Conceptual Equivocation and Warrant by Reasoning

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (3):381-400 (2011)
In this paper, I challenge a widely presupposed principle in the epistemology of inference. The principle, (Validity Requirement), is this: S’s (purportedly deductive) reasoning, R, from warranted premise-beliefs provides (conditional) warrant for S’s belief in its conclusion only if R is valid. I argue against (Validity Requirement) from two prominent assumptions in the philosophy of mind: that the cognitive competencies that constitute reasoning are fallible, and that the attitudes operative in reasoning are anti-individualistically individuated. Indeed, my discussion will amount to a defence of anti-individualism against a novel ‘slow-switch’ argument against it. This argument contra anti-individualism has it that given anti-individualism and certain auxiliary assumptions, A, a switched reasoner may, in certain slow-switch circumstances, C, reason invalidly by equivocating concepts. More specifically: (Valid 0): Peter is in circumstances C, and auxiliary assumptions, A, hold.(Valid 1): If Peter is in circumstances C, and auxiliary assumptions A hold, then (if the attitudes operative in Peter’s reasoning R are anti-individualistically individuated, then R is not valid). (Valid 2): Peter’s reasoning, R, generates warrant for the conclusion-belief. (Valid 3): Peter’s reasoning, R, generates warrant for the conclusion-belief only if the reasoning, R, is valid. (Valid 4): So, the attitudes operative in Peter’s reasoning R are not anti-individualistically individuated. The argument involves weaker premises than those of familiar slow-switch arguments against anti-individualism. In particular, it requires only that the reasoning be de facto valid. This assumption is much weaker than the requirement that the validity of the reasoning be ‘transparent’ to the reasoner. Indeed, (Valid 3) is simply an instance of (Validity Requirement). However, I argue that anti-individualism and (Valid 0)–(Valid 2) should be upheld at the expense of (Valid 3). In consequence, (Validity Requirement) stands in need of restriction. Thus, I argue for a surprising result in the epistemology of inference from widely accepted assumptions in the philosophy of mind.
Keywords Equivocation  Inferential justification  Slow-switching
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DOI 10.1080/00048402.2010.488267
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References found in this work BETA
Roderick M. Chisholm (1966). Theory of Knowledge. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice-Hall.
Fred I. Dretske (1970). Epistemic Operators. Journal of Philosophy 67 (24):1007-1023.
Tyler Burge (1988). Individualism and Self-Knowledge. Journal of Philosophy 85 (November):649-63.

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Citations of this work BETA
Mikkel Gerken (2013). Internalism and Externalism in the Epistemology of Testimony. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):532-557.

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