Edited by Matthew McGrath (University of Missouri, Columbia)
About this topic

Epistemology is the study of knowledge and those things closely related to it: justification, what it takes for you to be justified, the relation between knowledge and justification, whether you can have any justified beliefs at all, and if so, how you come to know (or justifiably believe) things, how you can use what you know (or justifiably believe) to come to know (or justifiably believe) other things, and whether and why it's valuable to know instead of merely having justified and true beliefs. 

The literature on epistemology is vast. Here's a very brief summary of some epistemological discussions. Concerning knowledge, many epistemologists think knowledge is justified true belief, where the justification you have is linked to the truth of the matter in the right kind of way, though what this way is is a matter of debate; some epistemologists think knowledge can't be analyzed this way. Concerning justification's relation to knowledge, some epistemologists think we don't need to be justified to know, and some think we do need to be. Concerning what it takes to be justified, some epistemologists think that what it takes for you to be justified are only factors internal to the believer (Internalists). Others think it takes an external factor, like reliable or well-functioning cognitive faculties (Externalists). Skeptics argue that we can't have any justified beliefs at all, and many epistemologists reply to the skeptic's arguments. Concerning how we use what we know (justifiably believe) to come to know (justifiably believe) other things, some epistemologists (Foundationalists) argue that there are bedrock propositions that we know (justifiably believe), and we build our knowledge (justified beliefs) on those. Others (Coherentists) argue that there aren't bedrock propositions; rather, a set of beliefs is justified as a whole, and several beliefs can be mutually supporting. Concerning the value of knowledge, some argue that knowledge is intrinsically valuable. Others have argued that knowledge is valuable only because of the role it plays in practical reasoning, and others argue that knowledge isn't more valuable than justified and true belief, but there are other epistemic states such as understanding, that do have value above their proper subparts. 
Key works

For an argument that knowledge requires more than justified true belief, see Gettier 1963. For a view that knowledge can't be analyzed in the traditional (justified and true, non-Gettiered belief) way, see Williamson 2000. For a view that knowledge doesn't require justification, see Goldman 1967Armstrong 1973, and Nozick 1981. For a defense of skepticism, see Unger 1975, and for replies to skeptical arguments, see Sosa 2007, Conee & Feldman 2004, and DeRose 1995. For a defense of internalism, see Chisholm 1966 and Conee & Feldman 2004. For a defense of externalism, see Alston 1989, Goldman 1999, and  Kornblith 2001. For a defense of foundationalism, see BonJour & Sosa 2003, Pryor 2005, and Feldman 2003. For a defense of coherenism, see Quine 1970, BonJour 1985, and Lehrer 2000. For the view that knowledge is value for the role it plays in practical reasoning, see Hawthorne 2003Stanley 2005, and Fantl & McGrath 2009. For the view that knowledge isn’t more valuable than its proper parts and a defense of the value of understanding, see Kvanvig 2004


Introductory books: Audi 1997, Bonjour 2009.  Anthologies: Sosa & Kim 2000, Huemer 2002.  Handbook: Moser 2002.

In this area
Epistemological States and Properties (6,432 | 1,332)
Belief* (1,516 | 892)Rima Basu
Reasons* (2,201 | 293)Errol Lord
Epistemological Theories (4,797 | 229)
Empiricism* (249 | 196)

History/traditions: Epistemology