Thu Feb 25, 2010
Howison Library, 4:10–6 PM
Jennifer Nagel (University of Toronto)
Gettier case recognition
In a classic 1963 paper, Edmund Gettier presented some descriptions of subjects who had beliefs that seemed to be justified and true, while not amounting to knowledge. The intuitive possibility of such cases was widely taken to refute the classical analysis of knowledge as justified true belief. More strikingly, it now seems that counterexamples of the general type Gettier developed can be brought against any non-circular analysis of knowledge. The failure of the intuition-driven analysis of knowledge project has generated some desire to blame the tools it used: in this spirit Brian Weatherson has raised the possibility that it might have been a mistake to abandon the elegant classical theory simply on the basis of our intuitions about particular cases. Further doubts about Gettier intuitions have been raised by Weinberg, Stich and Nichols, who contend that there is worrisome cross-cultural variability in these intuitions, and by John Hawthorne, who has developed some deviant Gettier cases that produce unstable intuitions. This talk aims to defend the original Gettier intuitions by drawing a distinction between performance and competence in the production of our intuitive responses to particular cases. I argue that the variation and instability identified by WNS and Hawthorne are best understood as involving performance failure generated by limitations that also affect a wide range of other cognitive tasks. I then argue that Gettier case recognition is an underlying competence of ours – rather than, say, a pathology – and present a model of this competence that situates it within the framework of empirical research into our natural “mind-reading” abilities.