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Gettier problem

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P022-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2016
Retrieved January 22, 2018, from

Article Summary

Edmund Gettier, in 1963, introduced into philosophy what soon became known as the Gettier problem. It is still with us – frustratingly so for some, intriguingly so for many. Most philosophers regard Gettier as having generated a genuine result; an increasing but still small number, it seems, do not share that view of the cases. Gettier challenged, with some hypothetical counterexamples, what he argued had long been a widely accepted definition of knowledge – a definition that equates having an instance of knowledge with having a justified true belief. Those counterexamples, and subsequent ones relevantly like them, are now called Gettier cases. Each Gettier case is a challenge to the sufficiency, for being knowledge, of a belief’s being true and well justified, such as by good evidence. Each Gettier case therefore includes a belief that is true and justified without being knowledge. At any rate, that is the usual epistemological interpretation of such cases. And what has long been the widespread, ready, and persisting acceptance by philosophers of that interpretation has spawned an associated epistemological research programme. Many ideas have been offered as part of that programme, seeking to understand Gettier cases so as to understand in turn what knowledge is – if it is not exactly a justified true belief. (Those ideas have enriched epistemology by talking of knowledge’s relationship to such phenomena as these: eliminating false evidence, defeasibility, causality, virtuous belief-formation, truth-tracking, epistemic safety, veritic luck.) But doubts have also been developed about the power and importance of Gettier’s challenge in the first place. The Gettier problem has long been seen as a paradigmatic exemplification of a way in which much analytic philosophy has pursued its conceptual and definitional ends – a pursuit that has often been treated as distinctive and even constitutive of analytic philosophy. Yet that role for Gettier cases is now being questioned, potentially with implications for how we will come to view analytic philosophy’s methods and its correlative capacity for understanding its preferred target phenomena. For example, is knowledge conceptually analysable at all, as it had long been taken to be? And are the standard intuitions as to how to interpret Gettier cases as justified as they had long been taken to be?

Citing this article:
Hetherington, Stephen. Gettier problem, 2016, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P022-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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