Gettier in a Court of Law

42 Southern Illinois University Law Journal 409 (Spring 2018)

12 Pages Posted: 1 May 2017 Last revised: 15 Jul 2018

Date Written: June 01, 2018


The “Gettier Problem” has perplexed philosophers for decades. The Gettier problem is offered as evidence that justified true belief cannot be a sufficient definition for knowledge because one could have a belief that was justified and that was in fact true but it turns out that the justification was based on false empirical data. An incredible amount of literature had been generated by the problem. Some researchers conclude that it is an intractable problem and others that it is not. However, a simple methodology to unpack the solution to the problem has not been articulated.

This article will propose to use the setting of a witness in a court of law to elucidate the logical flaws in the Gettier problem. The federal Rules of Evidence and the evidentiary basis for legal rulings on various aspects of a witness’ testimony will elucidate the problem and the solution to the problem in a simple and clear fashion. This is a bold claim but, if it is effective, it will result in the conclusion that the problem is not based on a failure in the definition of knowledge as justified true belief but that the Gettier problem itself unwittingly employs a subtle shift in the meaning of terms. In other words, by putting claims of belief in a courtroom setting, light is shed on what counts as belief and what counts as knowledge which, in turn, will illustrate the nature of the shift in meanings between the two.

Keywords: Gettier problem, philosophy, epistemology, knowledge, linguistic philosophy, legal philosophy, evidence

Suggested Citation

Sanger, Robert M., Gettier in a Court of Law (June 01, 2018). 42 Southern Illinois University Law Journal 409 (Spring 2018), Available at SSRN: or

Robert M. Sanger (Contact Author)

Santa Barbara College of Law ( email )

20 East Victoria Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
United States
8059624887 (Phone)


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