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Thursday, September 23, 2010

More on Gettier: Accounting for Donnellan

John left a very thoughtful comment on a previous entry about Gettier. Following Donnellan, John presents two possible readings of

(1) The man who gets the job has ten coins in his pocket.

One reading is called "referential and the other is "attributive." I don't think either one creates a problem for my analysis of Gettier cases, though itdoes force me to clarify and elaborate upon my argument.

If we take Smith to be using "The man who gets the job" in the referential sense, then (as John observes) what Smith says is true. It would mean that (1) is semantically equivalent to

(2) Jones has ten coins in his pocket
(3) The man whom I believe will get the job has ten coins in his pocket
(4) The man whom I refer to as "the man who gets the job" has ten coins in his pocket.

(2)-(4) are all justified true beliefs held by Smith. Thus, under a referential reading, (1) is a justified true belief held by Smith. However, a fact which John overlooked is that, in this case, (1) is also propositional knowledge, because Smith knows (2)-(4). Smith knows that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. Smith knows that the person he refers to as "The man who gets the job" has ten coins in his pocket, and that the man whom he believes will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. So, if Smith is using (1) in the referential sense, there is no Gettier problem.

Next there is the attributive reading, in which case (1) presumably means:

(5) There is an x such that x will get the job. (I.e., somebody will get the job)
(6) For every x and every y, if both x and y will get the job, then x is y. (No more than one person will get the job.)
(7) Anyone who gets the job has ten coins in his pocket.

As John says, this reading of (1) is also true. However, as my initial argument implies, Smith has no justification for this belief. He is justified in believing (5) and (6), but not (7). I don't think Smith has this belief at all, and I do not think this is what Smith means when he utters (1). This is why I say Smith's belief is de re, not de dicto.

Smith's belief, as entailed by (1), and which I claim is false, is this:

(8) There is an x such that x will get the job.
(9) For every x and every y, if both x and y will get the job, then x is y.
(10) X has ten coins in his pocket.
(11) Jones is X.

This might be called a de re attributive reading. I do not suppose that Smith means (8)-(11) when he says (1); I only suppose that, in so far as (1) is an attributive expression of Smith's belief, that belief entails (8)-(11). I would say Smith is capable of using (1) sincerely to mean (8)-(10) only because he believes (11) in conjuction with (8)-(10).

In sum, (1) can be taken in a referential sense, in which case it is both a justified true belief and a case of propositional knowledge; or it can be taken in a de dicto attributive sense, in which case it is not justified, or in a de re attributive sense, in which it is false. None of these readings supports the claim that there is a Gettier problem. On the contrary, as I maintain, there is no such problem to speak of.

P.S. Unfortunately, this post does not mark a return to regular blogging. I'm still short on time.