On justifications and excuses

Synthese 195 (10):4551-4562 (2018)
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Abstract

The New Evil Demon problem has been hotly debated since the case was introduced in the early 1980’s (e.g. Lehrer and Cohen 1983; Cohen 1984), and there seems to be recent increased interest in the topic. In a forthcoming collection of papers on the New Evil Demon problem (Dutant and Dorsch, forthcoming), at least two of the papers, both by prominent epistemologists, attempt to resist the problem by appealing to the distinction between justification and excuses. My primary aim here is to critically evaluate this new excuse maneuver as a response to the New Evil Demon problem. Their response attempts to give us reason to reject the idea that victims of the New Evil Demon have justification for believing as they do. I shall argue that this approach is ultimately unsuccessful, however much of value can be learned from these attempts. In particular, progress in the debate can be made by following those who advance the excuse maneuver and make explicit the connection between epistemic justification and epistemic norms. By doing so, the questions being debated are clarified, as is the methodology being used to attempt to answer them.

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B. J. C. Madison
United Arab Emirates University

References found in this work

Epistemology and Cognition.Alvin Ira Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge, MA, USA: Harvard University Press.
What is Justified Belief?Alvin Goldman - 1979 - In George Pappas (ed.), Justification and Knowledge. Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 1-25.
Knowledge and Its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Philosophy 76 (297):460-464.

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