Externalism and Understanding: Toward a Unified Account of Epistemic Justification

Dissertation, State University of New York at Buffalo (2003)
Abstract
Epistemologists have had two primary intuitions about epistemic justification: Epistemic justification has to do with epistemic obligations such that S is epistemically justified in believing that p iff S's belief that p is epistemically permissible. Epistemic justification has an objective connection to truth such that if S is epistemically justified in believing that p then S's belief that p is likely to be true. ;The first intuition is based upon the idea that epistemic justification is a normative property and that a subject should be held accountable for the presence or absence of epistemically justified beliefs. The second intuition is based upon the idea that epistemic justification is closely linked to knowledge and that the property of epistemic justification should rule out the possibility that an epistemically justified true belief is only accidentally true. ;Traditionally, most epistemologists accepted that a single concept of epistemic justification could make both intuitions true and offered theories that tried to accommodate both intuitions. Recently, however, many epistemologists have expressed doubts about the compatibility of these two intuitions and claimed that 'epistemic justification' is ambiguous between two concepts. The first concept is linked to epistemic permissibility and it is beliefs within the extension of this concept that supposedly make true. The second concept is linked to truth and it is beliefs within the extension of this concept that supposedly make true. ;In my dissertation, I argue that this two-concept view is unwarranted and that a single concept of epistemic justification can accommodate both intuitions. My argument focuses on the internalism/externalism debate and I argue that both intuitions require the following version of externalism: S is epistemically justified in believing that p iff: "p" is likely to be true. S understands that "p" is likely to be true. This cognitive act of understanding is a cause of S's belief that p. ;Each of these clauses require some clarification, and, in my dissertation, I analyze each clause and explain how this account can make sense of both intuitions behind epistemic justification
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