Bootstrapping in General

Vogel (2000) argues that bootstrapping poses a novel problem for reliabilist theories of knowledge. According to the reliabilist, a true belief is knowledge just in case it was formed by a reliable process, even if one does not know that the process is reliable. Vogel argues that reliabilism allows one to gain knowledge of a source’s reliability in an intuitively illicit way, using the deliverances of the source itself. Cohen (2002; 2005), Van Cleve (2003), and others have argued that bootstrapping actually poses a more general problem, one that afflicts any view that allows for basic knowledge, i.e. any view that allows one to gain knowledge from a source without prior knowledge that the source is reliable. For example, a foundationalist view that allows one to gain knowledge from perception without prior knowledge that perception is reliable will, like reliabilism, allow one to bootstrap into knowledge that their perception is reliable. I will argue that bootstrapping poses a much more general challenge. Versions of the bootstrapping problem can be constructed even on strongly internalist theories of knowledge; even if one must always know that one’s source is reliable to gain knowledge from it, bootstrapping is still possible. I will then consider some possible solutions to the bootstrapping problem that the internalist might offer. Of particular interest will be the question whether the more plausible solutions are distinctly internalist. I will close by considering whether there are plausible solutions that are equally available to the reliabilist and/or the basic knowledge theorist.
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