Paradox Regained: A Reply to Meyers and Stern J. Gregory Dees; John A. Hart The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 71, No. 12. (Jun. 27, 1974), pp. 367-372. Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-362X%2819740627%2971%3A12%3C367%3APRARTM%3E2.0.CO%3B2-Q The Journal of Philosophy is currently published by Journal of Philosophy, Inc..
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COMMENTS AND CRITICISM
tences it is synonymous (on some reading), etc.18 We fail to see, then, how this dug can describe all the speaker's intuitions about such properties and relations while offering no insight into how sentences are used and understood-though the creature postulated in Stich's logically possible case would, by hypothesis, not be able to proceed to use and understand sentences as do persons with the same linguistic competence embedded in a performance system. The fact that there could, in principle, be a creature whose linguistic intuitions "match up near enough with our own but who could neither speak nor understand English" shows no more than what the standard account assumes: a more comprehensive theory of performance must be constructed, incorporating grammars, to account for the use and understanding of speech. In effect, Stich is arguing that a certain type of aphasia is logically possible: a case in which a speaker can give judgments about sentences and thus "serve almost as well as an English speaker as an informant for constructing a grammar of English," while being unable to speak and understand the language. From this observation he concludes that it is misleading to describe a grammar as a theory of the language of the linguist's subject. The conclusion, if anything, should be quite the opposite. The existence of this type of aphasia would be most congenial to the standard account, since it would indicate that it is possible for the competence system to function even when it is "disconnected" from one component of the performance system in which the standard account assumes it to be embedded. Whereas the standard account does not imply that such a case must exist, discovery of such a case would surely confirm its specific empirical assumptions about the speaker. In summary, we see no reason to believe that Stich has offered any coherent challenge to the standard account of what the linguist is talking about. NOAM CHOMSKY JERROLD J. KATZ
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
PARADOX REGAINED: A REPLY TO MEYERS AND STERN
In "Knowledge without Paradox," Robert G. Meyers and Kenneth Stern argue that the problems raised by the Gettier counterexamples Katz. Semantic Theory, ch. 1. + W e would like to thank William Morris for his helpful comments and criticism. 18 Cf.
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to the justified true belief analysis of knowledge may be avoided if we alter our notion of justificati0n.t They maintain that: Counterexamples of the Gettier sort all turn on the principle that someone can be justified in accepting a certain proposition h on evidence p even though p is false. Hence, if h is true, he would have justified true belief that h, yet still not know that h, since it is, as it were, only accidental that he accepted h (147).
Thus they conclude that the problem lies in the acceptance of a principle that allows for the possibility of a false justification. According to Meyers and Stern, three basic epistemic principles have been involved in discussions of the Gettier problem: (A) If S is justified in believing p, then P. (B) If p justifies h for S, then p. (C) If S believes that p is justified in believing that p, and correctly infers h from p either deductively or inductively, then p justifies h for S (whether or not p is true) (148).
Meyers and Stern dismiss (A) as obviously too restrictive and maintain that the Gettier cases are founded on rejection of (B) and acceptance of (C). Then they argue that principle (B) is the key principle (B) is acto the Gettier problem, and conclude, "If ceptable, there is good reason to construe the Gettier counterexamples as refuting (C) instead of the traditional view of knowledge" (160). We begin by noting that principle (B), if considered as a definitive principle of "justification," is rather odd. T h e notion of justification has a history, in ethics and jurisprudence as well as epistemology, and a corresponding traditional application. Principle (B) is clearly not in accordance with this tradition. For instance, it would be quite natural to say that pre-Columbian sailors were justified in not sailing too far on the basis of their (false) belief that the world was fiat. Ordinarily there seems to be no contradiction, or even any oddity, in the claim that someone had a false belief which justified him in doing or believing something further. But, if principle (B) is accepted, these assertions will have to be discarded as self-contradictory. Just pointing out this peculiarity, however, is not in itself a significant criticism of principle (B). It merely shows that Meyers and Stern are proposing a technical usage of 'justification', one that will allegedly help us avoid Gettier-style counterexamples. T o com-
t Knowledge without Paradox," this JOURNAL, LXX,6 (March 22, 1973): 147-160. Page numbers in parentheses are to this article.
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plement this technical notion, they introduce another, that of "welltakenness" (156) to account for those beliefs which would ordinarily be called "justified," but which turn out to be based on false evidence. A belief is "well-taken," in this sense, only if it is arrived at through "accredited methods of justification." A belief is justified only if it is well-taken and correctly inferred from true evidence. If Meyers and Stern could, in fact, provide a workable solution to the Gettier problem, we would not be opposed to the introduction of these technical terms. But, as we will argue, the justifiedtrue-belief analysis interpreted in accordance with principle (B) is both too weak and too strong to provide an adequate account of (nonbasic) knowledge. It is too weak in that it still fails to distinguish cases of accidental or coincidental acceptance from cases of legitimate knowledge. Meyers and Stern's initial observation, though accurate to the extent that Gettier's actual examples did involve false evidence, missed the point. Gettier's claim that the traditional analysis is too weak does not turn on this fact about his examples. It turns on the possibility that a subject S may have evidence from which a proposition h can be inferred but which is, in fact, unrelated to the truth of h, thus making S's acceptance of h accidental or coincidental. Principle (B) does not rule out all such cases. For consider the following. Roscoe has had a telephone for many years and has observed that, when the phone rings, someone is attempting to call him. This has been confirmed in each case. Thus he forms the justified belief p, that, when the phone rings, someone is attempting to call. However, unknown to Roscoe, on this occasion his telephone service has been interrupted by a fallen wire. I n repairing the damage, the serviceman accidently crosses two wires, causing Roscoe's phone to ring. Roscoe is in the shower, but hears the phone and comes to believe and is justified in believing [even under principle (B)] h, that someone is trying to call. And, at the very same time, Roscoe's friend Oscar is in fact trying to call him, but cannot get through because of the fallen wire. Thus Roscoe has a justified true belief that h, but clearly does not have know& edge. T o see more clearly the potential of the principle-(B) analysis for admitting coincidences as knowledge, consider this variation on a case offered by Meyers and Stern (156/7). Suppose that a student, Ms Right, reads in her philosophy text that p, "Spinoza was born in 1632." On the basis of this she infers that h, Spinoza was born in
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the seventeenth century. According to Meyers and Stern, Ms Right would know that h. But compare the similar case of Ms Print, who like Ms Right, reads in her text (a different text) the same information about Spinoza, and forms the same belief that h. Her case, however, is not so simple. The author of Ms Print's text was mistaken about the date of Spinoza's birth, and sent his manuscript to the printer with the date as 1732. The typesetter who had been working overtime and was weary accidentally picked up a "6" rather than a "7," thus "correcting" the author's error. Consequently, it is purely accidental that Ms Print came to believe h, even though her evidence was true and acquired in an accredited way. Obviously Ms Print does not know that h, but the Meyers and Stern analysis is incapable of distinguishing this case from that of Ms Right. Thus their analysis forces us to regard such accidental beliefs as knowledge. In addition to being too weak, the Meyers and Stern analysis is too strong. It rules out genuine cases of knowledge. Principle (B) fails to capture the subtlety of the truth requirements for evidential sets. Some unnecessary portion of an evidential conjunction might turn out to be false without disqualifying the conjunction as a whole as justification, or at least as evidence that can give its possessor knowledge. Meyers and Stern recognize that false evidential conjunctions do seem to pose a problem for principle (B). They consider an example of this sort due to Lehrer (149/150). In this example, Brown believes that h on the basis of p, a conjunction of q and r, each of which entails h. As it turns out, however, q is true and r is false. Nonetheless, Brown is justified in believing p, i.e., (q r). And, according to Lehrer at least, Brown knows that h, even though p is false, simply because q alone is sufficient to support h adequately. Meyers and Stern respond that it is not clear whether or not Brown really does know. Whether he knows, they maintain, depends on how he might react if he found out that r was false. "Brown must realize that q alone is sufficient to justify h, and, thus, when we point out that r is false, he must be prepared to drop r as part of his justification and rely on q alone" (150). They seem to believe that the problem raised by partially false evidential conjunctions can be resolved if we just introduce this principle: When S believes that h on the basis of a false evidential conjunction, if he is to have knowledge that h, he must "realize" or "see" that the true part of his conjunction is alone sufficient to justify h.
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With this to supplement principle (B), Meyers and Stern feel confident that they have an analysis of knowledge that is not restrictive. But, as the following case will show, their analysis is still to str0ng.l Wilma is a research chemist trying to develop a low-cost method for producing synthetic fuel. After some experimentation, she discovers that a certain mixture of chemicals X and Y will produce Z, a viable substitute for natural fuel oil. Since X and Y are very common and inexpensive, this is an important discovery. Wilma, however, has been strongly influenced by von Wrong's Logic of Scientific Method. In this book von Wrong sets forth various principles of justification, in addition to principle (B), which, coincidentally, is identical with Meyers-Stern's principle (B). One of these is principle 4.1 which says that in order to be justified in believing a generalization one must have at least 5,000 confirmatory instances. Consequently, despite the simplicity of the experiment involved, Wilma performs 5,005 individual experiments. In the end, she believes that h, that X and Y mixed in the proper amounts yield Z, on the basis of p, that she has performed 5,005 experiments, and in each case X and Y have produced Z. As it turns out, however, p is false. In the last ten experiments Wilma had mixed M and N (chemicals that appear identical with X and Y, are very rare, and are already known to yield Z). For Wilma, in a hurry to meet a publication deadline, came to the lab on Sunday. Since the stock room was locked, she borrowed bottles marked "X" and "Y" from a colleague's desk. The bottles actually contained M and N; her colleague had forgotten to correct the old markings. Wilma performed her last ten experiments and sent off her results. Does Wilma know that X and Y yield Z? The answer seems to be an obvious "yes." Clearly, she knew that h from her initial experiments. But not only does this case fail principle (B), it even fails the supplementary principle invoked to deal with false evidential conjunctions. For if she were told that she used the wrong chemicals in her last ten tests, she would not "realize" that the remaining 4,995 experiments would "alone be sufficient to justify h." She would still believe h, just as she believed it all along, and she would believe h on the basis of her experimental evidence. She would just not believe that this evidence provided justification sufficient for knowledge, because of her von Wrongian attitude. But we should say she 1For the basic form of this example we are indebted to J. T. Saunders and N. Champawat, "Mr. Clark's Definition of Knowledge," Analysis, xxv, 1 (October 1964): 8-9.
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knows in spite of her peculiar attitudes about evidence and justification. Consequently, the Meyers and Stern re-interpreted justifiedtrue-belief analysis is too restrictive. Their supplementary principle ignores the fact that people's beliefs are often swayed by matters that are not really relevant to the question whether they know. A skeptic might not "realize" or believe that he is justified in believing anything; but should we allow this to disqualify him from knowing many things? We should think not. We conclude that Meyers and Stern's attempt to rescue the justified-true-belief analysis of knowledge has failed. Principle (B), with the unconventional notion of justification it contains, is both unhelpful and unacceptable. For it provides an account of knowledge that is both too strong and too weak. Even if we overlook the serious, but neglected, questions about the amount of justification needed for knowledge, the approach taken by Meyers and Stern seems bound to fail. No further restrictions on when one is actually "justified" seem promising, particularly if they rely on any of the three epistemic principles originally cited. Any analysis of knowledge based on a principle of justification [e.g., (B) or (C)] in which bona fide "justification" is compatible with the falsity of the proposition justified, will at least be open to counterexample showing it too weak. If, given justification for h, h can still be false, then stories could be told in which it turns out to be accidentally true, in relation to that justification. On the other hand, any analysis based upon a principle of justification [e.g., (A)] in which bona fide "justification" for h is not compatible with the falsity of h, would seem obviously too restrictive. We are convinced that there is no middle ground available at which the justified-truebelief analysis would become neither too weak nor too strong-although it can on certain principles [e.g., (B)] be both. Perhaps the addition of a fourth or fifth condition to the justified-true-belief analysis may yield positive results, but it appears that attempts to solve the problem merely by reinterpretation of the justification condition are destined for failure. J. GREGORY DEES JOHN A. HART
University of Cincinnati NEW BOOKS: ANTHOLOGIES AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, FACULTY IN PHILOSOPHY: Explanation: New Directions in Philosophy. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1973. v, 216 p. Gld. 33.80.