Justified Belief: Reasons, Regresses, and Foundations in Epistemic Justification

Dissertation, Vanderbilt University (1982)

Authors
Paul K. Moser
Loyola University, Chicago
Abstract
My overarching aim in this dissertation is to develop and to defend a new intuitionist foundationalist solution to the epistemic regress problem concerning the inferential justification of observation beliefs about what we currently perceive. The epistemic regress problem, roughly speaking, is a structural problem requiring the epistemologist to specify the necessary and sufficient conditions of the inferential justification of certain observation beliefs. We have four possible nonskeptical accounts of inferential epistemic justification: inferential justification via unjustified beliefs ; inferential justification via justificatory circles of some sort ; inferential justification via infinite justificatory regresses ; and inferential justification via immediately justified beliefs . ;My general strategy of argument in the dissertation is quite straightforward. In light of the forementioned competing accounts of inferential justification, I develop an extended eliminative regress argument for epistemic foundationalism. After providing a rough characterization of epistemic justification in Chapter I, I argue in Chapter II that the leading contextualist accounts of inferential justification are unacceptable and unpromising as solutions to the epistemic regress problem. In Chapter III, I argue against the most refined contemporary versions of epistemic coherentism, including negative coherentism, explanatory coherentism, and subjective coherentism. And in Chapter IV I argue not only that the relevant kind of infinite justificatory regresses is conceptually impossible, but also that the leading contemporary versions of foundationalism are unacceptable as solutions to the regress problem. But in Chapter V I develop and defend a new intuitionist variant of foundationalism that avoids the problems facing the theories I oppose in Chapters II-IV. In doing so, I solve the epistemic regress problem concerning observation beliefs about what we currently perceive
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