Question: What is epistemology?

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

Question: What is epistemology?

Epistemology is defined as:

the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity[1]

For thousands of years, knowledge was defined as epistemologists as a justified, true belief. Knowledge is only knowledge if and only if P (a proposition) is true, S (a subject) believes that P, and P is justified. Justification simply refers the evidence that we give to verify a true belief. For instance, I can be inside a room with no windows and a single, opaque door to the outside. I can receive a call from a friend inviting me to go for a walk in the park and I can think to myself "With my luck, it will be raining right now." Now, it could be raining outside, therefore the proposition may be true. But I don't know that the proposition is true because I can't justifiy it. The JTB model came under question in 1963 when philosopher Edward Gettier proposed the "Gettier Problem" that showed that we can have justified, true belief and not have knowledge. The nature of justification came under significant question. Many theories were proposed in order refine the JTB model because of Gettier's paper. These either added a fourth condition to JTB or sought to redefine knowledge acquisition entirely. These included models such as infalliblism, indefeasibility, causalism, reliablism, tracking theories, and so on. Each of these theories had certain "Gettier Cases" proposed for them. It led certain philosophers to abandon any endeavor of seeking to define what constitutes knowledge and to see epistemology simply as a study of normative study instead of a descriptive one. This is now called "virtue epistemology".

The author of the articles in this series asserts generally justified true belief being knowledge since the proposed Gettier cases for each model can be implausible. It is the way that most humans work. It's one of the reasons that we developed terms such as "explanatory power" since certain explanations define phenomenon better than others and we rely on the explanation that is evidenced by past experience or other evidence being evaluated at any given time.

This video explains JTB in an easy way and the Gettier Problem. Readers should see the whole series on YouTube for more easy-to-learn information on Epistemology.


  1. Webster's Dictionary, "Epistemology" <> (accessed 3 January 2019)