Essay on Responses to the Gettier Problem

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1695 Words
Date:  2021-05-25

Goldmans proposition of the causal theorys constructs constitutes a foundation for the main streams of responses to the Gettier problem. Whether the manner in which Goldman formulated the causal theory is appropriate remains an open question. It has been argued that the causal theory is not effective in coping with knowledge concerning the future. In ordinary circumstances, people lay claim to the knowledge of things such as their intention to do something within a given period preceding a future event. It is hover unclear how the facts forming the basis of the future event can validly qualify as the cause of the underlying beliefs. It may seem that people are forced to draw conclusions, alongside critics, that it is not possible to possess knowledge about future events.

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Goldmans awareness of the problem relating to having knowledge of the future motivates his formulation. He claims that it is fundamental for a causal connection to exist between two beliefs, although there is no necessity in one fact being the cause of another belief. According to Goldman (1971, 774), it is possible to have two aspects of a belief being connected such that insightful knowledge of the common cause of two beliefs emerges. For instance, if one intends to visit a town on a particular day, he/she may communicate this intention to another person a day before the actual visit.

Once the other person hears of their acquaintances intention to visit the town, and having a firm belief that what they heard is reliable, he/she will infer that there is a real intention to visit the town on the particular day, which forms the basis of the conclusion that the intention will translate into action. If the intention of visiting the town actually translates into real action, we have to consider whether it is plausible to conclude that visitors acquaintance, whom the visitor happened to have informed of the visits plans, can really claim knowledge of the visitors plans. This is a case where we must consider what constitutes knowledge about the future; it is typical of the quintessential situation in which after an event materializes, the acquaintance is likely to claim knowledge of the visitors presence in the town on the day of the visit, besides professing to a firm belief in the probability of the event occurring.

In addition, in such a case, no one would object to the fact that knowledge of an impending event did exist. Obviously, it is not plausible to claim that the visit to town has caused the acquaintances belief just before the visit materialized. Nevertheless, a common cause of the visit to town exists; the acquaintance believes that the visitor would actually act according to the stated intention, which results from the belief that the visitors stated intention was credible. Goldman argues that the addition of a series of inferences to a causal chain makes the entire chain causal, which implies that there can be a causal connection between the belief in an intention and the materialization of the intention through tangible action.

Another question people ought to ask with regard to Gettier problems is the possibility of knowing what is colloquially deemed a universal truth. Some authors have expressed objections by invoking the example of the widely held belief that all men are mortal (Weinberg, Nichols and Stich, 2001). They claim that the fact that all men are mortal is not a sufficient basis for the belief that all men are mortal; rather, the facts that cause it result from empirical observations of men dying. Let us suppose that persons 1, 2, 3 and 4 die. Supposing, further, that one comes to hold the belief that, persons 1, 2, 3 and 4 were mortal after seeing them die. The person can infer - inductively, from the singular beliefs, that mortality is inevitable for all human beings.

Considering the causal relation of each of the singular beliefs to the singular facts concerning each persons mortal nature, the singular facts have a causal relation to the belief of the mortality of all humans. In addition, given that the universal fact of the mortality of all humans has a logical relation to the facts that represent its instances, it can be claimed that the universal fact has a causal relation to an individuals profession of the belief of all humans mortality. Thus, using the constructs of the causal theory, the claim of knowledge of all humans mortality becomes sensible; again, this depends on if we will accept Goldmans assumption of causal chains comprising the integration of causal chains that have logical connections.

A third question relates to the ability of facts to stand in situations where we have causal relations. It is arguable that things cannot happen without events and agents. Goldman makes a simple declaration of the intention to consider facts as causes, but he takes no tangible action towards legitimizing the intention. Specifically, the contention lies in the lack of clarity on whether if we claim that an event resulted from a specific fact, we can as well deem the occurrence to have resulted from some event. Thus, a fundamental problem emerges; can states, instead of events, qualify s causes? There are varying degrees of the extent to which aspects of Goldmans formulation of the causal theory of knowledge are demanding relative to the JTB analysis.

There might be, although not mandatory, a requirement that a subject should have sufficient justification for professing a particular belief. However, there is a definite requirement that an appropriate form of causal connection between a fact and a related belief. It may seem that a pertinent concern relates to why an unspecified causal connection is insufficient. If the requirement alludes to the existence of just some causal connection, the link between the theory and responses to Gettiers problems becomes apparent. For instance, let us assume that person A is in Haiti, and is walking past a newsstand. There is a sudden fall of a newspaper off the racks; person A looks at the newspapers headline, which indicates that an earthquake has just ravaged Haiti. The person now does not doubt that an earthquake has just ravaged Haiti. There is a justification in the belief of an earthquake following the sight of the headline.

In addition, person A is witnessing an earthquake hitting Haiti. We can therefore say his belief is not false. However, the newspaper person A just read is more than 20 years old, but the belief in the occurrence of an earthquake results from an earthquake itself, considering the role of an earth tremor resulting from an earthquake in causing the paper to fall from the rack. From the foregoing, there is immense pressure on the causal theorist stemming from the need to provide elaboration of the requirement that an underlying fact must cause a related belief.

It will be necessary for the causal theorist to show that an underlying fact must cause a belief in the appropriate mechanism; this brings up another set of questions- what kind of mechanisms can we accept? Is it possible to rule out causal chains that depict deviant aspects? From these questions, it may become apparent that the causal theory of knowledge has not been serious about the notion that it is essential for knowledge to rule out luck. Chance can equally facilitate the forging of a causal connection between a fact and the attendant belief (Hetherington, 1996). Capturing the essence of the concept of knowledge requires a different type of connection between a fact and a belief.

It is also important to acknowledge the origins of the causal theory of knowledge as a class of theories that have recently resulted from the naturalistic turn that philosophy has taken. It has found its place and complemented the causal theories of perception, action and memory. It is integral to appreciate that a glance at other causal theories can yield insights on the causal theory of knowledge. There has been a suggestion that a common thread cross all causal theories is the faulty postulation of an inappropriate relationship a psychological phenomenon and a non-psychological condition. For instance, an individuals belief may not be consistent with extant facts. The underlying idea is that for a psychological constituent to emerge, the attainment of the outcome is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition.

For the causal theory of knowledge, commentators object to how it postulates inappropriate relationships between realties and beliefs. Causality lacks the features required for it constitute the appropriate link between psychological circumstances and the reality. Causality, being a non-normative relationship, actually holds when the issue at stake concerns natural events and tangible objects (Hetherington, 2001). However, we can argue that a typical requirement for cases of knowledge is that the subject of knowledge must be in a position to provide reasons for the relevant belief. The problem with reasons is that they are not causes, since they exist within the assumptions of a normative framework but do not have inherent correlative questions.

Causes exist in a descriptive, and not prescriptive, space. A common argument requires that persons must be able to state the reasons that lead them to hold certain beliefs, which cannot easily be said of causes. It is possible for one to hold a belief because of a certain cause, but they do not know much about the cause of their belief. Thus, a glimpse into contention between internalists and externalists in epistemology emerges; to internalists, the subject must access the relationship between knowledge and a particular belief. If the subject does not have this access, there is no way the subject should consider himself or herself as being in possession of knowledge. The externalist, on the other hand, insists that a relationship between a subjects belief and a fact has to exist, but there has to be an allowance for the fact that the relationship might not be accessible to the subject.


Goldman, A. I.. (1976). Discrimination and Perceptual Knowledge. Journal of Philosophy 73: 771-91

Hetherington, S. (1996). Knowledge Puzzles: An Introduction to Epistemology (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press).

Hetherington, S. (2001). Good Knowledge, Bad Knowledge: On Two Dogmas of Epistemology (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Weinberg, J., Nichols, S., and Stich, S. (2001). "Normativity and Epistemic Intuitions." Philosophical Topics 29: 429-60.

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