Identifying Good Reasons


One might think that we need a definition of ‘knowledge’ in order to track it down and recognize it once we’re face-to-face with it. The answer to the question “what is knowledge” is under debate and has been for a few thousand years. The good news is we don’t need an answer. That’s because there is no answer. At least, no answer we can all agree on. The attempt to assign the word “knowledge” to specific claims has brought forth myriad opinions on the nature of knowledge–a serious problem in a post-fact age.

We think Plato’s classic view was close to correct: Knowledge is Justified True Belief. This is what sets knowledge apart from opinion. If you have a claim that is justified with appropriate support, you believe the claim, and the claim is true, then you can say you know it. There are some problems with this view of knowledge, but at a practical level Plato’s formula is very helpful:

K=JTB      Knowledge is Justified True Belief

--answering the question, “how do you know?”

Perception—“I saw it happen.”

Self-awareness—“It happened to me.”

Memory—Be careful because it’s not like a recording.

Deduction—the three-part logic of syllogisms

Induction—“These repeated occurrences must add up to something.”

Authority—the use of expert testimonials

Consensus—“We’ve all agreed to do it this way.”

Intuition—An apparent flash of insight that is generated by deep knowledge of      the subject.

Revelation—“God told me.”

          Faith—“You should put on this blindfold and follow me.”

*Of course, these descriptions are brief. Look for more detail in later posts.


Author: Craig Butcher

Craig Butcher is an award-winning educator who has taught critical thinking skills for more than two decades. In addition, he has worked on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer and has been a top-rated broadcaster.