Gettier Problem and the Parable of the Ten Coin


Gettier problems

The problems of Gettier or cases of Gettier take after Edmund Gettier an American philosopher who formulated them in the 1960s. These problems function as limitations to the philosophical tradition of describing knowledge of a proposal as validated true belief in that proposition. The problems are possible or actual events in which an individual believes that the evidence supports it, yet which according to numerous epistemologists fails as a form of knowledge. The author’s original article resulted to a wide range of criticism as epistemologist started to attempt to ascertain once more what knowledge means, with most of them agreeing that Gettier had gone against the knowledge’s traditional definition. These epistemologists have tried many times to replace or repair that traditional description of knowledge something that has led a number of new understandings of knowledge and of support to justify these new concepts (Gettier 121- 23).

This paper will act as a response to some of the arguments of the authors of a number of criticisms of Gettier’s work. The response will offer arguments that epistemologists can use to move the debates about knowledge forward.

In his paper, is justified true belief knowledge of 1963, Edmund Gettier raised a problem which he argued and viewed in the traditional knowledge theory, which unto this day has remained unsolved. Many attempts by a number of epistemologists have failed, for example, Thomas Paxson and Keith Lehrer put across a theory, which utilized the defeasibility argument to attempt solving the Gettier problem (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237). One of the many objectives of epistemologists is to come up with a theory of knowledge that specifies the necessary conditions for knowledge. Traditionally, scientists have only agreed to three of these conditions, and they include p is true, s believes in p, and s has a justification to believe in p. according to the theories, if the theories satisfied the conditions then one could say that s knows p. but then Gettier came along with his arguments. In his arguments, he proposed to counterarguments to the traditional conditions, where the theory meets or satisfies the three former conditions with the exception that s did not know p (Gettier 121- 23).

Gettier’s bases his problems on two counterarguments to the analysis by JTB. Both of these arguments depend on the previously developed theory that entailment preserves rationalization, and the further argument that such applies considerably or can be applied or used comprehensibly to the specification attributed to the putative belief of Smith in regards to one of the two counterarguments: which is if Smith is Justified in believing in p, and he knows that P’s truth contains some truths of Q, then Smith also has a justification to believe in Q. Gettier refers to these challenges as Case I and II (Gettier 121- 23).

In the first case, Smith applies for a job, but he argues that there is a justified belief that another person, Jones, will get the job. The author also beliefs that there is a justified belief that there are 10 coins in Jone’s pocket. Justifiably, Smith makes a conclusion that the gentleman who gets the job is carrying ten coins in his pocket. However, it Smith who gets the job and not Jones, and as it follows, Smith has ten coins in his pocket. Therefore, the belief that the person who got the work had 10 coins is satisfied, but one cannot consider it knowledge.  In the second case, Gettier argues that smith has a justified belief that Jones has a ford. Eventually, smith makes the conclusion that Jones has a ford, or Brown is in Barcelona even when there is no evidence or knowledge about Brown. Actually, it becomes clear that Brown is in Barcelona, but Jones does not have a ford. The author argues that though Smith had a belief that had some justification and held true which was not knowledge (Gettier 121- 23).

Gettier himself and a number of other philosophers since he came up with these arguments believe that Smith does not know that the person who finally gets the work has 10 coins in his pouch, because what makes this knowledge true is that it is Smith who finally gets the job and that he has ten coins in his pocket (Gettier 121- 23). Smith, however, does not have any knowledge of what is in his pockets and his fate in regards to the job. The only knowledge one can say he has is of Jones. So how can one argue that Smith knows that the person who gets the job has ten coins? The answer is quite clear; he does not know any of this, and this point to a problem with the traditionally used conditions of describing knowledge.

Succeeding theories that have attempted to solve the issues the Gettier problem presents have created a fourth condition to make things easier. This fourth condition argues that there is no defeating of the justification in the knowledge. In their paper, Thomas and Lehrer revise their definition of what defeasibility is two times. Their most basic description of defeasibility is as follows. When p justifies s entirely in believing in h, then this justification becomes defeated by q only if one considers q be true and if the conjunction of p and q does not justify s totally in believing in h (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

Basically, their description of defeasibility is that when one defeats a justification then the other does not possess any knowledge. These two had an example of their assumptions of the counterarguments provided by Gettier. In most cases, a pyromaniac has always made use of SureFire matches, and they are usually successful. One can, therefore, argue that this justifies him in believing that the match will ignite once he strikes it. Nevertheless, what happens when the match in question has impurities that make it impossible for it to ignite? What if something else ignites the match when he strikes it? His belief in the match igniting on striking has a justification, and he has a justification to believe in it. However, one cannot take this as knowledge as it is not the act of striking that ignites the match (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237). The justification of the pyromaniac gets defeated by the fact that ignition of the match will not result from striking it. This is the condition that Lehrer and Thomas were talking about, which is considerably true, and when used together with p, the evidence of this justification will not unreservedly satisfy s, or the pyromaniac in believing that the match, or h, will catch fire once he strikes it (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

This is how these two theorists assumed their defeasibility theory to work. They are trying to suggest that if there are any challenges or issues with justifying a claim then it will automatically get defeated. This theory does not allow us to come by knowledge by chance or luck. There, however, is a problem, and this has to do with the fact that this condition is extremely strict. Numerous things that should be taken or considered as knowledge cannot get a chance to be considered as such under these new conditions, and the theorists acknowledge this. This is because there are numerous reasons available for each justification that can defeat the just because they are true, but they should also not defeat justifications (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

Suppose I have a considerable amount of evidence that train x will come by the station in thirty minutes. My evidence is that it says so on the station’s chart, and the clerk at the station confirmed it. Upon this evidence, I deduce that the train will be passing by my station in thirty minutes. I have a justification to believe that train x will pass by in thirty minutes, but suppose that adverse weather or an accident made the station cancel the time the train passes by my station that night. If I conjoin q with my justification then I will not have enough justification to believe h. even if I did not find information about cancellation my justification will still be defeated, but what if there truly was no accident or adverse weather, or what if the weather was miscalculated or someone was joking about the accident. I knew hall this time, but according to the arguments of Thomas and Lehrer, the conditions defeat my justifications (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

The two theorists solve this contradiction by revising their theory about defeasibility. They do this by adding another condition that one has to justify s perfectly in believing that q is not true. This alters the previously stated conditions in the following manner. When p fully justifies s in believing in h, q defeats the justification only if q is valid, s has complete justification to believe that q is not true and if the conjunction between q and p does not justify s fully believing in h, but why do we have to be fully justified in believing that q is not true? The defeating arguments or conditions must be relevant to my knowledge and my justification must result to me believing in a statement that is false or in believing in a statement that is true to be false (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237). This statement usually does not have to be part of the argument or condition that one lays out, but it is a statement that individuals have justification to believe. For instance, Smith has the justification to believe that it is Jones who will get the job and that in his pocket are ten coins. The pyromaniac also has the justification to believe that the match will ignite, as a result, of him striking it. All these statements are false, but the owners have the justification to believe in them (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

The two theorists made the final revision to their defeasibility conditions. This revision argued that since we have complete justification to believe that q is false, the condition has no way of linking q to the argument in question. To this last revision, they add a fourth condition which argues that if q fully justifies sin believing in h then q only defeats this justification if c is a logical outcome of qin believing in h, then s is fully justified in believing that c is not true. Though these arguments of Lehrer and Thomas seem to overcome all of the challenges that they saw in their past theories, and their final theory seems to work considerably well with most of the counterarguments of Gettier, it is clear that their theory is too weak to some cases and strong in others (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237). Therefore, it not sufficient to solve the problem posed by the theories of Gettier. Besides the arguments of these two theorists, there are other theories one can use to solve these problems. One of these ways is by analyzing the belief condition. If one analyses this condition carefully, and looks at the counterarguments presented above, then s does not actually seem to believe in h. it seems that there are some elements that the theories we have seen leaves out about the beliefs shave on the situation. We actually considered these we would find that what we believed in is not true (Lehrer and Paxon 225- 237).

For instance, if one thinks about it actually well, does it quite seem that Smith believes that the person who gets the job will have ten coins in his pocket? What would be more believable is that he believes that the name of the person who gets the job is Smith, and he will have ten coins with him. Nevertheless, this statement is not true as Jones does not get the job, and he does not even have the coins. In addition, in the case of the pyromaniac, the match lights because of some other reason other than the one, he believes in, which is the match, will ignite because he strikes it. This shows that s does not honestly believe in h, and we might even conclude that he has no idea what his. One of the theorists who raise this issue is don Levi one of his articles (Levi 45-65).

Though Gettier came up with an article that brought about numerous challenges and doubts about the definitions of knowledge and how we attain it, we can still make use of the arguments of the epistemologists to deduce a number of answers for the questions.

Works cited

Gettier, Edmund. “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” Analysis 23 (1963): 121-23. Print.

Lehrer, Keith and Thomas D. Paxon, Jr. “Knowledge: Undefeated Justified True Belief.” The

Journal of Philosophy, 66.8 (1969), 225-237. Print.

Levi, Don S. “The Gettier Problem and the Parable of the Ten Coins”, Philosophy, 70, 1995.         Print.




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