de facto



De Facto

(Sung to “El Paso” by Marty Robbins)

(Dedicated to William Lycan, William Rand Kenan Professor of Philosophy, University of North Carolina; inspired by an outstanding paper "On the Gettier Problem Problem")


Out of the best knowledge that is de facto

There are some questions that make Plato hurl—

Gettier poses some counterexamples

And down the toilet JTB would swirl.


Surer than sure were the lights of JTB

Anchored in claims that seem untouchable—

Something that true simply cannot be altered—

Epistemology infallible.


Then in Analysis Edmund came in

Proclaiming Plato’s great sin—

Truth we’re declaring could be so despairing

Just given some facts that we’re not aware of—


So in ignorance

Of all that we think is so fully established

We don’t conceptualize counterfactuals,

Especially those that affect our assessments

Of mundane facts we take granted as such.


So if we think that the coins in our pockets

Correspond to what we’ve got in our heads—

Could be we missed that some nitwit pickpocket

Replaced our change with some greenbacks instead!


How could my knowledge be thus fallible

Given it’s so justified?

Maybe it’s causally

And thus so plausibly

Hooked to the claim I could say that it’s tied—


Just as sure as I know

Propositionally the de facto

As I did my name a moment ago—

Without the de facto all knowledge is hopeless—

Nothing is certain and all truth is jest,

If we can’t undo what Edmund created,

We put what we take as knowledge to rest.


I sidled up to some ways I could know,

Forfeiting ignorance’s mark—

Maybe there’s no need for justification—

Possibly true belief fulfills the part?


But still Edmund made big trouble

For what I take as de facto,

Skeptical snaps of the finger or no—

Possibly Armstrong could then push me forward

Reliably to JTB I go.


Knowledge is slight by reliabilism,

Skeptics are left an impoverished bore—

(Arguments like these are fetching and catchy,

Garnering tenure by tenfold and more!)


But something is horribly wrong for I fear

That such can’t make questions subside—

“Stop” Lycan says with the so-called “false lemmas”,

“no false assumption” prevents knowledge’s slide.


So my longing JTB’s not wrong

And I’m strong in my knowing,

Plugging a hole between brain and the rest,

Deviant thought is what I need to stifle,

Then claims to knowing cannot be suppressed!


From out of nothing JTB is founded—

With lycanthropic revision—well-nigh,

Wolfing it down I can howl with assurance:

“All that I know is ‘Bill Lycan—good try!’ ”