Virtue Epistemology is a contemporary theory of knowledge that has gained significant attention in the philosophical community. It offers an insightful solution to the Gettier problem, which is a classic problem in epistemology. In this article, we will explore how virtue epistemology solves the Gettier problem.

Understanding the Gettier Problem

The Gettier problem was introduced by American philosopher Edmund Gettier in 1963. It questions the traditional definition of knowledge, which states that knowledge is justified true belief. According to this definition, if someone has a belief that is true and justified, then they have knowledge.

Gettier provided counterexamples to this definition by presenting cases where someone can have a justified true belief but still not have knowledge. For instance, imagine a person named John who looks at a clock that shows 3:00 pm and believes that it is 3:00 pm. Unbeknownst to John, the clock stopped working precisely at 3:00 pm, so his belief happens to be true but not because of any justifying reason he had for believing it.

This scenario shows that even though John’s belief is true and justified (since he saw the clock), it does not qualify as knowledge since it was only coincidentally correct. The Gettier problem suggests that there must be more to knowledge than just having justified true beliefs.

Introducing Virtue Epistemology

Virtue Epistemology proposes an alternative approach to defining knowledge by focusing on intellectual virtues or character traits such as open-mindedness, intellectual humility, and carefulness in reasoning instead of relying solely on justification.

According to virtue epistemologists like Ernest Sosa and Linda Zagzebski, having these intellectual virtues enables someone to reliably form true beliefs. Therefore, they argue that knowledge should be defined as reliable true belief formed through virtuous intellectual processes.

Virtue Epistemology’s Solution to the Gettier Problem

Virtue epistemology provides a solution to the Gettier problem by suggesting that the problem arises because traditional definitions of knowledge rely too heavily on justification and do not adequately consider the character traits required for reliable belief formation.

In contrast, virtue epistemology argues that when someone has knowledge, it is because they have formed a true belief through virtuous intellectual processes. By emphasizing the importance of character traits, virtue epistemologists address the Gettier problem by arguing that what makes someone’s beliefs knowledge is not just their justification but also the quality of their reasoning process.


In summary, Virtue Epistemology offers an alternative approach to defining knowledge that incorporates character traits or intellectual virtues. By emphasizing these qualities as essential components of reliable belief formation, Virtue Epistemology provides a solution to the Gettier problem. This perspective helps us understand that knowledge is more than justified true belief; it involves having reliable true beliefs that are formed through virtuous intellectual processes.