Justified true belief is an epistemological concept that provides explanations especially from different philosophers on gaining knowledge. It holds the view that a specific proposition can be termed as true knowledge if the individual not only believes in the argument but also is able to put forth viable arguments to justify his stand. For instance, an individual, who claims to have knowledge of a specific area, is tested using three criteria’s. If S stands for the subject and P for the proposition made, then the subject is justified to claim knowledge if: the subject (S) believes that the proposition is true, the proposition (P) is true and subject (S) is justified in believing that the proposition is true. It is worth noting that even the believe that seems to be true cannot automatically be held as knowledge by virtue that it is a fact. For instance, if we have a citizen, who is asked about the first American president between Abraham Lincoln and Gorge Washington. The citizen might guess that it is George Washington and be right but without justification the answer might be wrong. He/she might not even have an idea of whether the named people were American presidents. Different people have come up with differing stands concerning the concept.

Goldman in his attempt to defend the ‘causal theory’ asserts that the greatest concepts behind claim for knowledge are belief and causality:

‘……In order to have knowledge, one’s belief that things are thus-and-so must be caused by things’ actually being thus-and-so.’ (Goldman, 1967 p. 369)

Author’s Conclusion: The belief in a traditional cause of something is sufficient enough to claim knowledge.

Critical Response: when dealing with knowledge, proper links concerning a certain belief must be established in order to justify knowledge. For example, an individual who views a chair put in front of him/her. Such an individual must not necessarily require more justifications to prove the issue. He/she just requires stating his/her beliefs concerning what he/she saw and it will be justified.

Critiques of Justified True Belief

Edmund Gettier provides a systematic critical opposition to the concept of justified true belief that was previously propounded by Plato at around 400 B.C. He also provides examples of believes that are both true and justified in his paper ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge’? (Gettier, 1963).

‘Suppose Smith has good evidence for the false proposition. Jones owns a Ford. Suppose further Smith infers from the following three disjunctions: (1) Either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Boston. (2) Either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona. (3) Either Jones owns a Ford or (4) Brown is in Brest-Litovsk. Since (1) entails each of the propositions (2) through (4), and since Smith recognizes these entailments, he is justified in believing each of propositions (2)-(4). Now suppose that by sheer coincidence, Brown is indeed in Barcelona. Given these assumptions, we may say that Smith, when he believes (3), holds a justified true belief.’ (Gettier, 1963, Quoted In Smith, 2006). 

Author’s Conclusion: the author asserts in what is popularly known as the ‘Gettier problem’ that belief, truth and justification are not sufficient to claim knowledge.

Author’s Support: the author presents critical examples to back up his arguments and to show how knowledge should be perceived.

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Critical Response: from the foregoing excerpt from Gettier’s discussion, Smith depends on luck to produce knowledge. He might, however, to some extent be said to have the fact of where Brown is but the fact that what is true in this case is a product of luck, then knowledge produced in this manner ought to be declined. The analysis of knowledge in this case must be modified to make sure that it is immune from falsity. This is what is generally known as ‘Gettier problem’.

An analyst should not mistakenly claim knowledge just because the individual has had an epistemic luck. There must be other conditions that must be included to assess the knowledge. Justification alone cannot be able to show the existence of knowledge. Even a belief which is definitely identified as a belief, when given a good justification, can be confused with knowledge. For example, if an individual claims that he/she has seen a table. What substantial evidence is there to prove that the object was a table and not an elephant? You can even justify the belief basing on what you think it is and not exactly what it should be.

In his work, ‘Knowing as Having the Right to Be Sure’ A. J. Ayer starts by demonstrating the effectiveness of truth in claiming for knowledge. He says that even if something is true and the individual is sure of what he/she says, it ought not to be taken as knowledge.

‘…………..what is known should be true, but this is not sufficient; not even if we add to it the further condition that one must be completely sure of what one knows. For it is possible to be completely sure of something which is in fact true, but yet not to know it. The circumstances may be such that one is not entitled to be sure’. (Ayer, 1956 p.g 359).

Author’s Conclusion: The sufficient and necessary condition to ascertain knowledge is first, what one is said to hold is true. Second, one must be sure of it. Third, one must bear the right to be sure.

Author’s Support: Ayer says that the main focus is not on the decision that one makes but where the decision comes from. There must be an underpinning philosophy to claim the knowledge and this is the most important part. The decision must be grounded somewhere. Knowledge must therefore be assessed to prove its existence.

Critical Response: Not all the time that justified true belief can be taken as a source of knowledge. For example a superstitious person walking down a ladder might say that he is going to have an accident. If it happens, he might not be said to have knowledge. He might be right but not proved to have known that it would happen.

The right according to Ayer is not always knowledge. He says that even if the person gives a full justification of an issue, it might not qualify be knowledge. For instance, an individual, who defines the qualities of a good character by defining his/her characteristics, to a large extent might not be said to have knowledge. Our actual standards of goodness might not be the universal standards; they are likely to be different.                   


Knowledge philosophically is a complex phenomenon that deserves careful scrutiny and an in-depth analysis to ensure that fallacious arguments that distort logic meaning of an idea are wiped away. This will in turn help us to hold the most logical arguments as well as give the correct account of the world around us. In regards to the above discussion, I opt to adopt the fact that justified true belief can be a distorting source of knowledge. Individuals can justify their beliefs and make information to be viewed as logical, which might be misleading.

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