Lay Denial of Knowledge for Justified True Beliefs

Cognition 129 (3):652-661 (2013)
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Abstract

Intuitively, there is a difference between knowledge and mere belief. Contemporary philosophical work on the nature of this difference has focused on scenarios known as “Gettier cases.” Designed as counterexamples to the classical theory that knowledge is justified true belief, these cases feature agents who arrive at true beliefs in ways which seem reasonable or justified, while nevertheless seeming to lack knowledge. Prior empirical investigation of these cases has raised questions about whether lay people generally share philosophers’ intuitions about these cases, or whether lay intuitions vary depending on individual factors (e.g. ethnicity) or factors related to specific types of Gettier cases (e.g. cases that include apparent evidence). We report an experiment on lay attributions of knowledge and justification for a wide range of Gettier Cases and for a related class of controversial cases known as Skeptical Pressure cases, which are also thought by philosophers to elicit intuitive denials of knowledge. Although participants rated true beliefs in Gettier and Skeptical Pressure cases as being justified, they were significantly less likely to attribute knowledge for these cases than for matched true belief cases. This pattern of response was consistent across different variations of Gettier cases and did not vary by ethnicity or gender, although attributions of justification were found to be positively related to measures of empathy. These findings therefore suggest that across demographic groups, laypeople share similar epistemic concepts with philosophers, recognizing a difference between knowledge and justified true belief.

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Jennifer Nagel
University of Toronto, Mississauga

References found in this work

Discrimination and perceptual knowledge.Alvin I. Goldman - 1976 - Journal of Philosophy 73 (November):771-791.
Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?Edmund Gettier - 1963 - Analysis 23 (6):121-123.

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