Justified True Belief

The true-justified-belief theory of knowledge is a school of thought developed by Plato in one of his famous ancient philosophical dialogues. It is one of his widely known doctrines which has been both greatly debated and applied in the field of psychology. In simple terms, the justified true belief theory states that for one to believe that a given variable is in fact true, one must first and foremost believe that it is true and most importantly must have justification for the belief. Plato explained this hypothesis using variables s and p in order to make it much simpler. He stated S knows that p is true, if and only if; P is true, S believes that P is true and S has justification to believe that P is true. For a long time, this philosophy was accepted until renowned psychologist Edmund Gettier disproved it in 1963.

Despite the Gettier problem, regardless of whether justified true belief is indeed true, the theory would still require significant additions to its epistemology. This is due to the fact that several questions arise from the hypothesis. For instance, what accounts for epistemic justification? Meaning what exactly is the nature of Platos clause S has justification to believe that P is true. Answers to this and other similar questions are attempted to be answered by the theory of justification, which was developed to explain why one would hold a certain belief, why the belief would be truthful and how one comes to that belief. In this case, regardless of the fact that the justified belief is true; any such theory would require a theory of justification.

Also, it is important to note that the relevance and authenticity of the justified true belief theory can be reasoned against because of the development of the Gettier ideas, which create scenarios that disprove the JTB. Popularly known as the Gettier problems, three scenarios are created with the specific aim to show that while the variables may be applicable to many situations, they often have no tangible justification to be termed as true and often are the result of luck. Gettier, in this case, points out a significant flaw in the theory that perhaps renders it useless. Nonetheless, the Gettier problems do not discredit using justified true belief in mandatory everyday mannerisms but rather edifies against merely using it as a means to an end argument.

Like many scholars, I am inclined to agree with Gettier problems in that they question sufficiency of the conditions in providing justification for the theory. The first condition if P is true may be sufficient as a hypothesis; however, there is no way to prove beyond doubt that P is true. The second condition if S believes that P is true is faulty in many ways. Firstly, an individuals belief that something is true does not necessarily make it true. Out of sheer luck or coincidence, Gettier proves that P can be true, but this is not dependent upon if S believes it as true or not. Therefore, P can be true, whether or not S believes it or not. Hence, this second condition is insufficient in accurately determining the occurrence of an event or the truth of a matter.

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The third clause if S has justification to believe that P is true may be sufficient enough to sustain Platos argument. This is because if an individual has reason to believe that something is true, it may be indeed true if they can provide a substantial reason to prove its truthfulness. However, as Gettier has proposed, a scenario may be true however not because of what the individual believes but because of facts.

Lastly, to understand the philosophy of Gettier problems, I have created a scenario in which the outcome disproves the justified true belief. Suppose that Sally wishes to visit the hairdresser to have her hair done by her regular dresser Greg. Sally therefore believes that Greg will be at the salon and will get her hair done. However, it is Gregs day off and therefore he doesnt have to be at the salon. Sally does not know this and assumes that he is at work. Sally is therefore wrong in assuming that Greg is at the salon. However, Greg is indeed at the salon, perhaps stopping over to say hi to his workmates. Sally happens to find Greg at the salon and he chooses not to tell her that it is his day off and proceeds to do her hair.

In this regard, even if Sally was wrong in assuming Greg was going to be at the salon, he indeed was at the salon. This agrees with the first condition of justified true belief in that P is true. Secondly, Sally believed that Greg would be at the salon and he was indeed available to do her hair. This also agrees with the second clause that states if S believes that P is true in that Sally believed that Greg would be at the salon and indeed he was there. Lastly, however, the justified true belief is faulted where S has justification to believe that P is true. This is because, while Greg was actually at the salon, Sally cannot justify that he was there because she had the belief that he would be there. As mentioned, he was only there coincidentally and was off duty, and therefore was not obliged to do her hair. In this regard, P is only true because S happened to occur; independent of Ps belief.


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