Is Gettier’s First Example Flawed?

In Winfried Löffler & Weingartner Paul (eds.), Knowledge and Belief. ALWS (2003)
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Abstract

This paper challenges (in a shorter version than the also listed 2002 LSE discussion paper) the first Gettier counterexample to the tripartite account of knowledge. Noting that 'the man who will get the job' is a description and invoking Donnellan's distinction between their 'referential' and 'attributive' uses, I argue that Smith does not actually believe that the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. Smith's ignorance about who will get the job shows that the belief cannot be understood referentially, his ignorance of the coins in his pocket shows that it cannot be understood attributively. An explanation for why Smith appeared to have justified true belief is given by distinguishing between 'belief' and 'belief in truth'. Smith believes the sentence 'the man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket' to be true (he mistakenly believes that Jones will get the job, of whom he knows that he has ten coins in his pocket) (hence his 'belief'), the sentence is true (hence 'truth'), and he has sufficient reason to assent to it (hence his 'justification'). But he does not believe the proposition expressed. Hence he does not know it either.

Author's Profile

Christoph Schmidt-Petri
London School of Economics (PhD)

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