Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Gettier's Smith's Job

Smith applies for a job, as does X. Smith thinks that X will get the job, and knows that X has 10 coins in his pocket, so Smith thinks that the man who gets the job will have 10 coins in his pocket. As it turns out, Smith gets the job, and also has 10 coins in his pocket, and so his italicized belief was true. Since Smith was justified in thinking that X would get the job (his new boss had told him that X would get the job) his italicized belief was also justified; but, it was not knowledge, according to Gettier.

One problem with all of that is that it is a bit obscure what exactly is going on: there was a bit of inferring going on, and as a rule we cannot rely on such things as, for example, epistemic closure: If you know that P, and also that P implies Q, then even if you infer Q, you do not necessarily know Q (there was a good example by John Turri at Certain Doubts). Still, one thing is obvious: Smith's reasons for believing the italicized belief were no part of the reasons why it was true, and so it was not knowledge.

However, because those reasons turned out not to be that good (X did not get the job), there is also a question mark over whether they really were good enough to count as justification in the sense required for knowledge (only a question mark). A statement known to be false was always a statement that could have been false (that really could, not just could theoretically). When we think of knowledge we think of statements that can be relied upon, that are justified in ways that basically guarantee their truth.

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