessarily on other beliefs, fundamentlly resting in perception, subjective experiencing, and the memories of those. either of these can always be wrong, and any situation we can imagine could be shown to have false or mistaken beliefs/perceptions/experiences/memories. further, theres just no way to tell sometimes. so logically it could be the case, at any time, that J is wrong. in addition, the T concept is equally absurd, and lends the entire theory JTB=K to circularity… and if that all wasnt enough, even the idea of B is problematic, because psychologically we believe many things that are un- or ill-defined, or even unrecognised within us, and even things that we THINK or SAY we believe may not actually be beliefs, but rather just temporary justifications or rationalizations generated by situational factors (that we can make ourselves FEEL like we believe something even when we “know” its not true, is evidence enough of the problematic nature of belief).

and if all that werent enough, there is no conceivable, logical or necessary reason why K must follow from JTB alone. why are these three so special? no answer is given; just “because they are”, because they SEEM to be sufficient to generate knowledge… well, ok… thats great and all, but not really a valid logical argument.

JTB=K is probably one of the worst theories of knowledge out there in philosophy. there are many ways to argue against or falsify it; but gettier, miraculously enough, did not actually manage to falsify it. he misunderstands (or deliberately misrepresents) something quite simple, and obscured the conditional to generate his “contradictions”, which are really nothing more than situations of false reasons/justifications. the gettier “problem” or “counterexamples” are an embarassing mark on modern philosophy, not the least so because of all the attention and serious interest that so-called philosophers within academia give to the “problems” that gettier claims to generate.

that modern philosophers within academia are so unable to see through a blatant and clear example of inconsistency of terminology/application of concepts, self-contradiction and deliberate vaguess of meaning says a lot about the state of modern philosophy today.

Fair enough, but ought we to call such justified belief “knowledge”? I’m just a complete skeptic as far as true knowledge is concerned.

That sounds fine. However, evidence is not proof, and therefore such justified belief is never true knowledge.

Interesting, because this implies an important realisation: namely, that the measure of how much is enough cannot itself be evidential, because this would be an infinite regress (the measure of how much evidence of how much evidence is enough is enough would in turn itself be evidential, etc. etc.). So why defer intuition at all? Why not intuitively believe or disbelieve?

I understand why you think so. It was my knee jerk reaction when I heard of the Gettier problem, too, but this criticism is actually irrelevant given you accept a couple of principles. The first is that justification can be carried over in a sound deduction. If you start with a justified true belief and reason properly from it a false belief, then the resulting belief is justified. The justification moves along onto the new belief, and the new belief can stand alone justified without the aid of the instance which made it justified. The second principle is that if in two examples there is no difference in the evidence, then either both examples are justified, or they’re both not justified. Now, if you reject the widely accepted principle that says justified can be transfered in a proper argument, then you have to reject this second principle, and basically plead for specialty in two cases which are exactly the same.

For example lets take the same poodle/sheep case, only this time it’s really a sheep, and not a poodle. So the guy starts off with belief 1: This is a sheep in front of me. From this he argues soundly with this belief: There is a sheep in the field. It’s a good inference, and you would say that the guy is now justified in holding this second belief. To deny that the guy who reasons soundly onto a false belief is justified would mean denying that this guy in this second example is justified, and that is tantamount to saying that yes, the guy is justified in beleiving the first belief about there being a sheep in front of his face, and it is true that he can deduce from this that there is a sheep in the field; nonetheless, he is not justified in believing that there’s a sheep in the field.

Right, I understand that. That’s the problem with the JTB. It is not equivalent to knowledge, meaning anytime you have jtb you don’t have knowledge, and anytime you have knowledge you don’t necessarily have jtb. A fourth condition is necessary to handle Gettier problems (and a fifth condition is necessary to handle lottery cases).

Now you’re arguing the converse. Where in the first paragraph you were saying that you cannot transfer justification from a true belief via sound argumentation onto a false belief, now you’re arguing that you can’t go from a justified false belief to a justified true belief because a belief cannot be justified if it is false. Meaning there is nothing from the first belief to go onto the second. But this is not true. Justification does not need to have any connection to the truth. One can be justified in holding even a false belief. It is the manner in which one comes to believe, and the evidence they posses, or whether their beliefs cohere, or whether their belief is deducted or inducted basic beliefs, or whether the belief was produced by a reliable belief causing mechanism. All these theories have it as a general principle that one can hold a justified false belief.

Like I said above, a belief’s justification does not depend on whether the belief is true or not. It depends on the evidence for believing that P. Or, if you’d like, it depends on the coherence of P among S’s body of beliefs Q. Or the reliability of S’s mechanism which caused belief P. There’s a bunch of theories for what warrants justification, but all of them take it for granted that a belief can be justified and that at the same time it can be false.

The second belief, if it is inferred soundly from the first belief (which it is) stands justified. The justification umbilical cord is severed once the argument is over.

Actually, any exposition into the gettier problem will explicitly mention the inference from the first belief onto the second. But this is not a problem once the principle I’ve been talking about is accepted, and it is. It would be absurd not to accept it.

I am, too. By the way, all knowledge is definitionally also true, so it is a bit redundant to say true knowledge.

That sounds fine. However, evidence is not proof, and therefore such justified belief is never true knowledge.
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Evidence provides justification, and the train of thought goes, if you have that, and if your belief is true, then you have knowledge. Proof is impossible for things outside of definitional truths, and it is useful within this realm only in that it (supposedly) provides justification.

This is a good point and question. I can’t say why for sure. Most justification theories attempt to explain the operations of intuition in relation to justification in terms of evidence, or basic beliefs, or coherence, or the reliability of the belief causing mechanims. So for example, you would intuitively say that someone who looks closely at a book, looking at it, touching it, smelling it, burning it, etc and who concludes from this that that is indeed a book is justified. Question now is why. A system is needed to satisfy the certainty required for knowledge. A system which purports to explain these intuition must in all cases as a system provide consistent results not at odds with our intuitions. But they all fail at one point or another. I’m not sure I’ve answered you in any satisfactory way, but I’m sort of stumpted myself. I’ve asked a similar question to my professor about moral systems which like theories of justification rely on our intuitions. I mean, sometimes a normative theory is considered disproved when in some circumstances it yields a ‘thou shalt’ which is at odds with our intuitions. So I asked the prof. why come up with a moral system at all? He explained it, and I remember thinking it was a good explanation, but I don’t remember exactly why I thought so.

This topic might be worth a read.
viewtopic.php?f=1&t=163898

Hah. Notice me more or less making the same argument as TTG.