Exploring Knowledge: Belief, Truth, and Justification

Categories: Truth

Introduction The topic chosen for this essay was to critically discuss the claim that knowledge is belief that is true and justified. This model works by using three conditions that, when all present, are sufficient for knowledge. This topic has long been an area of controversy and debate within the study of epistemology. The purpose of this essay will be to delve deeper into the nature of the K=JTB model, explaining all three conditions with detail and analyzing possible issues with the model itself.

Knowledge as Justified True Belief Belief A belief by definition is an expression of faith and/or trust in a person, idea, or entity of some kind (Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, 2014).

This includes everything we accept as true for ourselves. Everything that is believed, is believed to be true, however not everything that is true, is believed. Conversely, not every belief is inherently true (Cutler, 2014, p.

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44-45). This condition seems to be the easiest of the three to understand and most difficult to have an issue with.

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In short, belief is to accept any cognitive content as true.

For example, saying I believe I am laying in my bed may be just as easily understood as “I take it to be true that I am currently laying in my bed. ” Belief is a positive psychological stance that the state of affairs in reality directly corresponds to the way a proposition shows them to be. Belief is said to be necessary for knowledge because you cannot know anything without first accepting it to be true, regardless of the beliefs truth or falsehood (Cutler, 2014, p. 44).

For example, say an individual is standing behind a wall and there is a group of people on the far side yelling loudly. Even though there are in fact people on the other side of the wall and the individual is justified in believing this notion JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF AS KNOWLEDGE 3 due to sensory evidence, it cannot be said that they know people are there if they wrongly believe that there is a machine making these yelling noises in an attempt to deceive them.

From this, it is shown that truth and justification are not enough for knowledge to apply without belief. Truth Truth may be defined as a fact or belief that is accepted as true or in accordance with reality (Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, 2014). The type of truth dealt with in the study of knowledge is correspondence. A proposition is true, in this sense, if it corresponds with reality.

It seems fairly obvious that truth must be necessary for knowledge because one cannot have knowledge of that which is untrue. I cannot know that I am currently living in the year 1846 because it simply does not correspond with objective reality. However, a preliminary problem can be raised with the K=JTB model at this point. When attempting to demonstrate whether I know something, the model would ask me whether the information I am claiming to know is true. How though, could I possibly answer this without already having knowledge as to the truth or falsehood of such information?

This would already have to be known and therefore would make the K=JTB model circular (Russell, B. 2014). You would have to be certain of your knowledge prior to confirming that it is indeed knowledge. Furthermore, how can one ever know any immediate truth about the external world that is always mediated through the senses and therefore subject to some varying degree of doubt?

(Cutler, 2014, p. 63). These issues beg for further inquiry into the discussion of what an individual may actually know, proving problematic for the idea that knowledge is justified true belief. Nonetheless, for now it is widely accepted that truth is a necessary condition for knowledge.

JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF AS KNOWLEDGE 4 Justification According to the claim that knowledge is justified true belief, in order to know that a given proposition is true, an individual must not only believe the relevant true proposition, but they must also have a good reason for doing so (Cutler, 2014, p. 46). One significance of this would be that no one would gain knowledge just by believing something that happened to be true. For example, a deathly sick person with no medical training, but a generally optimistic attitude, could believe that they will recover from their illness quickly.

Even if this belief turned out to be true however, the patient would not have known that they would get well since the belief entirely lacked justification. Luck would seem to have been the only plausible reason behind the outcome. Therefore truth and belief by themselves are insufficient conditions for knowledge. This seems to easily be the most controversial of the three conditions, as the issue of deciding what exactly establishes sufficient justification poses problems. Furthermore, if the conditions for justification do end up agreed upon, then when does justification actually apply?

(Russell, B. 2014). For example, let us use sensory evidence as a condition for justification. Clearly there are varying degrees of sensory evidence that can come from the content of a given situation. If I see a large fast approaching object in front of me while standing in the center of a train track, that is pretty good sensory evidence that a train is coming and I should step out of the way. However, if I can only see a small object in the distance that is hard to make out, it is far less evidential a train is coming. The possibility I am mistaking the object for something else rises substantially.

The question of at what point is there enough evidence to justify a belief seems very subjective and weak when encompassed as part of a definition for knowledge. Certain philosophers such as Rene Descartes believed that knowledge only applies when justification is indisputable evidence for a proposition with no doubt whatsoever in the belief JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF AS KNOWLEDGE 5 (Cutler, 2014, p. 63-64). The Descartes perspective however, drifts into the question of ‘what can we know? ’ rather than our topic of what constitutes knowledge.

From here, it is accepted that justification is necessary in some way for knowledge and together with the other two conditions, is satisfactory for it to apply. The Gettier Problem According to a man named Edmund Gettier, there are certain circumstances where the K=JTB model breaks down (Cutler, 2014, p. 47). He illustrated these using a case that involves two men, Smith and Jones. Both are waiting for the results of their applications for the same job. Each man has five coins in his pocket. Smith has excellent reasons to believe that Jones will get the job and, furthermore, knows that Jones has five coins in his pocket.

From this, Smith concludes the man who will get the job has five coins in his pocket. However, Smith is unaware that he also has five coins in his own pocket. Smith ends up getting the job. At the end of all this, Smith has a justified true belief that a man with five coins in his pocket will get the job (Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia, 2014). How though can this be knowledge? Gettier argues that his examples demonstrate while justification, truth, and belief are necessary for knowledge; they do not work in every circumstance. In certain situations, such as the one above, even though all three conditions were met it was dumb luck that led to the conclusion of knowledge rather than anything else.

Since inception this has seemingly shown the K=JTB model to be, in my opinion, flawed. JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF AS KNOWLEDGE 6 Conclusion Throughout this detailed look into knowledge as justified true belief, we have found that all three components are indeed necessary for true knowledge. However, the seemingly circular K=JTB model is not perfect as it suffers from counter examples and apparent flaws. Even though this model matches many of our instincts about what is needed for knowledge and

may be seen as close, it seemingly ignores the central role of human intellectual abilities in the production of knowledge. The most problematic cases facing K=JTB involve a defective relationship between an individual’s intellectual abilities and their true belief. The model would need to be re-written to encompass an extra condition that looks back at the relationship between the individual’s reason for justification and the reality of a situation.

Hopefully this would highlight situations arising from luck and allow them to be dismissed from the realm of knowledge, hence eliminating the problems found in Gettier cases. In everyday life, common sense reveals that knowledge derived within a Gettier case cannot be correlated back to the means of justification and shows that luck was the mitigating factor in the outcome instead of knowledge.

Perhaps the reason the K=JTB model fails is because it assumes that the abstract concept of knowledge can be broken down perfectly into factors that add up like numbers. In reality, there is a degree of uncertainty when trusting the senses that makes a rigid formula imperfect.

JUSTIFIED TRUE BELIEF AS KNOWLEDGE 7 Cited References Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. (2014). Epistemology Retrieved From http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Epistemology Cutler, D. (2014). Phil 1103: Belief, Truth and Justification. Readings in Epistemology.

Copyright, Douglas College. Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia. (2014). Gettier Problem Retrieved From http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Gettier_problem Russell, B. (2014, May 19). Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: A Priori Justification and Knowledge. Retrieved From: http://plato. stanford. edu/entries/apriori/.

Updated: Nov 20, 2023
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Exploring Knowledge: Belief, Truth, and Justification. (2016, Nov 06). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/k-jtb-essay-final-essay

Exploring Knowledge: Belief, Truth, and Justification essay
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