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Epistemology, in the strict sense of the word, is concerned with the nature of knowledge and justified (or rational) belief. This twofold concern may be divided into five discernable questions: 1. What is knowledge? 2. What is justified belief? 3. How do we acquire knowledge? 4. What makes our beliefs justified? 5. Is the extent of justified belief and knowledge roughly what we take it to be, or are the skeptics right when they claim that it is much smaller than what we would like to think? The first question differs from the third, and the second from the fourth, because we must distinguish between definitional and substantive issues.1 Before we can address the substantive issues raised by questions 3 and 4, we must first settle what we mean when we talk of knowledge and justification. Thus, after a brief historical overview, Part I of this essay focuses on the conceptual issues that arise when we try to answer questions 1 and 2. Here, we encounter issues such as: How can we distinguish between the kind of justification that is relevant to knowledge, and other kinds of justification? Is justification a deontological concept, to be understood in such terms as ‘ought’, ‘permission’, or ‘obligation’? How is justification related to knowledge? Can knowledge be understood as justified true belief? In Part II, turning to issues that arise when we attempt to answer questions 3 and 4, we shall examine two important debates — foundationalism vs. coherentism, and internalism vs. externalism — and review the most important theories on the nature of knowledge and justification, such as evidentialism, reliabilism, the conclusive reasons theory, and the tracking theory. In Part III, our topic will be a new approach — virtue epistemology — that has received much attention during the past two decades and sheds new light on the problems that plague the theories examined in Part II..
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