The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

LFRG, 11/9 - Wataru Uegaki

Speaker: Wataru Uegaki
Title: Inquisitive knowledge attribution and the Gettier problem
Location: 32D-831
Time: Wednesday, Nov 9, 4:00PM-5:30PM (Please note the unusual day and time; Friday is a holiday)


The Gettier problem (Gettier 1963) in epistemology concerns cases of intuitively false knowledge attribution that is predicted to be valid by the traditional view that a knowledge consists of a justified true belief. This problem can be recast as a puzzle for the standard semantic analysis of “know”. In the situation described in (1), (2) is intuitively false. However, a semantics that equates knowledge with justified true belief predicts it to be true.

(1) Smith justifiably believes that Jones owns a Ford. (He saw Jones having a key of a Ford, washing a Ford etc.) He justifiably deduces from this belief that Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona although he is unopinionated about Brown’s whereabouts. It turned out that Jones in fact did not have a Ford, but Brown was in Barcelona.
(2) Smith knows that [Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona].

In this talk, I will provide a new solution to this puzzle by giving “know” a meaning that operates on a question-denotation (ie. a set of alternative possibilities) even when it combines with a declarative complement, making crucial use of the proposals in Alternative Semantics (Kratzer and Shimoyama 2002, Alonso-Ovalle 2006 a.o.) and Inquisitive Semantics (Groenendijk 2009, Groenendijk and Roelofsen 2009). In the proposed analysis, “x knows p” is true iff x has a justified true belief of an alternative contained in p, and x has no justified belief of any stronger alternative. I will also claim that a natural extension of the current proposal accounts for the selection restrictions of other attitude predicates, such as “believe” and “wonder”.