Self-Supporting Arguments

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 66 (2):279-303 (2003)
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Abstract

Deductive and inductive logic confront this skeptical challenge: we can justify any logical principle only by means of an argument but we can acquire justification by means of an argument only if we are already justified in believing some logical principle. We could solve this problem if probative arguments do not require justified belief in their corresponding conditionals. For if not, then inferential justification would not require justified belief in any logical principle. So even arguments whose corresponding conditionals are epistemically dependent upon their conclusions---epistemically self-supporting arguments---need not be viciously circular. R.B. Braithwaite and James Van Cleve use internalist and externalist versions of this strategy in their proposed solutions to the problem of induction. Unfortunately, their arguments for self-support are unsound and any theory of inferential justification that does not require justified belief in the corresponding conditionals of justification-affording arguments is unacceptably arbitrary. So self-supporting arguments cannot be justification-creating.

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Andrew Cling
University of Alabama, Huntsville

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