Knowledge and the Gettier Problem

Knowledge can be defined as data, facts, and skills obtained through education or experience. It can also be said to know a fact about something or someone, or awareness of a claim or a fact. To know a fact entails that for it to be called knowledge, a person needs to be fully assured about that fact and that it is a true statement. Many mistake assumptions and observations for knowledge, which is wrong. It is also possible for one to believe a certain thing, but believing is not enough to qualify it to be knowledge. Assumptions, beliefs, and observations are views or perceptions about something or someone that have not been duly confirmed (Audi, 1999). Once they are confirmed to be the truth, these assumptions and observations become knowledge. They can be confirmed in many ways, for example, confirmation by a credible second party or through evidence.     

In consideration of this, Knowledge can be said to be beliefs, observations or claims that have been justified and confirmed to be true (The Gettier Problem).

a) Joe, a man living in the middle ages, observes that the sun appears to rise over the horizon in the east every morning and set over the horizon in the west every evening. Based on this observation he forms the belief that “The sun revolves around the Earth.”

Joe’s belief that the sun revolves around the Earth cannot be said classified as knowledge. The belief is a credence unconfirmed by any credible source or by people who have studied how the earth and the sun rotate. In addition, there is no evidence confirmed his claim.

b) Sally, a woman living in the Middle Ages, forms the belief that “Mercury is the planet closest to the sun…” after being hit in the head by a falling coconut. Nobody else in her time has this belief, but, in time, scientists discover that Sally was right.

Sally’s statement cannot be classified as knowledge because of the manner in which it was acquired. She did not get it through having a claim that was confirmed or evidenced. When a claim is evidenced and confirmed, it becomes knowledge that can be defended in debate. Sally just had a lucky guess, that she would not be able defend if challenged.

c) Joe wants to marry Sally so he goes to her house to propose, On the way, he runs into Sally’s twin sister, Molly. Not knowing that Sally has a twin sister, Joe gets down on one knee and proposes to Molly. Molly rejects Joe’s proposal because she loves someone else. Consequently, Joe forms the belief that “Sally loves someone else.” As it turns out, Sally does love someone else and would not have accepted Joe’s proposal.

Again, in this case, Joe’s belief that Sally loves someone else by chance just happened to be the truth. He did not get this through confirmation or evidence; thus, it is not knowledge.

d) After learning that Sally has a twin sister, Joe begins to suspect that he had proposed to the wrong woman. The next time he sees Sally, he asks whether it’s her – indeed it is. Again, Joe proposes and Sally rejects him because she loves someone else. Joe forms the belief that “Sally really does love someone else.” Poor Joe.

Here, Joe’s belief that Sally loves someone else is confirmed by Sally herself; therefore, it can be said to be knowledge.

Order now

Related essays