Edmund Gettier

Last updated
Edmund Gettier
Born
Edmund L. Gettier III

October 31, 1927
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic philosophy
Main interests
Epistemology
Notable ideas
Gettier problem

Edmund L. Gettier III ( /ˈɡɛtiər/ ; born October 31, 1927) is an American philosopher and Professor Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is best known for his short 1963 article "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?", which has generated an extensive philosophical literature trying to respond to what became known as the Gettier problem.

Americans Citizens, or natives, of the United States of America

Americans are nationals and citizens of the United States of America. Although nationals and citizens make up the majority of Americans, some dual citizens, expatriates, and permanent residents may also claim American nationality. The United States is home to people of many different ethnic origins. As a result, American culture and law does not equate nationality with race or ethnicity, but with citizenship and permanent allegiance.

Philosopher person with an extensive knowledge of philosophy

A philosopher is someone who practices philosophy. The term "philosopher" comes from the Ancient Greek, φιλόσοφος (philosophos), meaning "lover of wisdom". The coining of the term has been attributed to the Greek thinker Pythagoras.

University of Massachusetts Amherst public university in Massachusetts, USA

The University of Massachusetts Amherst is a public research and land-grant university in Amherst, Massachusetts. It is the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts system. UMass Amherst has an annual enrollment of approximately 1,300 faculty members and more than 30,000 students. It was ranked 26th best public university and 70th best national university by U.S. News Report in 2019.

Contents

Life

Gettier was educated at Cornell University, where his mentors included Max Black and Norman Malcolm. Gettier, himself, was originally attracted to the opinions of the later Ludwig Wittgenstein. His first teaching job was at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, where his colleagues included Keith Lehrer, R. C. Sleigh, and Alvin Plantinga. Because he had few publications, his colleagues urged him to publish any ideas he had just to satisfy the administration. The result was a three-page article that remains one of the most famous in recent philosophical history. According to anecdotal comments that Plantinga has given in lectures, Gettier was originally so unenthusiastic about the article that he had someone translate it into Spanish and published it first in a South American journal.[ citation needed ] The article was later published in Analysis. Gettier has since not published anything, but he has invented and taught to his graduate students new methods for finding and illustrating countermodels in modal logic, as well as simplified semantics for various modal logics.[ citation needed ]

Cornell University Private Ivy League research university in Upstate New York

Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Founded in 1865 by Ezra Cornell and Andrew Dickson White, the university was intended to teach and make contributions in all fields of knowledge—from the classics to the sciences, and from the theoretical to the applied. These ideals, unconventional for the time, are captured in Cornell's founding principle, a popular 1868 Ezra Cornell quotation: "I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study."

Max Black British-American philosopher

Max Black was a British-American philosopher, who was a leading figure in analytic philosophy in the years after World War II. He made contributions to the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mathematics and science, and the philosophy of art, also publishing studies of the work of philosophers such as Frege. His translation of Frege's published philosophical writing is a classic text.

Norman Malcolm American philosopher

Norman Malcolm was an American philosopher.

In his article, Gettier challenges the "justified true belief" definition of knowledge that dates back to Plato's Theaetetus , but is discounted at the end of that very dialogue. This account was accepted by most philosophers at the time, most prominently the epistemologist Clarence Irving Lewis and his student Roderick Chisholm. Gettier's article offered counter-examples to this account in the form of cases such that subjects had true beliefs that were also justified, but for which the beliefs were true for reasons unrelated to the justification. Some philosophers, however, thought the account of knowledge as justified true belief had already been questioned in a general way by the work of Wittgenstein. (Later, a similar argument was found in the papers of Bertrand Russell. [1] )

Knowledge is a familiarity, awareness, or understanding of someone or something, such as facts, information, descriptions, or skills, which is acquired through experience or education by perceiving, discovering, or learning.

Plato Classical Greek philosopher

Plato was an Athenian philosopher during the Classical period in Ancient Greece, founder of the Platonist school of thought, and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world.

The Theaetetus is one of Plato's dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge, written circa 369 BCE.

Work

Gettier problem

Gettier provides several examples of beliefs that are both true and justified, but that we should not intuitively term knowledge. Cases of this sort are now termed "Gettier (counter-)examples". Because Gettier's criticism of the justified true belief model is systemic, other authors have imagined increasingly fantastical counterexamples. For example: I am watching the men's Wimbledon Final, and John McEnroe is playing Jimmy Connors, it is match point, and McEnroe wins. I say to myself: "John McEnroe is this year's men's champion at Wimbledon". Unbeknownst to me, however, the BBC were experiencing a broadcasting fault and so had broadcast a tape of last year's final, when McEnroe also beat Connors. I had been watching last year's Wimbledon final, so I believed that McEnroe had bested Connors. But at that same time, in real life, McEnroe was repeating last year's victory and besting Connors! So my belief that McEnroe bested Connors to become this year's Wimbledon champion is true, and I had good reason to believe so (my belief was justified) — and yet, there is a sense in which I could not really have claimed to "know" that McEnroe had bested Connors because I was only accidentally right that McEnroe beat Connors — my belief was not based on the right kind of justification.

Belief is the attitude we have whenever we take something to be the case or regard it as the truth.

Gettier inspired a great deal of work by philosophers attempting to recover a working definition of knowledge. Major responses include:

Robert Nozick American political philosopher

Robert Nozick was an American philosopher. He held the Joseph Pellegrino University Professorship at Harvard University, and was president of the American Philosophical Association. He is best known for his books Philosophical Explanations (1981), which included his counterfactual theory of knowledge, and Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), a libertarian answer to John Rawls' A Theory of Justice (1971), in which Nozick also presented his own theory of utopia as one in which people can freely choose the rules of the society they enter into. His other work involved ethics, decision theory, philosophy of mind, metaphysics and epistemology. His final work before his death, Invariances (2001), introduced his theory of evolutionary cosmology, by which he argues invariances, and hence objectivity itself, emerged through evolution across possible worlds.

Colin McGinn is a British philosopher. He has held teaching posts and professorships at University College London, the University of Oxford, Rutgers University and the University of Miami.

A 2001 study by Weinberg, Nichols, and Stich suggests that the effect of the Gettier problem varies by culture. In particular, people from Western countries seem more likely to agree with the judgments described in the story than do those from East Asia. [3] Subsequent studies were unable to replicate these results. [4]

Selected work

See also

Related Research Articles

Epistemology A branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge

Epistemology is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Foundationalism concerns philosophical theories of knowledge resting upon justified belief, or some secure foundation of certainty such as a conclusion inferred from a basis of sound premises. The main rival of the foundationalist theory of justification is the coherence theory of justification, whereby a body of knowledge, not requiring a secure foundation, can be established by the interlocking strength of its components, like a puzzle solved without prior certainty that each small region was solved correctly.

Reliabilism, a category of theories in the philosophical discipline of epistemology, has been advanced as a theory both of justification and of knowledge. Process reliabilism has been used as an argument against philosophical skepticism, such as the brain in a vat thought experiment. Process reliabilism is a form of epistemic externalism.

Alvin Plantinga American Christian philosopher

Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher who works primarily in the fields of philosophy of religion, epistemology, and logic.

Analytic philosophy style of philosophy

Analytic philosophy is a style of philosophy that became dominant in the Western world at the beginning of the 20th century. The term can refer to one of several things:

The Gettier problem, in the field of epistemology, is a landmark philosophical problem concerning our understanding of descriptive knowledge. Attributed to American philosopher Edmund Gettier, Gettier-type counterexamples challenge the long-held justified true belief (JTB) account of knowledge. The JTB account holds that knowledge is equivalent to justified true belief; if all three conditions are met of a given claim, then we have knowledge of that claim. In his 1963 three-page paper titled "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?", Gettier attempts to illustrate by means of two counterexamples that there are cases where individuals can have a justified, true belief regarding a claim but still fail to know it because the reasons for the belief, while justified, turn out to be false. Thus, Gettier claims to have shown that the JTB account is inadequate; that it does not account for all of the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge.

Epistemic minimalism is the epistemological thesis that mere true belief is sufficient for knowledge. That is, the meaning of "Smith knows that it rained today" is accurately and completely analyzed by these two conditions:

  1. Smith believes that it rained today.
  2. It is true that it rained today.

Irving Grant Thalberg Jr. was an author and the son of 1930s Hollywood producer Irving Thalberg and Academy Award-winning actress Norma Shearer.

20th-century philosophy philosophy-related events during the 20th century

20th-century philosophy saw the development of a number of new philosophical schools—including logical positivism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, existentialism, and poststructuralism. In terms of the eras of philosophy, it is usually labelled as contemporary philosophy.

Virtue epistemology is a contemporary philosophical approach to epistemology that stresses the importance of intellectual, and specifically epistemic virtues. A distinguishing factor of virtue theories is that they use for the evaluation of knowledge the properties of the persons who hold beliefs in addition to or instead of the properties of propositions and beliefs. Some advocates of virtue epistemology claim to more closely follow theories of virtue ethics, while others see only a looser analogy between virtue in ethics and virtue in epistemology.

Reformed epistemology

In the philosophy of religion, Reformed epistemology is a school of philosophical thought concerning the nature of knowledge (epistemology) as it applies to religious beliefs. The central proposition of Reformed epistemology is that beliefs can be justified by more than evidence alone, contrary to the positions of evidentialism, which argues that while belief other than through evidence may be beneficial, it violates some epistemic duty. Central to Reformed epistemology is the proposition that belief in God may be "properly basic" and not need to be inferred from other truths to be rationally warranted. William Lane Craig describes Reformed epistemology as "One of the most significant developments in contemporary Religious Epistemology ... which directly assaults the evidentialist construal of rationality."

Alvin Ira Goldman is an American philosopher who is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey and a leading figure in epistemology.

The argument from a proper basis is an ontological argument for the existence of God related to fideism. Alvin Plantinga argued that belief in God is a properly basic belief, and so no basis for belief in God is necessary.

Infinitism is the view that knowledge may be justified by an infinite chain of reasons. It belongs to epistemology, the branch of philosophy that considers the possibility, nature, and means of knowledge.

Michael Williams is a British philosopher who is currently Kreiger-Eisenhower Professor in the Department of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University, noted especially for his work in epistemology.

Outline of epistemology Overview of and topical guide to epistemology

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to epistemology:

God and Other Minds is a 1967 book by the American philosopher of religion Alvin Plantinga which re-kindled philosophical debate on the existence of God in Anglo-American philosophical circles by arguing that belief in God was like belief in other minds: although neither could be demonstrated conclusively against a determined sceptic both were fundamentally rational. Though Plantinga later modified some of his views, particularly on the soundness of the ontological argument and on the nature of epistemic rationality, he still stands by the basic theses of the book.

Epistemic closure is a property of some belief systems. It is the principle that if a subject knows , and knows that entails , then can thereby come to know . Most epistemological theories involve a closure principle and many skeptical arguments assume a closure principle.

Jennifer Nagel is a Canadian philosopher in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on epistemology, philosophy of mind, and metacognition. She has also written on 17th century (Western) philosophy, including on John Locke and René Descartes.

References

  1. Russell, Bertrand (1912). The Problems of Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 131f. Citation taken from Kratzer, Angelika (2002). "Facts: Particulars of Information Units?". Linguistics and Philosophy . 25 (5–6): 655–670. doi:10.1023/a:1020807615085., p. 657.
  2. McGinn, Colin (1984). "The Concept of Knowledge". Midwest Studies in Philosophy. 9: 529–554. doi:10.1111/j.1475-4975.1984.tb0076.x (inactive 2019-02-19). reprinted in McGinn, Colin (1999). Knowledge and Reality: Selected Essays. Oxford: Clarendon Press. pp. 7–35. ISBN   978-0-19-823823-2.
  3. Weinberg, J.; Nichols, S.; Stich, S. (2001). "Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions". Philosophical Topics . 29 (1): 429–460. doi:10.5840/philtopics2001291/217.
  4. Nagel, J. (2012). "Intuitions and Experiments: A Defense of the Case Method in Epistemology". Philosophy and Phenomenological Research . 85 (3): 495–527. doi:10.1111/j.1933-1592.2012.00634.x.