Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The Irrelevance of Irrelevance

The traditional analysis of knolwedge goes something like this:

Let S be a an agent, for example a person.
Let P be a an proposition, for example "Shaq is taller than I am".
S knows that P if and only if:
  1. P is true
  2. S believes that P
  3. S is justified in believing that P
The Gettier Problem challenges this formulation by disconnecting condition 1 with conditions 2 and 3. Knowledge = Justified True Belief works when the Justification and Belief is directly related to the Truth. But because of the vagueness of the formulation, K=JTB can be cleverly circumvented.

A Gettier belief is one which cirucmvents the traditional analysis of knowledge. The classic example: imagine you jutifiably believe A and B and make a deduction C. Little do you know, A is false. However, by pure coincidence, C turns out to be true anyway. So C is a justified true belief (which would imply knowledge) but most people wouldn't classify that as knowledge since one of the premises, A is false. It's correctness by luck.

Somebody in class today brought up the fact that A and B are not necessarily relevant. The example used was that in competing for a job, Shaq believes that Kobe will get the job and that Kobe has 10 coins in his pockets. A student brought up the fact that Kobe having 10 coins is irrelevant to Kob getting a job. It doesn't matter what belief Shaq has for Kobe, the end result (in a Gettier belief) is that the man who gets the job has ten coins in his pockets. This turns out to be correct because it turns out that Shaq gets the job after all (it's all a big hoax). So it doesn't matter what the second belief is: coins, potatos, the color blue. Irrelevance, in this case, is precisely irrelevant.

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