Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

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Epistemology – Reading

Initial Question: Is Justified True Belief (JTF) Always Knowledge?

Upon searching on the internet for epistemology and knowledge, I happen to encounter The Gettier Problem which caught my attention. For some time, the justified true belief (JTB) account was widely agreed to capture the nature of knowledge. However, in 1963, Edmund Gettier published a short but widely influential article which has shaped epistemology quite differently. Gettier provided two examples in which someone had a true and justified belief, but in which we seem to want to deny that the individual has knowledge because luck still seems to play a role in his belief having turned out to be true.

Consider an example. Suppose that the clock on campus (which keeps accurate time and is well maintained) stopped working at 11:56pm last night, and has yet to be repaired. On my way to my noon class, exactly twelve hours later, I glance at the clock and form the belief that the time is 11:56. My belief is true, of course, since the time is indeed 11:56. And my belief is justified, as I have no reason to doubt that the clock is working, and I cannot be blamed for basing beliefs about the time on what the clock says. Nonetheless, it seems evident that I do not know that the time is 11:56. After all, if I had walked past the clock a bit earlier or a bit later, I would have ended up with a false belief rather than a true one.

This example and others like it seem to show that it is possible for justified true belief to fail to represent knowledge. Initially, the justification condition was meant to ensure that knowledge was based on solid evidence rather than on luck or misinformation, but Gettier-type examples seem to show that justified true belief can still involve luck and thus fall short of knowledge. To solve this problem, we must either show that all instances of justified true belief do indeed constitute knowledge, or alternatively reevaluate our analysis of knowledge.

 

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