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Exceptions To Explanations

Fourth Condition (JTB+G) approaches

The most common direction for this sort of response to take is what might be called a "JTB+G" analysis: that is, an analysis based on finding some fourthcondition "” a "no-Gettier-problem" condition "” which, when added to the conditions of justification, truth, and belief, will yield a set of necessary and jointly sufficient conditions.
In general, exceptions ruin explanations.

For example, if I propose that when I jump off a building I will float and not fall, this is an exception to the theory of gravity. But it's not an itty, bitty thing that has consequences isolated to this one day, one building, one person. It completely ruins the theory of gravity for all cases. Why should the explanations about curved space-time (or the more common sense knowledge about how heavy stuff falls to the earth) not apply to this particular case? *No reason*. So, that's a disaster. When do they apply, and when don't they? Why those times and not the others? We have no idea what's going on! Just because this one exception messed things up.

If it really happened -- I jumped off the building and floated *just once* -- this one exception would interest scientists worldwide and make them rethink gravity in general, and other related physics too. It's consequences could not be contained by suggesting "the theory of gravity plus the theory of Elliot floating on March 7"

So getting back to the article:

They have a theory that K=JTB (knowledge is justified true belief). This theory, and the *reasons for it*, are intended to apply to all knowledge. Just like the theory of gravity's explanations apply to all people and all places.

Then they find an exception. So someone proposes a new theory: K=JTB+G. It's the old theory with an exception tacked on for the Gettier problem. It's exactly the theory we found ridiculous in the gravity case. You can't contain things like this. Epistemologists worldwide should be going, "Oh my God, we can't have exceptions! Something is very wrong here!"

Though I have to say, K=JTB was never a reasonable explanatory theory in the first place. It did not contain reasons it should apply to all knowledge, they just guessed that it did because they couldn't think of more exceptions. In fact, they seem to have started with the idea that whatever we think of is knowledge, and then eliminated three common exceptions. What's the big deal in throwing out one more? Only that checklists are the wrong approach to epistemology and finding that they are incomplete should be considered a hint that you've got the wrong approach.

PS I realize there were other responses given. If you think any of them are good, and say why, I'll be happy to comment.

PPS This is mostly explained in


Elliot Temple on March 7, 2008

Messages (2)

Checklist approach to knowledge


> A creative approach I have seen people take is to compile a big list of do's and don'ts. Simply follow every rule on the list, and your output will be perfect. Instructors love these lists, but it's bad pedagogy, because the approach doesn't work.

> Instructors in all fields take this approach, from poetry to baseball. The peewee attempts his first at-bat. "Keep your elbow up. Feet shoulder-width apart. Eyes front. Barrel above the shoulder. Head down. Choke up. Square up. Look at the ball. Front foot at the corner of the plate. Step into the swing. etc. etc." By the time the instructions have finished the pupil is so overwhelmed there's no possible way he could hit the ball. A much better approach is for the kid to try to hit the ball in his natural way. Then, if necessary, he can work on one improvement at a time, starting with the most important.

Alisa at 1:13 AM on December 28, 2016 | #8126 | reply | quote

Checklist approach to knowledge

I think checklists are useful in the narrow context of reminding people of things they already know. They are one solution to the problem of forgetting.

PAS at 7:03 AM on December 28, 2016 | #8127 | reply | quote

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