What good are counterexamples?

Philosophical Studies 115 (1):1-31 (2003)
Intuitively, Gettier cases are instances of justified true beliefs that are not cases of knowledge. Should we therefore conclude that knowledge is not justified true belief? Only if we have reason to trust intuition here. But intuitions are unreliable in a wide range of cases. And it can be argued that the Gettier intuitions have a greater resemblance to unreliable intuitions than to reliable intuitions. Whats distinctive about the faulty intuitions, I argue, is that respecting them would mean abandoning a simple, systematic and largely successful theory in favour of a complicated, disjunctive and idiosyncratic theory. So maybe respecting the Gettier intuitions was the wrong reaction, we should instead have been explaining why we are all so easily misled by these kinds of cases.
Keywords Gettier  intuitions  JTB analysis
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Cross-posted from http://mleseminar.wordpress.com/


Handout here, original paper here.

In this paper Brian Weatherson argues that we can in principle make substantive discoveries in theoretical philosophy which correct mistakes in our pre-theoretic beliefs about some subject matter. The crux of the argument is that, according to the right (eg the Lewisian) theory about meaning, the referents of our theoretical terms are often stable over small variations in use. In some domain where there are few very natural candidate referents to which we might plausibly be interpreted as referring , even relatively systematic false beliefs can be tolerated before use is changed enough for reference to change. Thus it can be the case that the correct response to an intuitive counterexample is to reject certain kinds of intuitions in order to preserve overall theoretical unity and simplicity.

The example looked at in detail is the Gettier counterexamples to the JTB theory of knowledge. Weatherson isn’t ... (read more)