The field of epistemology grapples with a fundamental question: how do we know what we know? And what does it mean to know something?
Humans are ambulatory machines that are really good at two things: secreting various fluids, and recognizing and interpreting patterns. Which is to say, we observe the world around us, we derive information from those observations, we develop working theories about how stuff works, and then we use that information to test the structure and consistency of the world.
This sounds really obvious, but it turns out to be anything but. At the core of mainline epistemological thought is the idea of the Justified True Belief; in other words, one believes something to be true, and if there is justification for that belief, it becomes knowledge. It goes something like this:
A subject (S) knows that a proposition (P) is true if and only if
- P is true
- S believes that P is true
- S is justified in believing that P is true
But in a paper published in 1963, philosopher Edmund Gettier called bullshit on all that. Here is one of his famous counterexamples (which, for the sake of expediency, we’re quoting from Wikipedia):
Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition: (d) Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket.
Smith’s evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that Jones would, in the end, be selected and that he, Smith, had counted the coins in Jones’s pocket ten minutes ago. Proposition (d) entails: (e) The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket.
Let us suppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence. In this case, Smith is clearly justified in believing that (e) is true.
But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is the true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false. In our example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true, (ii) Smith believes that (e) is true, and (iii) Smith is justified in believing that (e) is true. But it is equally clear that Smith does not know that (e) is true; for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith’s pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith’s pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jones’s pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.
So that’s where we’re at. We may believe something is true. We may have justification to believe that something is true. But that, strictly speaking, doesn’t actually make it true.
We believe that the Chicago Fire played a preseason friendly against Orlando City, their last training scrimmage of their Florida trip. (Epistemologically speaking, a lot of work has to happen in your brain for that sentence to make any sense.) We have some justification, as demonstrated below, for that belief.
But do we know the game actually happened?
Strictly speaking, you could make an argument for not being totally sure on that point even if you watched the game. The empiricists among you are no doubt ready to fight me on this— to which I will refer you to Bealer and Strawson before telling you to bite my shiny metal ass— but for the moment we have to consider the possibility that direct perceptual observation is justification for a belief but does not necessarily translate directly into truth.
As it happens, very few people got to see the game at all.
No in-game updates or match report this morning, but here's how #cf97 is lining up at Orlando City:— Scott Hammer (@Scott_Hammer_) February 24, 2018
Cleveland; Ramos, Kappelhof, Dean, Vincent; McCarty, Schweinsteiger, Adams; Bakero, Campos; Niko
If a tree falls in the woods, and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?
Not anticipating that announcement unfortunately.. pic.twitter.com/EcjcfvdW0L— Scott Hammer (@Scott_Hammer_) February 24, 2018
If a soccer game happens on a pitch, and no one’s available to report on it, did it actually happen?
We do, thankfully, have some justification for our belief that the Fire beat Orlando 3-2 earlier today. This justification comes courtesy of Orlando City beat reporter Mike Gramajo.
Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire, last 15 mins of today’s final preseason scrimmage. pic.twitter.com/ImTiHAP3wK— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
Now we’re cooking with gas!
Soon after Mike started reporting on the game, Nemanja Nikolic gave the Fire a 2-0 lead.
Goal Chicago, 2-0. Bendik with a giveaway, Nikolic with the finisher.— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
But then the Fire conceded a penalty and the Lions were back in it.
GOAL Orlando. Yotun buries the PK. 2-1, Chicago.— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
Then came the highlight of the day— a fight that ultimately involved a Chicago player and erstwhile Fire Homegrown prospect Cam Lindley, who forced a trade to Orlando earlier in the offseason.
We have a scuffle here. Yoshi getting into it with a Chicago player and sent off. pic.twitter.com/0Zt96lPLMc— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
Chicago player elbows Cam Lindley, Fire coach Paunovic asks why he did that, send his own player off.— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
Elbowing opponents in a preseason friendly. #TheChicagoWay
Soon after, Orlando tied things up.
Goal Orlando. Mueller ties the game, 2-2.— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
But the Men In Red weren’t having it today.
And in the end, our guys triumphed over adversity.
FINAL: Chicago Fire 3 - Orlando City 2. Unofficial score, but that concludes Lions’ preseason matches.— Mike Gramajo (@byMikeGramajo) February 24, 2018
We should also mention that Dom Dwyer picked up an injury during the game, and is apparently serious enough that he’ll miss Orlando’s first game of the season.
So. We have a belief that the Fire beat Orlando earlier today. We have justification for that belief.
But did it actually happen?
Let us know in the comments!