Rationality, justification, and the internalism/externalism debate

Erkenntnis 68 (1):79 - 101 (2008)
In this paper, I argue that what underlies internalism about justification is a rationalist conception of justification, not a deontological conception of justification, and I argue for the plausibility of this rationalist conception of justification. The rationalist conception of justification is the view that a justified belief is a belief that is held in a rational way; since we exercise our rationality through conscious deliberation, the rationalist conception holds that a belief is justified iff a relevant possible instance of conscious deliberation would endorse the belief. The importance of conscious deliberation stems from its role in guiding us in acquiring true beliefs: whereas the externalist holds that if we wish to acquire true beliefs, we have to begin by assuming that some of our usual methods of belief formation generally provide us with true beliefs, the internalist holds that if we form beliefs by conscious deliberation, we can be conscious of reasons for thinking that our beliefs are true. Conscious deliberation can make us conscious of reasons because it proceeds via rational intuitions. I argue that despite the fallibility of rational intuition, rational intuitions do enable us to become conscious of reasons for belief.
Keywords Rationality  Justification  Internalism  Externalism  Deliberation  Consciousness  Rational intuition
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John McDowell (1994). Mind and World. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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