In his 1963 article, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”1 Edmund Gettier devised a pair of counterexamples designed to illustrate that knowledge cannot be adequately defined as justified true belief. The basic idea behind both of his counterexamples is that one can be justified in believing a falsehood P from which one deduces a truth Q, in which case one has a justified true belief in Q but does not know Q. Gettier’s article inspired numerous other counterexamples, and the search was (...) on for a fourth condition of knowledge, one that could be added to justification, truth, and belief to produce an adequate analysis of knowledge. (shrink)
Rational belief belongs to a cluster of normative concepts that also includes reasonable, justified, and warranted belief. Each of these notions is commonly used by epistemologists, and along with the notion of knowledge, they form a central part of the subject matter of epistemology. However, there is no generally agreed way of understanding these notions. Nor is there even agreement as to whether they are equivalent. Some epistemologists employ them interchangeably; other epistemologists choose to express their conclusions using only one (...) of the above notions and avoid making use of the other notions; yet other epistemologists distinguish among two or more of the notions. (shrink)
In epistemology Chisholm was a defender of FOUNDATIONALISM [S]. He asserted that any proposition that it is justified for a person to believe gets at least part of its justification from basic propositions, which are themselves justified but not by anything else. Contingent propositions are basic insofar as they correspond to selfpresenting states of the person, which for Chisholm are states such that whenever one is in the state and believes that one is in it, one’s belief is maximally justified. (...) There are two types of self-presenting states, intentional states (ways of thinking, hoping, fearing, desiring, wondering, intending, etc.) and sensory states (ways of being appeared to by the various senses). A noncontingent proposition is basic if understanding it is sufficient for understanding that it is true and also sufficient for making it justified. “2+3=5” and “If Jones is ill and Smith is away, then Jones is ill” are examples of such propositions, says Chisholm. Self-presentation and understanding are among the basic sources of epistemic justification, but according to Chisholm there are other sources as well. The most important of these other sources are perception, memory, belief coupled with a lack of negative coherence (e.g., no inconsistencies among the propositions believed), and belief coupled with positive coherence (i.e., mutual support among the proposition believed). For each of these sources, Chisholm forwards an epistemic principle that describes the conditions under which the source generates justification. Despite his thinking that there are many sources of epistemic justification, Chisholm is rightly regarded as a foundationalist because all the sources are such that they can produce justified beliefs only because some propositions are justified basically. For example, Chisholm’s principles concerning perception and memory make reference to propositions that are justified because they correspond to self-presenting states. In the case of perception, the relevant states are sensings, and for memory the relevant states are beliefs, in particular, beliefs to the effect that one remembers something.. (shrink)
Part of the appeal of classical foundationalism was that it purported to provide a definitive refutation of skepticism. With the fall of foundationalism, we can no longer pretend that such a refutation is possible. We must instead acknowledge that skeptical worries cannot be completely banished and that, thus, inquiry always involves an element of risk which cannot be eliminated by further inquiry, whether it be scientific or philosophical. The flip side of this point is that inquiry always involves some element (...) of unargued-for trust in one’s faculties and the opinions they generate. (shrink)
In what follows, I will be making recommendations for how to understand and distinguish these three concepts. The account I will be developing situates the concept of epistemically rational belief into a well-integrated and philosophically respectable general theory of rationality; it links the concept of warranted belief with the theory of knowledge; and it insists that the concept of justified belief should be relevant to the assessments of each other’s beliefs that we are most interested in making in our everyday (...) lives, namely, assessments where the focus is not so much on whether one has fulfilled all the prerequisites of knowledge but rather on whether one has been a responsible believer. (shrink)
A common complaint against contemporary epistemology is that its issues are too rarified and, hence, of little relevance for the everyday assessments we make of each other=s beliefs. The notion of epistemic rationality focuses on a specific goal, that of now having accurate and comprehensive beliefs, whereas our everyday assessments of beliefs are sensitive to the fact that we have an enormous variety of goals and needs, intellectual as well as nonintellectual. Indeed, our everyday assessments often have a quasi-ethical dimension; (...) we want to know, for example, whether someone has been responsible, or at least non-negligent, in forming opinions. Nevertheless, epistemology, properly conceived, is relevant to our commonplace intellectual concerns. Epistemic rationality is an idealized notion, but its idealized character makes it suitable to serve as a theoretical anchor for other notions of rationality, including notions that are less idealized and, hence, potentially more directly relevant to our everyday assessments. (shrink)
The central issue of Descartes’s Meditations is an intensely personal one. Descartes asks a simple question of himself, one that each of us can also ask of ourselves, “What am I to believe?” One way of construing this question--indeed, the way Descartes himself construed it--is as a methodological one. The immediate aim is not so much to generate a specific list of propositions for me to believe. Rather, I want to formulate for myself some general advice about how to proceed (...) intellectually. (shrink)
What propositions are rational for one to believe? With what confidence is it rational for one to believe these propositions? Answering the first of these questions requires an epistemology of beliefs, answering the second an epistemology of degrees of belief.
The two most fundamental questions for an epistemology are, what is involved in having good reasons to believe a claim, and what is involved in meeting the higher standard of knowing that a claim is true? The theory of justified belief tries to answer the former, whereas the theory of knowledge addresses the latter.
: Plato’s instructions entail that the line of Republic VI is divided so that the middle two segments are of equal length. Yet I argue that Plato’s elaboration of the significance of this analogy shows he believes that these segments are of unequal length because the domains they represent are not of equally clear mental states, nor perhaps of objects of equal reality. I label this inconsistency between Plato’s instructions and his explanation the “overdetermination problem.” The overdetermination problem has been (...) a perennial concern, and a substantial amount of work has been produced which attempts to deal with it. I offer a classification of approaches to the overdetermination problem as a way of documenting the problem’s significance, and show why these approaches are all inadequate as solutions. My novel resolution of the overdetermination problem rests upon a demonstration that the contradiction is intentional. The later recapitulation of the ratio at 534a reveals that Plato was himself aware that the middle two segments are equal. I argue that this contradiction is a sophisticated device designed to lead the reader of the Republic through the four epistemic stages represented by the line itself. Most significantly, recognition of this mathematical contradiction acts as a goad, spurring independent philosophical reflection just in the way that Plato advocates in the Republic more generally. (shrink)
All of us get opinions from other people. And not just a few. We acquire opinions from others extensively and do so from early childhood through virtually every day of the rest our lives. Sometimes we rely on others for relatively inconsequential information. Is it raining outside? Did the Yankees win today? But we also depend on others for important or even life preserving information. Where is the nearest hospital? Do people drive on the left or the right here? We (...) acquire opinions from family and close acquaintances but also from strangers. We get directions from and heed the warnings of individuals we’ve never met, and likewise read books and articles and listen to television and radio reports authored by individuals we don’t know personally. Moreover, we undertake inquiries in groups in which the group relies on the conclusions of the individuals making up the group. In some of these collective efforts everyone knows one another, for example, a set of neighbors taking a census of birds in the neighborhood. But others, such as the effort to understand gravity, are not so nearly self-contained. Indeed, many of the most impressive human intellectual accomplishments are the collective products of individuals far removed from another in location (and sometimes even over time) who rely on each other’s conclusions without feeling the need to re-confirm them. (shrink)
One of the advantages of classical foundationalism was that it was thought to provide a refutation of skeptical worries, which raise the specter that our beliefs might be extensively mistaken. The most extreme versions of these worries are expressed in familiar thought experiments such as the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis, which imagines a world in which, unbeknownst to you, your brain is in a vat hooked up to equipment programmed to provide it with precisely the same visual, auditory, tactile, and other sensory (...) inputs that you have in this world. As a result, your opinions about your immediate environment are the same as they are in this world. You have the same beliefs about your recent activities, your current physical appearance, your present job, and so on, but in fact you are a brain in a vat tucked away in a corner of a laboratory. Thus, in the brain-in-a-vat world, your beliefs about these everyday matters are mistaken, and mistaken not just in detail, but deeply mistaken. (shrink)
To what degree should we rely on our own resources and methods to form opinions about important matters? To what degree should we depend on various authorities, such as a recognized expert or a social tradition? In this provocative account of intellectual trust and authority, Richard Foley argues that it can be reasonable to have intellectual trust in oneself even though it is not possible to provide a defense of the reliability of one's faculties, methods, and opinions that does not (...) beg the question. Moreover, he shows how this account of intellectual self-trust can be used to understand the degree to which it is reasonable to rely on alternative authorities. This book will be of interest to advanced students and professionals working in the fields of philosophy and the social sciences as well as anyone looking for a unified account of the issues at the center of intellectual trust. (shrink)
Descartes, and many of the other great epistemologists of the modern period, looked to epistemology to put science and intellectual inquiry generally on a secure foundation. Epistemology’s role was to provide assurances of the reliability of properly conducted inquiry. Indeed, its role was nothing less than to be czar of the sciences and of intellectual inquiry in general. This conception of epistemology is now almost universally regarded as overly grandiose. Nonetheless, Descartes and the other great epistemologists of the modern era (...) were not completely mistaken. Epistemology does have a foundational role to play, but not that of a guarantor of knowledge. Its role, rather, is the less flamboyant but nonetheless theoretically crucial one of providing a philosophically respectable foundation for a general theory of rationality. (shrink)
In this new book, Foley defends an epistemology that takes seriously the perspectives of individual thinkers. He argues that having rational opinions is a matter of meeting our own internal standards rather than standards that are somehow imposed upon us from the outside. It is a matter of making ourselves invulnerable to intellectual self-criticism. Foley also shows how the theory of rational belief is part of a general theory of rationality. He thus avoids treating the rationality of belief as a (...) fundamentally different kind of phenomenon from the rationality of decision or action. His approach generates promising suggestions about a wide range of issues--e.g., the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic reasons for belief; the question of what aspects of the Cartesian project are still worth doing; the significance of simplicity and other theoretical virtues; the relevance of skeptical hypotheses; the difference between a theory of rational belief and a theory of knowledge; the difference between a theory of rational belief and a theory of rational degrees of belief; and the limits of idealization in epistemology. (shrink)
There is a puzzle that is faced by every philosophical account of rational belief, rational strategy, rational planning or whatever. I describe this puzzle, examine Richard Fumerton’s proposed solution to it and then go on to sketch my own preferred solution.
What is illegal behavior? An intuitively plausible answer is that illegal behavior is behavior which the government discourages by the use of coercion. Although such coercion theories are generally out of favor today, the usual objections to such a theory can be plausibly answered, and moreover the theory has significant advantages over other ways of understanding the notion of illegal behavior.