The Gettier Problem Under Cynics’ View

Is justified true belief knowledge? This Gettier problem or case is a philosophical inquiry into knowledge based on justified true belief premises. Knowledge can be drawn, according to this philosophical mechanics, from premises that exhibit justified true belief based on deductive reasoning and entailing from the given premises.

That is, if all premises are justified true belief, then it is knowledge. And that is what meant for most of the minds in the field.

Discovered in 1963 by the American philosopher Edmund Gettier, this philosophical approach into the field of epistemology of knowledge draws more attention than the number of words Gettier used (Hetherington, 2012). This brief summary of the Gettier problem attempts to explore a cynical perspective on the problem trying to provide an impression that a justified true belief is not at all knowledge at its truth form and character.

The Gettier Problem Diagram
The Gettier Problem Diagram

The Gettier Case Lacks Justified True Belief

As the Gettier case is put under scrutiny, premises built up to lead to either a true or a false conclusion apparently lack a justified true belief. Or else, there would be no more hard work to substantiate the proposition at hand knowledge or otherwise.

Now, in the Gettier problem, one would labor to substantiate the premises by deduction of entailment whether the proposition is justified true belief sufficient; otherwise, the proposition is false, therefore, unable to express knowledge.


Solving the Gettier problem requires analysis and reasoning based on the premises available. As the problem entails, knowledge is defined when premises are justified true belief sufficient. This is in the affirmative if knowledge is to be strictly interpreted as information based on true and justified belief as Plato’s Theaetetus definition of knowledge claims it is a true belief. However, it is in the negative if knowledge is to be defined by forms and character of truth only, not belief.

In light of these two perspectives, cynics like me would likely claim that justified true belief in the Gettier problem is limped with real truth, therefore, it is not knowledge but a mere belief.

Getting across that cynical point, let me take you this real-life and usual scenario as proposition (P) to consider along with the premises (p).

  • P: A left the group.
  • p1: A becomes inactive in the group for a considerable amount of time.
  • p2: The group’s admin expressly disliked A.
  • p3: B told the group’s admin that A will likely leave.

Solving this case based on the Gettier problem, premises define a sufficient justified true belief. Thus, following the notion of the Gettier problem, the proposition defines knowledge. But for cynics, it only defines justified belief nor true belief. The cynical arguments lie in how truthful the subjects in p1, p2, and p3 are on their true self despite the obvious and apparent actions being made or exhibited.

Another argument will likely raise doubts about whether P has made already a decision to take the action to leave the group. Nobody knows by its form and character as truth. Because p never mentioned an instance that P will finally take that action. And granted, arguendo, that p does mentioned it, still nobody has the certainty that P will finally do it as there is no necessary truth despite mentioning it. Everything takes a chance and chances are in a 100% probability of uncertainty unless P certainly made an expressed decision to leave the group.

Finally, the strict definition of knowledge has still been a subject for debate since. Therefore, the Gettier problem espouses definitive problem as to what definition of knowledge must be taken into consideration.


Gettier, Edmund L. “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” Analysis 23, no. 6 (1963): 121–23.
Hetherington, Stephen Cade (ed.) (2012). Epistemology: The Key Thinkers. New York: Continuum.

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