According to the tripartite theory of knowledge, knowledge is justified true belief. One proposed counter-example to this theory is the case of the nervous student. This is supposedly a case of knowledge without belief, thus showing that it is possible to have knowledge without satisfying all three of the tripartite theory’s conditions for knowledge, that those conditions are not necessary conditions for knowledge.

The case of the nervous student is as follows: A student in a history class has been taught that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. The student, however, lacks confidence, and so when asked in a subsequent class when the Battle of Hastings occurred is convinced that he does not know. The date “1066” comes into his mind, but he does not give it any particular weight. However, absent any alternative ideas, this is the date that he gives in response to the question.

It seems that the student does know that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066. He gave the correct answer to the question as to when it occurred, and he did so because he had been taught the correct date.

However, it also seems that the student does not believe that it occurred in 1066. If he were asked whether he believes that it occurred in 1066, he would dissent, and he of all people knows best what he believes and what he does not.

The nervous student thus appears to have knowledge without belief. The conditions for knowledge proposed by the tripartite theory therefore do not seem to be necessary; it seems to be possible to have knowledge without satisfying all three conditions.