Document Type



Master of Arts



Date of Defense


Graduate Advisor

Gualtiero Piccinini


Jon McGinnis

Lauren Olin


Since Gettier's (1963) paper, epistemology has exploded with ideas of how to overcome cases where an agent has a justified true belief, and yet, does not have knowledge. Some epistemologists have tried to escape the Gettier Problem by stating knowledge is true belief plus something else, whereby removing justification, which seems to be the key player in Gettier Problems. Still, others suggest that any addition to true belief will cause issues. Timothy Williamson (2000) contends that knowledge is not analyzable. For Williamson, knowledge is the most basic state of mind; it is a factive mental state that cannot be explained away by picking it apart into smaller pieces. The reason we struggle to define knowledge, says Williamson, is that it is not neatly definable—at least in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions. Knowledge attaches to something in the actual world. Justification, however, has no such requirement, nor does belief, which is the problem with thinking that justified true beliefs, or true beliefs plus something else, lead to knowledge. Following Williamson's view of knowledge, I suggest that epistemic justification has a different role to play since it is not a necessary or sufficient condition of knowledge. I argue that justification has a pragmatic role as it relates to the believer, not only the belief, namely, that justification is used to form beliefs and can be used to alter the beliefs of others. To do this, I briefly elaborate on Williamson's view of knowledge as a factive mental state to make explicit the account of knowledge for which I am vying. Next, I discuss what justification is and why it is a problem if we consider it one of the conditions of knowledge by highlighting the standard view of justification as well as Williamson's (2000) view. I, then, promote Williamson's account of justification—that justification is not just having a good reason, but a reason that is always known. Finally, I present some of the pre-existing roles of justification and suggest that justification plays a key role with respect to the believer, not just the belief, through belief formation and alteration.

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Epistemology Commons