The Risk Minimisation Conception of Justification
Smith (Martin)
Source: Introduction to Between Probability and Certainty: What Justifies Belief (Oxford University Press, 2016)
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Some philosophers have claimed that cases involving lotteries provide vivid counterexamples to the traditional analysis of knowledge as justified, true belief (see Hawthorne, 2003, pp9, Pritchard, 2007, pp4). They reason along the following lines: Suppose I hold a single ticket in a fair lottery of one million tickets. Suppose I am convinced, purely on the basis of the odds involved, that my ticket won’t win. Do I know that my ticket won’t win? Intuitively, I don’t know any such thing, even if it happens to be true. Presumably, though, I have plenty of justification for believing that my ticket won’t win – after all, given my evidence, this proposition has a 99.9999% chance of being true. How much more justification could one want? If I’m not justified in believing that my ticket won’t win, then surely none of us are justified in believing much at all. Here is a case, then, in which a justified, true belief fails to qualify as knowledge.
  2. This argument seems straightforward enough, and yet there are reasons for being uneasy about it. On reflection, lottery cases seem somehow different from the standard Gettier cases that are used to refute the traditional analysis of knowledge. Consider the following: I wander into a room, undergo a visual experience as of a red wall and come to believe that the wall is red. In actual fact the wall is red but, unbeknownst to me, it is bathed in strong red light emanating from a hidden source, such that it would have looked exactly the same to me even if it had been white. Intuitively, I do not know, in this case, that the wall is red, in spite of the fact that my belief is both justified and true.


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