(DR) For any subject S, if S knows that p then S can distinguish the actual situation in which p from all relevant or nearby alternative situations in which ~p.Recall, J-reliabilism amounts to following claim:
(J-Rel) For any subject S, S’s belief that p is justified IFF it was formed via a reliable process (i.e., a process that tends to produce true beliefs).According to (J-Rel), reliability is what makes a belief justified. (see [Goldman 1979]). By defining justification in terms of reliability, J-reliabilists hope to eliminate that element of luck that allows our beliefs, under the traditional JTB account, to be Gettiered. However, it is not clear that (J-Rel) is sufficient for resisting Gettier type cases. For example, consider the following perceptual Gettier case:
Suppose S has strong perceptual evidence for, and comes to believe, the proposition:
(a) There is a red cube in the box on the table.Now, it so happens that there is in fact a red cube in the box on the table, though the cube is being obscured from S’s visual field by some sort of barrier. Furthermore, the box is rigged up to a computer which projects a visual hologram of a red cube in the box. However, the computer is programmed to only project the hologram of the red cube in the box when there is a real red cube in the box. Moreover, S lacks any of this background information, and forms her belief that (a) purely on the basis of the hologram of the red cube. All of the following seem true in the above case:
(i) (a) is trueEx hypothesi, (iii) is true since the computer is programmed to only project the hologram of a red cube when there is an actual red cube present (one may build in whatever stipulations one likes, such as that the computer is eternal and infallible in its operation etc.). Thus, S’s belief that there is a red cube in the box is reliable since the process by which the belief was formed would, given the computer’s programming, tend to produce true beliefs. However, I believe this represents a bona fide Gettier case since, though S has a justified (i.e., reliably formed) true belief, we wouldn’t say that she has knowledge.
(ii) S believes (a) is true
(iii) S’s belief that (a) is formed via a reliable process
I take the above Gettier case to show that mere reliability is insufficient for eliminating the element of luck from S’s belief that (a). To wit, (J-Rel) fails to eliminate the element of luck associated with S’s belief that (a) since the fact that her belief is reliable is (from the subject’s perspective) itself merely a matter of luck. Thus, we may say that it is lucky that S’s belief was formed via a reliable process. Significantly, the particular species of epistemic luck here described is easily eliminated by making the reliability of the belief forming process internally available to S. Thus, if S knew that what she was seeing was merely a hologram, but that the hologram was itself reliably linked to the presence of an actual red cube in the box, then our intuitions would grant that S does in fact know that there is a red cube in the box. Thus, I see the above Gettier case as corroborating the internalist intuition that that which justifies S’s beliefs should be internally available to her.
Notice that I haven’t made any references to S being able to discriminate between actual red cubes and holograms of red cubes, nor to definitions of reliability that appeal to relevant alternatives (See [Goldman 1986]). This failure to invoke (DR) is in keeping with my ultimate goal of showing that what is doing the real work in classic reliabilist accounts is not reliability qua reliability, but rather an implicit commitment to (DR). Above, I have argued that reliability alone [i.e., (J-Rel)] is insufficient for responding to Gettier. In my next post, I argue that the mistaken assumption that (J-Rel) and (DR) must go together has misled reliability advocates to impute to J-reliabilism an explanatory power that it actually lacks.
Goldman, A. (1967), 'A Causal Theory of Knowing', Journal of Philosophy 64: 355-372.
Goldman, A. (1976), 'Discrimination and Perceptual Knowledge', Journal of Philosophy 73: 771-791.
Goldman, A. (1979), 'What is Justified Belief?' Justification and Knowledge, Dordrecht: Reidel.