The basic notion of justification

Philosophical Studies 59 (3):235-261 (1990)
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Epistemologists often offer theories of justification without paying much attention to the variety and diversity of locutions in which the notion of justification appears. For example, consider the following claims which contain some notion of justification: B is a justified belief, S's belief that p is justified, p is justified for S, S is justified in believing that p, S justifiably believes that p, S's believing p is justified, there is justification for S to believe that p, there is justification for S's believing p, and S has a justification for believing that p. In addition to these passive uses of the notion of justification, there are active uses as well: S justified his belief in p, believing e justifies believing p, etc. The syntactic variety involves semantic difference as well. For example, the proposition S has a justification for believing that p does not entail that S believes p, whereas the proposition S justifiably believes that p does entail that S believes p. Our ultimate goal is to show that this diversity is only superficial by arguing that there is a basic kind of justification. On the way, however, we shall argue that there are three central uses of a notion of justifica- tion in the above list: propositional justification (as in p is justified for S), personal justification (as in S is justified in believing that p) and doxastic justification (as in S's believing p is justified). Our preliminary argument will be that the multiplicity above can be explained in terms of these three locutions, and the substance of our argument will be to show that one of these three is the basic kind of justification. Success in this task will thereby justify, at least in part, the practice of contem- porary epistemologists. Our conclusions, however, shall not be of much comfort to contemporary epistemology, for the way in which the apparent diversity in the uses of the notion of justification is eliminated undermines much of recent epistemology.



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Author Profiles

Jonathan L. Kvanvig
Washington University in St. Louis
Christopher Menzel
Texas A&M University

Citations of this work

The Limitations of the Open Mind.Jeremy Fantl - 2018 - Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
On justifications and excuses.B. J. C. Madison - 2018 - Synthese 195 (10):4551-4562.

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References found in this work

Strong and weak justification.Alvin Goldman - 1988 - Philosophical Perspectives 2:51-69.
A Rationale for Reliabilism.Kent Bach - 1985 - The Monist 68 (2):246-263.
Knowledge and Intellectual Virtue.Ernest Sosa - 1985 - The Monist 68 (2):226-245.
A Rationale for Reliabilism.Kent Bach - 2000 - In Sven Bernecker & Fred I. Dretske (eds.), Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
Positive epistemic status and proper function.Alvin Plantinga - 1988 - Philosophical Perspectives 2:1-50.

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