Tuesday, September 6, 2016

On Thursday we will develop the responses to the Gettier problem discussed by Turri.

Here is the thought question for Thursday:

Slim is a racist and he is particularly prejudiced against Muslims. He regards all Muslim males as potential terrorists. One day on campus he sees a man, who is in fact a Muslim student, walk into the student union dining commons. Slim notices that the man is behaving nervously and also thinks that it is very odd that he is continuing to wear his bulky jacket even though it is warm indoors. When the man reaches inside his coat Slim is suddenly seized with the certainty that he is about to detonate an explosive device. (Slim has no training of any kind in recognizing terrorists or people carrying explosive devices.) Slim tackles the man from behind, knocking him unconscious. Slim was right. He saved hundreds of student lives that day and is heralded as a hero.
Bert lives in Alaska and is normal in most ways. One of his few peculiarities is that he believes himself to be deathly allergic to dragon fruit. He almost died after eating it many years ago while he was travelling alone in Vietnam. Bert is actually not allergic to dragon fruit at all. In fact, he has never even eaten dragon fruit. The fruit he ate that day was a melon served to tourists as dragon fruit. It had been washed in contaminated water. The local physician that treated Bert was probably aware of this, but told him that he was allergic to dragon fruit and Bert has believed it ever since. He has never even thought to tell his wife Midge about the episode, who as far as he knows has never heard of dragon fruit. One morning Midge makes them a smoothie for lunch, something she does often. Just before taking a sip Bert, who has not thought about the episode in years, suddenly recalls it and becomes seized with fear. Honey, he said, you didn't put something called dragon fruit in this did you? Midge's jaw dropped: Yes, I did. I saw some at the market this morning and decided it would be fun to try. My God, how did you know that?

(1) Did Slim know that the man was a terrorist? (2) Did Bert know that there was dragon fruit in the smoothie? Make your reasons explicit in each case. (Do not speculate about possibilities not stated in the examples.) (3) If you were forced to choose one as a case of knowing and the other as a case of not knowing, what would you say and why?

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