The Gettier Problem in Star Wars: The Last Jedi
This blog post will have spoilers for the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi
After many hard-fought battles throughout the Star Wars franchise, the rebels find themselves hopelessly cornered in an old rebel base. In front of the only known entrance of the base is an immense army of enemies. General Leia then looks up and sees her brother Luke seemingly walking in from the back of the base.
Then, while Luke is busy fighting Kylo Ren, Poe Dameron—Leia’s renegade pilot—concludes that Luke did not come into the base through the front door and therefore must have come from the back, through the caves. Since Luke came in through the caves, the rebels would also be able to exit through the caves.
With this argument made, the rebels resolve to look for the exit.
In ushering the rebels toward the caves, Poe has a justified, true, belief. Poe believes there is a way out through the caves, he justifies this belief on the entrance by Luke, and we find out that it is true that there is a way out through the caves.
There’s just one problem with Poe’s justified, true, belief: his premise is completely wrong.
Luke didn’t enter from a secret entrance. Luke is *major spoiler alert* projecting himself using the force. Luke never entered because Luke isn’t actually there. The fact that Poe happened to find a secret entrance is just luck (or the Force), not sound argumentation.
Inadvertently, Poe has stumbled into the Gettier Problem.
The philosopher Edmund Gettier originally introduced his problem as a way to combat the typically held definition of knowledge. At the time of Gettier’s writing, knowledge had often been defined as justified true belief. This means that knowledge had to be a belief by someone, and that belief had to be reasonably justified, and the belief had to be true.
Gettier’s problem with this definition is that there are scenarios in which someone could theoretically have a justified true belief, but have those beliefs be based on utter falsehood. Here in Star Wars: The Last Jedi we see such a scenario. To these scenarios Gettier asks: How can knowledge be based on falsehood? If one can have a justified true belief, but still not have knowledge, what additional requirement is there for the definition of knowledge?
Unfortunately, neither Gettier nor Luke gave us any answers, so we will continue to wrestle with this idea, as the long the rebels continue to fight for freedom!