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07/15/2013

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anonymous grad student

I don't think Pigliucci is arguing that the Gettier cases are progress because they eliminated a logically impossible account of knowledge. He seems (from my quick scan of his post) to be arguing that the Gettier cases were progress because they spawned a whole literature of people investigating logical possibilities that it hadn't previously occurred to anyone to investigate. And that seems exactly right to me. One could buck the trend and maintain that we have knowledge in the Gettier cases, but that's not what is important: what is important is that they seemed convincing to a very vast majority of epistemologists, which then spawned an exploration of possible accounts of knowledge that (for the most part) no one had bothered to explore or think through before.

I think his last paragraph sums this up quite well.

Moti Mizrahi

Thanks for commenting. As I understand it, if your interpretation of MP is right, then it is not the case that "progress is measured by the elimination of logically flawed positions and the refinement of logically sound alternatives," as he writes. Rather, progress is measured by the *discovery* of logical possibilities. More logical possibilities is better; hence, progress.

If so, then that's why I raised the second question. After all, it seems rather easy to come up with logical possibilities.

Brad Cokelet

Hi Moti,

I think the first commenter is right, but I think that the key might to notice that many logical possibilities are uninteresting. Progress ensures when someone questions a background assumption and then people have to develop theories or analyses or accounts that no longer make use of the relevant assumption. This leads people to carve up new logical space which relates to some interesting philosophic topic and the ensuing discussion sheds light on that topic.

So it might be easy to come up with logical possibilities, but it is not easy to come up with neglected ones that shed light on deep and abiding philosophic issues.

Moti Mizrahi

Hi Brad,

Thanks for your comment. Yours and anon grad student's take on progress seems to me very different from MP's. That's not a problem, of course. I do have a worry, though. How do we judge which logical possibilities are more interesting than others? In the debate on scientific progress, with which I am familiar, the notions of being interesting and significant are also invoked in judging what counts as progress. But it is notoriously difficult to make these notions precise.

Brad Cokelet

Hi Moti,

Interesting questions. I think we are pretty good at making these judgements in many cases but agree that giving an account of what makes them correct or flawed is no easy task. I doubt there is one type of significant interesting progress in philosophy to make precise, which would make providing an account harder!

Brad Cokelet

I am curious: have you read Gutting's "What Philosopher's Know"? I started it but have not gotten back to it, and wonder what you think of his account, if he gives one.

Moti Mizrahi

Thanks for your reply, Brad. I haven't gotten to reading Gutting's book yet. But it's on my summer reading list.

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