Sandy was here last weekend, and one of the issues that came up in discussion had to do with the internalism/externalism controversy and its connection with the Gettier problem. Sandy conjectured that externalists take, or are entitled to take, their condition to be what distinguishes knowledge from true belief, whereas internalists need not only their condition but also a condition to assuage Gettier.
My reaction was to cite the history of Plantinga’s similar approach, in which his early theory of warrant attempted to bypass the Gettier problem, identifying warrant first with whatever closes the gap between true belief and knowledge and later with that quantity enough of which turns true belief into knowledge. In response to criticisms from, among others, Swain, Feldman and Klein, in the collection of essays I edited on Plantinga’s theory, Plantinga came to see that some condition to assuage Gettier was needed in addition to his theory of warrant. I proffered that this history is instructive and shows that Goldberg’s conjecture should be rejected.
I’m beginning to have doubts, however.
There’s a trivial way in which to maintain Sandy’s point, simply by identifying the externalist condition with the conjunction of some standard justification condition plus a Gettier condition. But that’s not what’s at issue here, though it’s hard to say exactly what the difference is. We might try to enumerate externalist approaches, such as sensitivity, safety, proper function, reliability, and the like, and then check whether any of these can sustain Goldberg’s conjecture, the conjecture that in some non-trivial sense, externalists can give a 3-condition account of knowledge whereas internalists need a 4-condition account.
There are two questions here. The obvious one is whether Sandy’s conjecture is correct. The other one is whether there is beginning to be a conception of accounts of knowledge on which it is correct. On the latter issue, I think I was assuming that not many would agree with Sandy, but I’m not sure I’m right anymore. Sosa, for example, seems to want to identify knowledge with safe and virtuous belief, and other recent virtue accounts (Greco and Zagzebski, for example) don’t offer Gettier conditions either. Even reliabilists often talk only of reliability.
My view is that it’s not that difficult to adapt well-known Gettier cases to be counterexamples to such externalist theories, but that doesn’t answer the question of whether externalists are coming to view their views as immune to Gettier issues. My initial inclination was to interpret the lack of discussion as something like despair over being able to offer such an account, but perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps externalists are leaning toward endorsing Goldberg’s conjecture…