Gettier and the epistemic appraisal of philosophical intuition

Alvin I. Goldman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Reactions to Gettier’s 1963 paper demonstrated the powerful role of intuitions in philosophical methodology. Later work has challenged the evidential role of intuitions (spontaneous classification judgments) in philosophy. This chapter adopts a reliability approach to positive evidential status. How, then, might one assess the prospects of reliable indication for classification judgments? One way to pursue such assessments is to study the (mental) sub-tasks that a subject must execute to make an accurate classification judgment of the relevant kind (e.g., does protagonist X in scenario Y exemplify knowing with respect to proposition p?). Three important subtasks are identified: (A) constructing an accurate representation of the scenario, (B) constructing an accurate representation of the category (e.g., knowing), and (C) accurately comparing the two representations to see if there is a ‘match’ (e.g., does X exemplify knowing with respect to p?). Drawing on experiments and psychological work on classification judgment, one sees how errors can slip into cognitive performance. There is no a priori guarantee of correctness. Empirical techniques can also shed light on the much debated question of whether philosophers have greater expertise in making the relevant judgments and are therefore entitled to have their intuitions assigned greater evidential weight than those of laypersons. In an experimental study by John Turri, lay subjects who were given Gettier scenarios apparently did not track all of the relevant details. When experimental manipulations heightened the salience of these details, however, lay judgments were more closely aligned to those of philosophers, suggesting that, without this help, laypersons neglect relevant factors. Other studies in the psychology of categorization also shed light on possible sources of classification error.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationExplaining Knowledge
Subtitle of host publicationNew Essays on the Gettier Problem
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780198724551
ISBN (Print)9780198724568
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


  • Classification judgment
  • Cognitive sub-tasks
  • Epistemology
  • Gettier
  • Intuition


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