September 08, 2010

Gettier got me

Ethi-catI actually encountered the Gettier problem in real life last week. Knowledge as justified true belief is usually defined as

"Subject S knows that a proposition P is true if, and only if:
1) P is true.
2) S believes that P is true.
3) S is justified in believing that P is true."

Gettier demonstrated a few counterexamples where people fulfil these three conditions but cannot be said to know something.

I went on a visit to Sweden in order to help a dear friend who had surgery.

1) Indeed he needed help.
2) I believed that he needed help.
3) I had evidence for this (he had his appendix removed).

Except that it turned out that the appendix removal was very easy and I didn't need to help him after that at all... until he suddenly came down with gallstones (the real cause of the symptoms that led to the appendix surgery - his doctors had failed at condition 1) and I had to help him.

It feels rather amusing to actually have encountered a situation that I when I first read about the Gettier problem regarded as a contrived and irrelevant thought experiment. As long as I find myself in epistemic thought experiments I think I will be OK, it is when you get to the ethical thought experiments things get deadly and weird.

Posted by Anders3 at September 8, 2010 09:06 PM