Gettier problem

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P022-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 18, 2018, from

Article Summary

The expression ‘the Gettier problem’ refers to one or another problem exposed by Edmund Gettier when discussing the relation between several examples that he constructed and analyses of knowing advanced by various philosophers, including Plato in the Theatetus. Gettier’s examples appear to run counter to these ‘standard’ or ‘traditional’ analyses. A few philosophers take this appearance to be deceptive and regard the genuine problem revealed by Gettier to be: ‘How can one show that Gettier’s examples are not really counterexamples to the standard analyses?’ But most philosophers take seriously the problem which is the central concern of this entry: ‘How can such standard analyses be altered so that Gettier’s cases do not constitute counterexamples to the modified analyses (and without opening the analyses to further objections?)’.

Gettier’s short paper spawned many important, ongoing projects in contemporary epistemology – for instance, attempts to add a fourth condition of knowing to the traditional analyses, attempts to replace some conditions of those analyses, such as externalist accounts of knowing or justification (causal theories and reliability theories), and revived interest in scepticism, including an investigation of the deductive closure principle. Difficulties uncovered at each stage of this research have generated an ever more sophisticated set of accounts of knowing and justification, as well as a wealth of examples useful for testing proposed analyses. In spite of the vast literature that Gettier’s brief paper elicited, there is still no widespread agreement as to whether the Gettier problem has been solved, nor as to what constitutes the most promising line of research.

    Citing this article:
    Shope, Robert K.. Gettier problem, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P022-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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