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This volume endeavors to explain the most important developments in philosophy since the end of the Second World War. Yet even when we restrict our focus primarily to those insights and movements that most profoundly shaped the English-speaking philosophical world (as we reluctantly found it necessary to do), it still remains the case that no one – and no one volume (not even a volume like ours, filled with more than fifty chapters from a diverse range of leading philosophers) – can tell this whole story. This is not only because there is no one single overarching story to tell, but also because the overlapping and sometimes conflicting stories that together constitute this complex history are still being written – here in this book, for example. Two of the reasons for the history of philosophy’s necessary incompleteness came to the fore of (what we risk calling) the general self-understanding of Western philosophy during this historical period. These interconnected philosophical reasons (or self-realizations) merit emphasis here, especially because they remain subtle undercurrents throughout the book.
What value is there in the counterexample method in philosophy? For sure, a well-constructed counterexample is an effective means of revealing the deficiency in a proposed analysis of a concept. But where do we go from there? If, for example, as is clearly the case in the recent history of analyses of “S knows that p” (hereafter just “knows”), there is no consensus on an adequate definition, does the churning out of ever more clever counterexamples simply devolve into a competition to knock contenders out of the ring? It can certainly seem that way, which leads many philosophers to despair of the very idea of analysis. In my view, however, drawing that inference misses the point and beauty of the proposed-analysis-and-counterexample method. We learn a lot from the failures of analysis, which drives us to original thinking about the concept at issue. Nowhere is this clearer than in the history of epistemology after Gettier’s (1963) refutation of the Justified True Belief analysis (JTB) of “knows.” In this chapter, I aim to show how the ground beneath Gettier’s demolition has proved to be remarkably fertile.