Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2020)
Knowledge-first theories of justification are theories of justification that give knowledge priority when it comes to explaining when and why someone has justification for an attitude or an action. The emphasis of this article is on knowledge-first theories of justification for belief. As it turns out, there are a number of ways of giving knowledge priority when theorizing about justification, and what follows is a survey of more than a dozen existing options that have emerged in the early 21st century since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s *Knowledge and Its Limits*. This article traces several of the general theoretical motivations that have been offered for putting knowledge first in the theory of justification. This is followed by an examination of existing knowledge-first theories of justification and their standing objections. These objections are largely, but not exclusively, concerned with the extensional adequacy of knowledge-first theories of justification. There are doubtless more ways to give knowledge priority in the theory of justified belief than are covered here, but the survey is instructive because it highlights potential shortcomings that would-be knowledge-first theorists of justification may wish either to avoid or else to be prepared with a suitable error theory. This entry concludes with a reflection about the extent to which the short history of, arguably, failed attempts to secure an unproblematic knowledge-first account of justified belief has begun to resemble the older Gettier dialectic.