Blargh Blog

Monday, October 18, 2004

If you're happy that you clap your hands, then you know it

Brian Weatherson at TAR argues that Gettier cases are cases of knowledge based on the claim that "If X is happy that p then X knows that p." He claims it is correct to say that someone who is made happy by a Gettier belief p is happy that p, and he follows Williamson in claiming that being "happy that p", "angry that p", "relieved that p", etc. is a factive mental state that implies that knowing p.

I disagree with Brian's argument.

I think that it can be appropriate to say "X is happy that p" as long as X is made happy by his belief that p. For instance, Timmy is happy that Santa considers him to be a good boy.

"X is happy that p" only tends to imply that X knows p because of a linguistic convention which can be overruled, either by context (as with Timmy) or by qualifying the statement, as in "Even though Bush has actually increased funding for education, his chances at reelection could be harmed by the fact that there are thousands of teachers who are angry that he has cut school funding."

This "angry that" sentence does not sound any worse than the claim for the Gettier case, "Smith was relieved that his secretary was in the office." For Brian's argument to work, the statements about Timmy and the teachers must be false, and this statement about Smith must be true. This does not seem plausible to me.

For more, see the comments at TAR.


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