Justifying circumstances and Moore-paradoxical beliefs: A response to Brueckner

Analysis 69 (3):490-496 (2009)
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Abstract

In 2004, I explained the absurdity of Moore-paradoxical belief via the syllogism (Williams 2004): (1) All circumstances that justify me in believing that p are circumstances that tend to make me believe that p. (2) All circumstances that tend to make me believe that p are circumstances that justify me in believing that I believe that p. (3) All circumstances that justify me in believing that p are circumstances that justify me in believing that I believe that p. I then took (3) to mean (EP) Whatever justifies me in believing that p justifies me in believing that I believe that p.1 Now suppose that I am justified in believing anything of the omissive Mooreparadoxical form: (Om) p and I do not believe that p. Then I am justified in believing the first conjunct. So by (EP) I am justified in believing that I believe that p. But since I am also justified in believing the second conjunct, I am justified in believing that I do not believe that p. I claimed that this is impossible, because anything that justifies me in believing that something is the case renders me unjustified in believing that it is not the case. This syllogism is plausible from an externalist view of justification, according to which circumstances such as seeming to see rain under normal perceptual conditions, justify me in believing that it is raining. In support of (1), if my apparent perceptions of rain are reliably connected with rain, so as to justify me in thinking that it is raining, they also tend to make me believe that it is raining. In support of (2), my apparent perceptions of rain are also reliably connected with my coming to believe that it is raining. However, Anthony Brueckner (2006) argues that (1) and (EP) are both false once justification is thought of evidentially. Against (EP), he claims that my evidence that p is not evidence that I believe that p unless I possess the evidence, in the sense that I believe it and were I to believe that p on its basis

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John N. Williams
Singapore Management University

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