The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1981 Friday, 10 October 2003
Date: Thursday, 9 Oct 2003 10:28:05 -0500
Subject: 14.1967 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge
Comment: RE: SHK 14.1967 Shakespeare and the Theory of Knowledge
I can't think of an unqualified Gettier case in Shakespeare, but isn't
Oscar Wilde's entire play, "The Importance of Being Earnest," built
around such a case of a true knowledge based on a false observation? In
the first scene, Algernon produces a cigarette case inscribed to "Jack"
and insists it cannot belong to his friend Ernest. When his friend
replies that his name isn't Ernest at all, but Jack, Algernon produces a
list of evidence to "prove" that his friend's name is, in fact, Ernest:
"You have always told me it was Ernest. I have introduced you to
everyone as Ernest. You look as if your name was Ernest. Your are the
most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life. It is perfectly
absurd your saying that your name isn't Ernest. It's on your cards.
Here is one of them. 'Mr Ernest Worthing, B.4, The Albany.' I'll keep
this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to deny it
to me, or to Gwendolen, or to anyone else."
It is only at the end of the play that the birth tokens reveal that Jack
is, indeed, Ernest. Yet all the evidence that Algernon cites is
hilariously beside the point.
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