Progress(?) in philosophy: the Gettier case

I’m of two minds about this article by Massimo Pigliucci. While I continue to be dismissive of the claim that there is anything of substance in the Gettier examples I can agree that there may be progress in the game of clearly expressing why that is the case. But the role of philosophers in advancing that progress is often more obstructive than constructive.

My own initial response to the Gettier problems was basically what Pigliucci refers to as the false premise objection – namely that the claimed “justification” for the belief in the allegedly problematic cases may be make the belief “excusable” or “blameless” but is not justification in the intended (logical) sense because it is based on a false premise. And my respect for the discipline is not enhanced by the proposed example of “more sophisticated Gettier cases that do not seem to depend on false premises”.

What Pigliucci proposes is as follows:

I am walking through Central Park and I see a dog in the distance. I instantly form the belief that there is a dog in the park. This belief is justified by direct observation. It is also true, because as it happens there really is a dog in the park. Problem is, it’s not the one I saw! The latter was, in fact, a robotic dog unleashed by members of the engineering team from Bronx High School. So my belief is justified (it was formed by normally reliable visual inspection), true (there is indeed a dog in the park), and arrived at without relying on any false premise [2].

But here the “justification” clearly involves the false premise that what looks like a dog is a dog. Without that premise, any claim of justification “by direct observation” is just clearly nonsense.

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