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Edmund Gettier’s Problem: Views on Knowledge Essay

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Updated: May 20th, 2020


People have different ways of solving their problems. However, the most important thing to understand in this process is that people usually believe that what they do will help them. Therefore, they focus on issues they think will come in handy when finding solutions to particular drawbacks and ignore others. Religion, science, and traditions are some of the avenues that help people overcome the obstacles they meet in their lives. Most people believe that what they know to be true counts as knowledge, even though others may refute this because of faulty premises. This paper defines the Gettier problem and how its examples are effective in refuting the standard account of knowledge.


Edmund Gettier believed that knowledge was relative because it was determined by the individual’s beliefs, luck, experience, education, and other aspects that shape his/her perception. This philosopher argued that an individual’s ability to make accurate judgments is based on various issues that constitute his knowledge. Gettier’s problems involve the cases presented by this scholar and his followers and which try to explain that knowledge should be justifiable. His argument was that a lot has to be done to prove the existence of knowledge. Therefore, he presented various case examples to show that truth is not sufficient to prove that there is knowledge regarding an issue.

Gettier’s Counter-Examples

This philosopher gave two examples that he used to explain how knowledge could be measured. He referred to the first case as Smith’s Job, and he explained that Smith and Jones were looking for a job. Smith thought that Jones would get the job because he believed that the employer promised him that the position was reserved for him. In addition, he saw him counting ten coins and thought that was a good reason that he would get the job. Finally, Smith gets the job, and it turns out that his first belief was wrong, but the second one was correct because he had ten coins in his pocket.

Therefore, Gettier wonders whether Smith’s belief that the person with ten coins will get the job constitutes knowledge. He named the second case Jones’ Ford. Gettier explains that Smith believes that Jones owns Ford because he has always seen him with it since they knew each other, and he had been offered a ride before. In addition, this belief involves another case where Smith thinks that his friend Brown is in Barcelona. However, it turns out that Jones does not have Ford, but Brown is in Barcelona. Therefore, Gettier’s counterexamples pause serious problems to the meaning and occurrence of knowledge because he challenges people’s beliefs and thinks that it is not easy to separate knowledge, truth, and beliefs. Other philosophers and critics argue that Gettier was right in claiming that knowledge is not based on just beliefs and facts, but on other factors that play important roles in shaping an individual’s perception of the world.

Effectiveness of Gettier-Style Examples

Gettier-style examples include the following. A person may be hungry and believe that there is food in the house because he hears someone moving around in the kitchen. Therefore, this person will wash his hands and go to the dining room and request for food. However, the truth may turn out that the person in the kitchen was not preparing food. In addition, maybe there was nobody in the kitchen, but a cat that was looking for food. Therefore, this person’s beliefs will be wrong, and he will be considered as not possessing any knowledge. On the other hand, it may turn out that there was somebody preparing food because it was lunchtime.

Therefore, the person will have something to eat, and this means that he had knowledge that helped him to get food. The last case may turn out to be that there is somebody in the kitchen preparing food for her child. This proves that there is no relationship between the individual’s belief and what happens in real sense. Therefore, there is a need for individuals to ensure they separate their beliefs from their knowledge.

Gettier examples are important in explaining that knowledge should not be based on assumptions only. In the first case, the person assumed that the presence of a person in the kitchen during lunch hours meant that food was being prepared. Therefore, he believed beyond any doubt that there was somebody preparing lunch in the kitchen. This assumption has made many people make serious mistakes because of decisions that do not reflect knowledge in their actions. For instance, parents believe that their children will pass exams because they are in good schools. They think that they will help them to score high grades because they have all the reading materials they need for studying. However, the truth is that some children pretend to be reading during the study while others are very playful when others are busy preparing for examinations.

In addition, students have different levels of understanding of various concepts taught in class, and thus they cannot get equal grades. Lastly, some unexpected issues like sickness, tension, and poor preparation make bright students perform poorly, and this means that their parents will not be happy with their grades. Knowledge cannot be determined, and thus it is necessary for parents to consider all situations before they blame their children on performing poorly at examinations. Gettier argues that there is a need for a different dimension that will ensure people acquire knowledge and understand issues objectively. This will help them avoid making wrong decisions because of a lack of proper facts and ideas.

Secondly, his philosophy is important in provoking research and reflections that enable people to get accurate and verifiable information about issues. For instance, think of a situation where a driver believes that he may knock a wild animal crossing a road because there are no warning signs. This driver believes that road signs are very important in ensuring that motorists do not over speed in areas where there are wild animals. In addition, he believes that there should be road signs and bumps that will help motorists to avoid hitting wild animals. It may turn out that this driver may knock a wild animal because his attention has shifted to looking for the signs and not focusing on the road.

Therefore, he will blame the lack of road signs for his accident and believe that if they were there, he would not have hit the animal. However, the truth is that this person believed that there was a strong connection between road signs and the safety of wild animals. Therefore, he knew that he was going to hit an animal because there were no road signs. Gettier argues that people behave in ways that are predetermined because of their experiences. This driver used to see road signs, and thus he became very alert and ensured he never hit an animal. However, his behavior is controlled by past experiences, and the introduction of a new aspect in his life complicated all issues.

Thirdly, Gettier’s concept is important in explaining how the relationships between events control human life. He argues that people understand issues depending on how they relate to others. This means that their knowledge is based on the relationship between different issues. For instance, a man may believe that he will marry a beautiful woman because he is handsome. Therefore, he will be attracted to beautiful women because he believes his handsomeness matches with their beauty.

It may turn out that he gets married to a beautiful girl because he worked very hard to get her. This is a fact because people know that hard work pays. Therefore, his hard work and not handsomeness enabled him to win the heart of a beautiful woman. Secondly, his perception of a beautiful woman may not be what other people believe to be an issue of consideration. He may think that all blonde women are beautiful or all slim ladies are very attractive. This is true if he was asked to give his opinion because that is what he believes. However, other people may think that blonde people are not beautiful. Therefore, they will always ridicule him for marrying an ugly woman. Others will support him because they believe that all people are beautiful because they were made in the image of God.


The Gettier problem and counter-examples enable people to understand that the standard account of knowledge as a justified true belief is not refutable. Knowledge is a complex aspect that requires experience, contact, objectivity, and purpose to understand it. Gettier is correct in arguing that knowledge is relative, and nobody can claim to know everything about something.

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