Reflective equilibrium and underdetermination in epistemology

Acta Analytica 19 (32):45-64 (2004)
Jared Bates
Hanover College
The basic aim of Alvin Goldman’s approach to epistemology, and the tradition it represents, is naturalistic; that is, epistemological theories in this tradition aim to identify the naturalistic, nonnormative criteria on which justified belief supervenes (Goldman, 1986; Markie, 1997). The basic method of Goldman’s epistemology, and the tradition it represents, is the reflective equilibrium test; that is, epistemological theories in this tradition are tested against our intuitions about cases of justified and unjustified belief (Goldman, 1986; Markie, 1997). I will argue that the prospect of having to reject their standard methodology is one epistemologists have to take very seriously; and I will do this by arguing that some current rival theories of epistemic justification are in fact in reflective equilibrium with our intuitions about cases of justified and unjustified belief. That is, I will argue that intuition underdetermines theory choice in epistemology, in much the way that observation underdetermines theory choices in empirical sciences. If reflective equilibrium leads to the underdetermination problem I say it leads to, then it cannot satisfy the aims of contemporary epistemology, and so cannot serve as its standard methodology.
Keywords intuitions as evidence  analytic epistemology  reflective equilibrium  appeal to intuition
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DOI 10.1007/s12136-004-1002-y
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Brainstorms.Daniel C. Dennett - 1978 - MIT Press.
Epistemology and Cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Harvard University Press.
Ontological Relativity and Other Essays.W. V. Quine - 1969 - Columbia University Press.
Fact, Fiction, and Forecast.Nelson Goodman - 1955 - Harvard University Press.
Warrant and Proper Function.Alvin Plantinga - 1993 - Oxford University Press.

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