About this topic

Reliabilism is a general approach to questions about knowledge and justification. It focuses on different ways of measuring and employing the property of truth-conduciveness. This general approach comes in four main varieties, each with alternative formulations. Process Reliabilism focuses on the truth-conduciveness of the type-process producing a certain belief. Anti-Luck Reliabilism focuses on the truth-conduciveness of the token-process producing a certain belief (these accounts make use of the modal notions of sensitivity and safety). Virtue Reliabilism focuses on the truth-conduciveness of an agent’s intellectual character traits, or of an agent's believing performance. And Proper Function Reliabilism adds to truth-conduciveness (in whichever guise) the requirement for a purposeful fit between mind and world. The main objections to Reliabilism come from the difficulties attending its proper formulation (counterexamples) and from four much-discussed problems: the Generality Problem, the New Evil Demon Problem, the Problem of Easy Knowledge (Bootstrapping), and the Swamping Problem.

Key works

Contemporary discussions of Reliabilism begin with Goldman 1967, Unger 1968, and Armstrong 1973. Process Reliabilism is developed in Goldman 1975, 1976, 1979, 1986, Kornblith 2002, 2008, and Lyons 2009. Anti-Luck Reliabilism is developed in Dretske 1971, Nozick 1981, Sosa 1999, Williamson 2000, and Pritchard 2005. Virtue Reliabilism is developed in Sosa 1980, 1991, 2007, and Greco 1999, 2000, 2003. And Proper Function Reliabilism is developed in Plantinga 1993 and Bergmann 2006. Influential counterexamples appear in Bonjour 1980, Lehrer 1990, and Plantinga 1993 (see Lyons 2009 for replies). The classic statement of the Generality Problem appears in Conee & Feldman 1998 (see Beebe 2004 and Comesaña 2006 for replies). Early statements of the Problem of Easy Knowledge appear in Vogel 2000 and Cohen 2002 (see Kornblith 2009 for a reply). An early statement of the New Evil Demon Problem appears in Cohen 1984 (see Goldman 1988, Majors & Sawyer 2005, and Comesaña 2002 for replies). And detailed discussions of the Swamping Problem appear in Zagzebski 2003 and Kvanvig 2003 (see Goldman & Olsson 2009 for replies). Recently, Berker 2013, 2013 sparked a renewed critical interest on the consequentialist structure of Reliabilism (see Goldman 2015 and Ahlstrom-Vij & Dunn 2014 for replies).

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  1. Reliabilism, Bootstrapping, and Epistemic Circularity.Jochen Briesen - 2013 - Synthese 190 (18):4361-4372.
    Pretheoretically we hold that we cannot gain justification or knowledge through an epistemically circular reasoning process. Epistemically circular reasoning occurs when a subject forms the belief that p on the basis of an argument A, where at least one of the premises of A already presupposes the truth of p. It has often been argued that process reliabilism does not rule out that this kind of reasoning leads to justification or knowledge. For some philosophers, this is a reason to reject (...)
  2. Can Virtue Reliabilism Explain the Value of Knowledge?Berit Brogaard - 2006 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 36 (3):335-354.
    Virtue reliabilism appears to have a major advantage over generic reliabilism: only the former has the resources to explain the intuition that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief. I argue that this appearance is illusory. It is sustained only by the misguided assumption that a principled distinction can be drawn between those belief-forming methods that are grounded in the agent’s intellectual virtues, and those that are not. A further problem for virtue reliabilism is that of explaining why knowledge (...)
  3. Reliabilism, Knowledge, and Mental Content.J. Brown - 2000 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2):115-35.
    I consider whether one particular anti-individualist claim, the doctrine of object-dependent thoughts (DODT), is compatible with the Principle of Privileged Access, or PPA, which states that, in general, a subject can have non-empirical knowledge of her thought contents. The standard defence of the compatibility of anti-individualism and PPA emphasises the reliability of the process which produces a subject's second order beliefs about her thought contents. I examine whether this defence can be applied to DODT, given that DODT generates the possibility (...)
  4. Bootstrapping and Knowledge of Reliability.Anthony Brueckner & Christopher T. Buford - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (3):407–412.
    This is a critical discussion of a paper on the problem of bootstrapping by Jose Zalabardo.
  5. Causality, Reliabilism, and Mathematical Knowledge.Albert Casullo - 1992 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (3):557-584.
  6. Revisability, Reliabilism, and a Priori Knowledge.Albert Casullo - 1988 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 49 (2):187-213.
  7. Indicator Reliabilism.James Chase - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1):115 - 137.
    In 'Epistemic Folkways and Scientific Epistemology' Goldman offers a theory of justification inspired by the exemplar account of concept representation. I discuss the connection and conclude that the analogy does not support the theory offered. I then argue that Goldman's rule consequentialist framework for analysis is vulnerable to a problem of epistemic access, and use this to present an analysis of justification as an indicator concept we use to track how well the evaluated agent is doing with respect to the (...)
  8. Three Questions About Leplin’s Reliabilism.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (1):43-50.
    This paper raises three critical questions about Jarrett Leplin's version of reliabilism.
  9. On Reflection, by Hilary Kornblith.Elijah Chudnoff - 2015 - Mind 124 (496):1319-1322.
  10. What Happens to Reliabilism When It Is Liberated From the Propositional Attitudes?Paul M. Churchland - 2001 - Philosophical Topics 29 (1/2):91-112.
  11. Alvin T. Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition. [REVIEW]Andy Clark - 1988 - Philosophical Quarterly 38 (53):526.
  12. Reliabilism and the Meliorative Project.Murray Clarke - 2000 - The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 5:75-82.
    It has been suggested, recently and not so recently, by a number of analytic epistemologists that reliabilist and externalist accounts of justification and knowledge are inadequate responses to the goals of traditional epistemology and other goals of inquiry. But philosophers of science decry reliabilism and externalism because they are connected to traditional, analytic epistemology, an outmoded and utopian form of inquiry. Clearly, both groups of critics cannot be right. I think both groups are guilty of conceptual confusions that, once clarified, (...)
  13. Alvin I. Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition Reviewed By.Lorraine Code - 1988 - Philosophy in Review 8 (10):398-401.
  14. Alvin I. Goldman, Epistemology and Cognition. [REVIEW]Lorraine Code - 1988 - Philosophy in Review 8:398-401.
  15. Greco's Agent Reliabilism. [REVIEW]Stewart Cohen - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (2):437–443.
  16. Evidentialist Reliabilism.Juan Comesaña - 2010 - Noûs 44 (4):571-600.
    I argue for a theory that combines elements of reliabilism and evidentialism.
  17. What Lottery Problem for Reliabilism?Juan Comesaña - 2009 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (1):1-20.
    It can often be heard in the hallways, and occasionally read in print, that reliabilism runs into special trouble regarding lottery cases. My main aim in this paper is to argue that this is not so. Nevertheless, lottery cases do force us to pay close attention to the relation between justification and probability.
  18. Thomas Reid and Scepticism: His Reliabilist Response.Rebecca Copenhaver - 2004 - Philosophical Review 113 (4):574-577.
  19. Ultra-Strong Internalism and the Reliabilist Insight.Dan D. Crawford - 2002 - Journal of Philosophical Research 27:311-328.
    When someone believes something that is justified for her, what part does the subject play in her state of being justified? I will answer this question by developing a strong internalist account of justification according to which the justification of a believing for a subject consists in her having grounds for her belief, and holding the belief in recognition of those grounds. But the internalist theory I defend incorporates key elements of reliabilism into its account. Using perception as a model (...)
  20. Review of Philip De Bary: Thomas Reid and Scepticism: His Reliabilist Response[REVIEW]Terence Cuneo - 2004 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 2 (2):194-199.
  21. Review of "Epistemology and Cognition" by Alvin Goldman.Jonathan Dancy - 1987 - Mind and Language 2 (3):270-276.
  22. Reliabilism and the Extra Value of Knowledge.Wayne Davis & Christoph Jäger - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 157 (1):93-105.
    Goldman and Olsson ( 2009 ) have responded to the common charge that reliabilist theories of knowledge are incapable of accounting for the value knowledge has beyond mere true belief. We examine their “conditional probability solution” in detail, and show that it does not succeed. The conditional probability relation is too weak to support instrumental value, and the specific relation they describe is inessential to the value of knowledge. At best, they have described conditions in which knowledge indicates that additional (...)
  23. Thomas Reid and Scepticism: His Reliabilist Response.Philip de Bary - 2002 - Routledge.
    This book bears witness to the current reawakening of interest in Reid's philosophy. It first examines Reid's negative attack on the Way of Ideas, and finds him to be a devastating critic of his predecessors.
  24. Plantinga's Reliabilism Between Teleology and Epistemic Naturalization.Margherita Di Stasio - 2008 - European Journal of Analytic Philosophy 4 (1):13-24.
  25. Reverse Engineering Epistemic Evaluations.Sinan Dogramaci - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3):513-530.
    This paper begins by raising a puzzle about what function our use of the word ‘rational’ could serve. To solve the puzzle, I introduce a view I call Epistemic Communism: we use epistemic evaluations to promote coordination among our basic belief-forming rules, and the function of this is to make the acquisition of knowledge by testimony more efficient.
  26. Proper Bootstrapping.Igor Douven & Christoph Kelp - 2013 - Synthese 190 (1):171-185.
    According to a much discussed argument, reliabilism is defective for making knowledge too easy to come by. In a recent paper, Weisberg aims to show that this argument relies on a type of reasoning that is rejectable on independent grounds. We argue that the blanket rejection that Weisberg recommends of this type of reasoning is both unwarranted and unwelcome. Drawing on an older discussion in the philosophy of science, we show that placing some relatively modest restrictions on the said type (...)
  27. Apistemology and Cognition by Alvin Goldman. [REVIEW]Fred Dretske - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (5):265-270.
  28. Knowledge and the Flow of Information.Fred Dretske - 1981 - MIT Press.
    This book presents an attempt to develop a theory of knowledge and a philosophy of mind using ideas derived from the mathematical theory of communication developed by Claude Shannon. Information is seen as an objective commodity defined by the dependency relations between distinct events. Knowledge is then analyzed as information caused belief. Perception is the delivery of information in analog form for conceptual utilization by cognitive mechanisms. The final chapters attempt to develop a theory of meaning by viewing meaning as (...)
  29. Reliabilism, Foundationalism, and Naturalized Epistemic Justification Theory.Jane Duran - 1988 - Metaphilosophy 19 (2):113–127.
  30. The Autonomy and Explanation of Mystical Perception.Christopher J. Eberle - 1998 - Religious Studies 34 (3):299-316.
    William Alston has articulated a powerful defence of the claim that mystical perception generates prima facie justified beliefs about God. At the heart of his defence is the claim that mystical perception is 'innocent until proven guilty'; that is, Alston claims that the practice of forming beliefs on the basis of putative perceptions of God should be accorded the same presumptive innocence we accord to other standard ways of forming beliefs like sense perception, memory and introspection. But Alston employs a (...)
  31. The Contextual Basis of Rationality.William Douglas Evans - 1992 - Dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University
    Among recent naturalistic epistemologies, one class of theories, 'rough psychologistic' theories, is the most promising. These claim that for our belief-formation processes to yield knowledge is for them to be sufficiently reliable. The study of cognition, then, is best conducted by dividing labor between two groups: psychologists, who should describe what, and how reliable, the processes we use to form beliefs are; and philosophers, who should formulate normative standards of reliability. ;One promising version of rough psychologism is Alvin Goldman's nativistic (...)
  32. Can Reliabilism and Consequentialism Be Used at the Same Time in a Theory of Knowledge: A Knotty Consideration.A. Fatic - 1996 - Communication and Cognition. Monographies 29 (1):131-145.
  33. Goldman on Epistemology and Cognitive Science.Richard Feldman - 1989 - Philosophia 19 (2-3):197-207.
  34. Reliability and Justification.Richard Feldman - 1985 - The Monist 68 (2):159-174.
  35. Schmitt on Reliability, Objectivity, and Justification.Richard Feldman - 1985 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 63 (3):354 – 360.
  36. Typing Problems.Richard Feldman & Earl Conee - 2002 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (1):98-105.
    Guided by the work of William Alston, Jonathan Adler and Michael Levin propose a solution to the generality problem for reliabilism. In some respects their proposal improves on those we have discussed. We argue that the problem remains unsolved.
  37. The Medieval Roots of Reliabilist Epistemology: Albert of Saxony's View of Immediate Apprehension.Michael J. Fitzgerald - 2003 - Synthese 136 (3):409 - 434.
    In the essay I first argue that Albert ofSaxony's defense of perceptual ``directrealism'' is in fact a forerunner of contemporaryforms of ``process reliabilist''epistemologies. Second, I argue that Albert's defenseof perceptual direct realism has aninteresting consequence for his philosophy oflanguage. His semantic notion of `naturalsignification' does not require any semanticintermediary entity called a `concept' or`description', to function as the directsignificatum of written or spoken termsfor them to designate perceptual objects. AlthoughAlbert is inspired by Ockham's mentalact theory, I conclude that Albert seemsto (...)
  38. What's Wrong With Reliabilism?Richard Foley - 1985 - The Monist 68 (2):188-202.
  39. No Easy Answers: Science and the Pursuit of Knowledge.Allan Franklin - 2007 - University of Pittsburgh Press.
    In _No Easy Answers_, Allan Franklin offers an accurate picture of science to both a general reader and to scholars in the humanities and social sciences who may not have any background in physics. Through the examination of nontechnical case studies, he illustrates the various roles that experiment plays in science. He uses examples of unquestioned success, such as the discoveries of the electron and of three types of neutrino, as well as studies that were dead ends, wrong turns, or (...)
  40. Book Review:Epistemology and Cognition Alvin I. Goldman. [REVIEW]Bruce Freed - 1988 - Philosophy of Science 55 (3):479-.
  41. Epistemology and Cognition.Bruce Freed - 1988 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18 (1):125-145.
  42. Reliability, Reasons, and Belief Contexts.R. Bruce Freed - 1988 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18 (4):681 - 696.
  43. Review: Thomas Reid and Scepticism: His Reliabilist Response. [REVIEW]Roger Gallie - 2003 - Mind 112 (447):518-521.
  44. Is "Simple Reliabilism" Adequately Motivated? [REVIEW]R. Douglas Geivett - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (2):444–450.
  45. Coverage-Reliability, Epistemic Dependence, and the Problem of Rumor-Based Belief.A. Gelfert - unknown
  46. Critical Study of Goldberg's Relying on Others. [REVIEW]Mikkel Gerken - 2012 - Episteme 9 (1):81-88.
    This critical study of Sanford Goldberg's Relying on Others focuses on the book's central claim, the extendedness hypothesis, according to which the processes relevant for assessing the reliability of a hearer's testimonial belief include the cognitive processes involved in the production of the testimony.
  47. Causal Theories in Epistemology.Carl Ginet - 1992 - In Jonathan Dancy & Ernest Sosa (eds.), Blackwell's A Companion to Epistemology. Blackwell.
  48. Contra Reliabilism.Carl Ginet - 1985 - The Monist 68 (2):175-187.
  49. The Trouble with Goldman's Reliabilism.Gary Gleb - 1990 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 68 (4):382 – 394.
  50. The Generality of Predictions.William Godfrey-Smith - 1978 - American Philosophical Quarterly 15 (1):15 - 25.
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