The Gettier paper is a discussion of knowledge and its relationship with true belief. The paper has several key lessons that show that the truth about knowledge should not be based on true belief alone.
The paper looks at three different concepts that one might think of when trying to prove that the knowledge they have is true. Gettier argues that all the three concepts that people use to show that the knowledge they have is true are actually very wrong.
The first key lesson that one gets from the paper is that one can know something and believe it as true when it actually is not true. This comes from the fact that some knowledge that people acquire are not true. Gettier gives the example of S and P, while S is a person and P is a proposition.
Gettier argues that there are three things related to knowledge that one has to consider if S knows P. He explains further that if S knows P, then P is true. The second idea is that if S knows P then S believes that P is true. The last idea is that if S knows P then S is justified in believing P.
An example that can be cited for this is that if John, who is a child, has always been told that babies come from heaven, this is the knowledge that he believes is true. He might also believe that this knowledge is true because he knows it is true.
John is also justified in believing that children come from heaven because he was told that it is true. Despite this, the knowledge itself is actually false. Gettier argues that there is no way of knowing the truth of the piece of knowledge until the knowledge is tested.
The second lesson from the Gettier paper is that one might believe that some knowledge is true based on some evidence that they have. Gettier explains that even though one might have some evidence that can make a proposition true, it could still be false.
He explains this concept with the example of John and Smith. John believes that Smith has a Ford. This is based on the evidence that John has seen Smith driving a Ford on many occasions, or maybe Smith has given John a ride in the Ford. Despite this strong evidence, Gettier explains that the proposition that Smith owns a Ford can be false because Smith might have rented the car, thus the car is not his own.
A third lesson that can be deduced from the Gettier paper is that of epistemic luck. He explains that there are times when one believes something, using the evidence they have and even though they might not really know it, what they believe might actually be true.
For example, if a man who committed a crime was to escape from prison and the police ask his wife for his whereabouts, the wife would give them a list of places she thinks he might have gone. Unknown to the wife of the convict, one of the places where she mentioned turns out to be the exact place where the criminal is.
These lessons that Gettier provides show that knowledge should not be based on justifiable true belief alone. He argues that there are times when this belief might give true knowledge; however, the chances for this are very minimal. This is what he calls the epistemic luck.
The Problem of the Criterion
The Problem of the Criterion can be simply defined as a difficulty in defining knowledge. The Problem of the Criterion comes about because it is impractical to claim that one knows the characteristics and elements of identifying true knowledge when they cannot define knowledge itself.
There are two main elements that one has to think about when discussing the Problem of the Criterion. The first issue is that instances of knowledge can be identified only if the involved knows the criteria for identifying true knowledge.
The second issue is that the criteria of identifying true knowledge can only be realized by identifying the instances of true knowledge. This confusion is what causes the Problem of the Criterion.
The Problem of the Criterion goes hand in hand with Gettier’s argument that knowledge cannot be based on true belief alone. If, for example, the electric bell in a school was to ring once at 12:30 PM every day, then many students and teachers alike will know that it is 12:30 PM every time the bell rings.
The electric bell is usually set with a clock. If, for example, the clock was to stop at 12:30 PM on Monday and the bell rings at that exact time on Tuesday, then the students and the teachers would know that it is correct. However, the bell could also ring at 11 or at 2 due to faultiness.
Everyone, unknowingly, will assume that it is 12:30 PM. They will only realize that the bell is faulty if one checks their watch, or if the bell rings twice in the same day.
In regard to the Problem of the Criterion, the above example shows that it is impossible for anyone to claim that the bell is faulty if it rings at exactly 12:30 PM, even though it had stopped. It is only possible to say the bell is faulty if it rings earlier or later than usual and someone checks a different watch.
The first case where the bell is faulty and someone bases it on their intuition is an example of knowing the instances of knowledge without knowing the criteria of knowledge. The second part of the example where one checks a different clock to confirm the time is an example of knowing the criteria of knowledge in order to know the instances of knowledge. It is much easier for someone to believe the second part of the example where one checks a different clock to know the time than for one to believe the first part of the example where one uses intuition.
Methodism and Particularism are two of the solutions that are given in dealing with the Problem of the Criterion. Methodism is the assumption that one already knows the criteria of knowledge, thus they are able to identify the instances of knowledge.
Particularism, on the other hand, is the assumption that one can already identify the instances of knowledge, thus they are able to explain the criteria they used to identify the instances of knowledge. The two solutions have their advantages and disadvantages.
One disadvantage of Methodism is that it is nearly impossible to explain the criteria of knowledge without stating the instances of knowledge. A disadvantage of Particularism is that one has to define knowledge to identify the instances of knowledge, and this is part of the Problem of the Criterion.