Justified true belief is an epistemological concept that attempts to clarify the justification of propositions and belief. In order to understand the theory, one must clearly define the terms, justification, truth, belief and knowledge. Justification is the process of proving that something exists. Truth refers to the actual sense of the matter; it shows that the things being talked about conform to the real situation. Knowledge is the awareness gained through experience and study. A belief is a state where individuals perceive a certain proposition or premise to be true. This topic has led to heated debates among philosophers. They held varying stands depending on their interpretations of the topic.
This paper explicates the theory and the critical responses to the theory.
Alvin Goldman holds that if a casual condition were added, the belief of a subject would be justified. In order to hold this, he argues that the truth of the belief must cause the subject under study to gain the same belief. In addition, Goldman asserts that for a justified true belief to amount to knowledge the subject must have the capacity to reconstruct the casual chain. He emphasizes that in order to have knowledge, one’s belief that matters is the way one perceives must be caused by things being real. Therefore, the justifier of one belief could be another belief. For instance, in case one believes that there is intelligent life on Mars, and this is further justified by another belief that there is a face like feature on the planet made by intelligent life, then there is enough reason to believe that there is intelligent life on Mars. According to Goldman (1967), this belief leads to the acquisition of knowledge about this particular planet. Thus, the existence of a casual condition would result in the acquisition of knowledge.
Critics of Justified True Belief
The Gettier problem provides the basis of criticism to this theory. Gettier uses various life examples to criticize the theory that holds that justified belief is a true knowledge. He used opposing examples to criticize the theory. With the counter examples, he emphasized that there could be cases that satisfy the conditions of justification, belief, and truth but do not amount to knowledge.
Gettier uses various examples to oppose the theory. For instance, Smith applies for a job but there exists a justified belief that Jones, who is another applicant would get the job. In addition, Smith has justified belief that Jones has ten coins in his pocket. Therefore, Smith concludes that the person who poses ten coins in his pockets is the one who would land the job. Smith lands the job and by chance, he realizes that he also had ten coins in his pockets. He gets the job while Jones, who also had ten coins in his pockets, misses the opportunity. Gettier (1963) asserts that Thus, the belief that the man who gets the job has ten coins was justified and true but could not form the basis of knowledge.
In the above example, Smith depends on sheer luck to produce knowledge. At first, he did not realize that he was also in possession of ten coins until he landed the job. Therefore, his belief was justified and true but lacked the basis of knowledge. It would not be relied on to prove that justification of true belief is knowledge. In the analysis of knowledge, one must weigh the cases. Knowledge would arise from the cases that are not based on sheer lack among individuals, it would rather be based upon the cases that one is sure about. For example, one could claim that he has seen a table in a particular room. His statement could be justified and true but based on luck. This does not result in knowledge because the individual relied on luck, to prove that there was a table in the room.
In his book, ‘Knowing is the Right to Be Sure’, A. J. Ayer demonstrates the effectiveness of truth as a gateway to knowledge. He asserts that if something is true and the individual is sure about it, then it should be considered as knowledge. In cases where the individual is not sure about a given condition in any situation, there would be no existence of knowledge.
A.J. Ayer asserts that what is known must be true. This is not a sufficient reason to prove the existence of knowledge among individuals. It is impossible to be quite sure about events that are, in fact, true. Individuals are always skeptical about various conditions and situations in their lifetime. For instance, if Smith has justified belief that Jones owns a Mercedes Benz, Smith concludes that Smith owns a Mercedes Benz even if he owns a Prado.
According to Ayer, the right is not always a through way to knowledge. Ayer (1956) points out that an individual must be sure about a given situation and reality must prevail for a condition, to be knowledge. For instance, the definition of the knowledge of a good character in terms of behavior does not guarantee the knowledge of mannerisms as it is based on probability and prediction.
Justification of belief is not knowledge. This is because one could justify a fallacious belief and claim that he has knowledge of the situation. For people to claim that they are knowledgeable, they must be sure of the situations before justifying them as being true. Therefore, justification and the truth of a belief do not guarantee knowledge because some of these beliefs are fallacious.
In conclusion, knowledge is a complex subject. Logical arguments would be formed according to the level of knowledge a person possesses. Justified true belief would not be a through way to knowledge because individuals could easily come up with fallacious conditions that appear true but in the real sense could not form the basis of knowledge.