Maybe you will say justified true belief, but some claim that it doesn't account for Gettier's, so: is there a better definition which is becoming more prominent today? Or can the JTB, perhaps with some slight modification, overcome the problems posed by Gettier?

One thing seems plain to me: knowledge is a subset of belief and it must be justified. I've thought that maybe knowledge does not require truth, but then it is something of a [approximately] justified [approximate] certainty... it feels a bit awkward. However if it does necessitate truth, then hardly can we ever possess knowledge.

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    "JTB" is definition engineered to accommodate religious sensibilities, otherwise on might do without 'belief'; also, analytical minds would like somehow to avoid the circularity truth<->knowledge. Needless to say, both are "most common" in English.
    – sand1
    Commented Dec 27, 2015 at 19:57
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    Thank you for being the first person to show any sort of interest in my question. I am not religious, but I agree with the 'belief' part of the definition. If something is not believed, then it is not known (seems plain and unavoidable to me). As for the "truth<->knowledge" circularity: it seems to make knowledge possible only if there is some external confirmation that it is in fact true. Of course that is avoided if there is no need for that absolute truth, but simply proper justification. Then it is possible to know and to be wrong.
    – TCN
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 3:35

2 Answers 2


I don't think it is a good idea to make your adoption of an idea conditional on whether it is popular or not. Rather, you should adopt ideas when you think they are true. Positions taken by others should be considered only insofar as they provide arguments that change your position.

I think the only satisfactory way to solve current problems with epistemology is to discard JTB, see:

Can "Gettier problems" be resolved by assuming JTB as the formal definition of truth?.

We should admit that all knowledge consists of guesses controlled by criticism, and nothing else.

  • That conception of knowledge makes sense to me. To adopt an idea by virtue of its popularity would indeed be fallacious, but I was simply getting more input for me to consider. I also thought that since the JTB - being the one that I've seen mentioned more often - seems to have obvious shortcomings, there would be at least some prominent competing definition.
    – TCN
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 17:50

I think maybe the reason you haven't had many bites at your question is that it is a commonplace one and there are many standard answers. The Stanford Encyclopedia entry on Analysis of Knowledge has a reasonable summary.

In broad terms there are:

  • reliabilist accounts - knowledge is true belief reliably obtained;
  • counterfactual accounts - knowledge is belief that tracks the truth in a way that supports the relevant counterfactual conditional, i.e. if it weren't true I wouldn't believe it;
  • causal accounts - knowledge is belief that is caused in an appropriate way by the circumstances that ground its truth;
  • nondefeasibility (or no luck) accounts - knowledge is belief that is robust with respect to other information that were I to possess it would defeat my claim to know it;
  • pragmatic accounts - saying I know that P is a speech act of warranting that P;
  • virtue accounts - knowledge is belief that is acquired in an apt fashion that reflects appropriate skill on the part of the knower.

Then there are those who think that knowledge is a fundamental concept and is unanalysable. Also, bear in mind that we are talking here of only one kind of knowledge - propositional knowledge, or knowledge that. We also have knowledge how, and self-knowledge, and possibly a noumenal kind of knowledge.

  • This question may be a commonplace one, but my intention was to know which is the most consensual definition. I had already taken a look at stanford encyclopedia (both the article on knowledge analysis and the one on epistemology). Maybe my way of thinking was incorrect for philosophical matter (I come from an engineering background and I am used to neat answers which often gather allot of consensus and there might never be such an answer for my question here). Thank you for your insight on the matter.
    – TCN
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 17:41

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