Eleven pairs of newly commissioned essays face off on opposite sides of fundamental problems in current theories of knowledge. Brings together fresh debates on eleven of the most controversial issues in epistemology. Questions addressed include: Is knowledge contextual? Can skepticism be refuted? Can beliefs be justified through coherence alone? Is justified belief responsible belief? Lively debate format sharply defines the issues, and paves the way for further discussion. Will serve as an accessible introduction to the major topics in contemporary epistemology, (...) whilst also capturing the imagination of professional philosophers. (shrink)
According to William Alston, we lack voluntary control over our propositional attitudes because we cannot believe intentionally, and we cannot believe intentionally because our will is not causally connected to belief formation. Against Alston, I argue that we can believe intentionally because our will is causally connected to belief formation. My defense of this claim is based on examples in which agents have reasons for and against believing p, deliberate on what attitude to take towards p, and subsequently acquire an (...) attitude A towards p because they have decided to take attitude A. From the possibility of intentional belief, two conclusions follow. First, the kind of control we have over our propositional attitudes is direct; it is possible for us to believe at will. Second, the question of whether what we believe is under our control ultimately depends on whether our will itself is under our control. It is, therefore, a question of the metaphysics of free will. (shrink)
Epistemic deontology is the view that the concept of epistemic justification is deontological: a justified belief is, by definition, an epistemically permissible belief. I defend this view against the argument from doxastic involuntarism, according to which our doxastic attitudes are not under our voluntary control, and thus are not proper objects for deontological evaluation. I argue that, in order to assess this argument, we must distinguish between a compatibilist and a libertarian construal of the concept of voluntary control. If we (...) endorse a compatibilist construal, it turns out that we enjoy voluntary control over our doxastic attitudes after all. If, on the other hand, we endorse a libertarian construal, the result is that, for our doxastic attitudes to be suitable objects of deontological evaluation, they need not be under our voluntary control. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the rejection of doxastic voluntarism is not as straightforward as its opponents take it to be. I begin with a critical examination of William Alston's defense of involuntarism and then focus on the question of whether belief is intentional.
Defined narrowly, epistemology is the study of knowledge and justified belief. As the study of knowledge, epistemology is concerned with the following questions: What are the necessary and sufficient conditions of knowledge? What are its sources? What is its structure, and what are its limits? As the study of justified belief, epistemology aims to answer questions such as: How we are to understand the concept of justification? What makes justified beliefs justified? Is justification internal or external to one's own mind? (...) Understood more broadly, epistemology is about issues having to do with the creation and dissemination of knowledge in particular areas of inquiry. This article will provide a systematic overview of the problems that the questions above raise and focus in some depth on issues relating to the structure and the limits of knowledge and justification. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine Alston's arguments for doxastic involuntarism. Alston fails to distinguish (i) between volitional and executional lack of control, and (ii) between compatibilist and libertarian control. As a result, he fails to notice that, if one endorses a compatibilist notion of voluntary control, the outcome is a straightforward and compelling case for doxastic voluntarism. Advocates of involuntarism have recently argued that the compatibilist case for doxastic voluntarism can be blocked by pointing out that belief is never intentional. (...) In response to this strategy, I distinguish between two types of intentionality and argue that belief is no less intentional than action is. (shrink)
This volume gathers eleven new and three previously unpublished essays that take on questions of epistemic justification, responsibility, and virtue. It contains the best recent work in this area by major figures such as Ernest Sosa, Robert Audi, Alvin Goldman, and Susan Haak.
When I take a sip from the coffee in my cup, I can taste that it is sweet. When I hold the cup with my hands, I can feel that it is hot. Why does the experience of feeling that the cup is hot give me justification for believing that the cup is hot?And why does the experience of tasting that the coffee is sweet give me justification for believing that the coffee is sweet?In general terms: Why is it that (...) a sense experience that P is a source of justification—a reason—for believing that P? Call this the Question. I will discuss various answers to the Question, and defend the one I myself favor. (shrink)
Defeaters can prevent a perceptual belief from being justified. For example, when you know that red light is shining at the table before you, you would typically not be justified in believing that the table is red. However, can defeaters also destroy a perceptual experience as a source of justification? If the answer is ‘no’, the red light defeater blocks doxastic justification without destroying propositional justification. You have some-things-considered, but not all-things-considered, justification for believing that the table is red. If (...) the answer is ‘yes’, the red light defeater blocks doxastic justification by destroying propositional justification. You have neither all-things-considered nor some-things-considered justification for believing that the table is red. According to dogmatism, the justificational force of perceptual experiences is indestructible. According to conservatism about sense experience, a perceptual experience ceases to have justificational force if there is evidence against its reliability. Finally, according to meta-evidentialism, a perceptual experience is blocked from being a source of justification is there is no evidence of its reliability. I argue that, of these three theories, meta-evidentialism is the most plausible. (shrink)
Is it possible to argue that one’s memory is reliable without using one’s memory? I argue that it is not. Since it is not, it is impossible to defend the reliability ofone’s memory without employing reasoning that is epistemically circular. Hence, if epistemic circularity is vicious, it is impossible to succeed in producing a cogent argument for the reliability of one’s memory. The same applies to any other one of one’s cognitive faculties. I further argue that, if epistemic circularity is (...) vicious, it is impossible to produce a cogent argument for the reliability of anything. For example, if epistemic circularity were vicious, a cogent argument for the reliability of one’s car would not be possible. The seeming viciousness of epistemic circularity even threatens, I propose, the possibility of justification and knowledge. Much, therefore, hangs one the question of whether epistemic circularity is indeed bad. I argue that epistemic circularity, or bootstrapping, need not be bad. When we use a crystal ball—a source perspicuously guilty of unreliability—to confirm its own reliability, bootstrapping is foolish. When we attribute reliability to a witness solely because the witness says he is reliable, bootstrapping is dogmatic. Foolish and dogmatic bootstrapping are bad. However, when a witness provides a rich body of testimony, using that testimony to gauge the witness’s reliability need not be a vicious form of circularity. When done critically, I argue, such reasoning exemplifies a form of bootstrapping that is benign. (shrink)
I distinguish between Old Contextualism, New Contextualism, and the Multiple Concepts Theory. I argue that Old Contextualism cannot handle the following three problems: (i) the disquotational paradox, (ii) upward pressure resistance, (iii) inability to avoid the acceptance of skeptical conclusions. New Contextualism, in contrast, can avoid these problems. However, since New Contextualism appears to be a semanticized mirror image of MCT, it remains unclear whether it is in fact a genuine version of contextualism.
This paper makes three points: First, empiricism as a stance is problematic unless criteria for evaluating the stance are provided. Second, Van Fraassen conceives of the empiricist stance as receiving its content, at least in part, from the rejection of metaphysics. But the rejection of metaphysics seems to presuppose for its justification the very empiricist doctrine Van Fraassen intends to replace with the empiricist stance. Third, while I agree with Van Fraassen’s endorsement of voluntarism, I raise doubts about the possibility (...) of defending voluntarism without engaging in the kind of metaphysics Van Fraassen rejects. (shrink)
I propose a version of foundationaUsm with the following distinctive features. First, it includes in the class of basic beliefs ordinary beliefs about physical objects. This makes it unrestricted. Second, it assigns the role of ultimate justifiers to A-states: states of being appeared to in various ways. Such states have propositional content, and are justifiers if they are presumptively reliable. The beliefs A-states justify are basic if they are non-inferential. In the last three sections of the paper, I defend this (...) version of foundationalism against Sellars's famous anti-foundationalist dilemma, according to which sense-experiential states can't be justifiers ifthey lack propositional content, and can't terminate the justificatory regress if they have propositional content. I argue that the latter of these two claims is false. A-states can play the role of justifiers because they have propositional content, and they can terminate the justificatory regress because they themselves are capable of neither being true or false, nor being justified or unjustified. (shrink)
In recent years, what is commonly referred to as “virtue epistemology” has gained momentum. One of the first to champion this approach with much force and sophistication was Ernest Sosa. James Montmarquet has contributed to the ascendancy of virtue epistemology with a fine monograph, and Alvin Goldman has, at least indirectly, confirmed the attraction of this approach by rephrasing his latest version of reliabilism in terms of epistemic virtues and vices. In Virtues of the Mind, Linda Zagzebski has set forth (...) what is probably, to date, the most systematic account and defence of virtue epistemology. The book has three parts. In the first, Zagzebski explains why she thinks the current state of epistemology provides us with ample reasons to turn to a virtue-based approach. In the second, she develops the theoretical framework of ethical and intellectual virtues. In the third, she applies this framework to the analysis of knowledge. (shrink)
A foundationalist account of the justification of our empirical beliefs is committed to the following two claims: (1) Sense experience is a source of justification. (2) Some empirical beliefs are basic: justified without receiving their justification from any other beliefs. In this paper, I will defend each of these claims against an objection. The objection to (1) that I will discuss is due to Donald Davidson. He writes: The relation between a sensation and a belief cannot be logical, since sensations (...) are not beliefs or other propositional attitudes. What then is the relation? The answer is, I think, obvious: the relation is causal. Sensations cause some beliefs and in this sense are the basis or ground of those beliefs. But a causal explanation of a belief does not show how or why the belief is justified.  There are two important thoughts in this passage. The first of these is explicitly expressed, the second implied: (3) Sense-experiential states are devoid of propositional content. (4) Necessarily, if a mental state can play the role of a justifier, it has propositional content. (3) and (4) entail that a sense-experiential state cannot play the role of a justifier. If that is true, then (1) is false. This, in any case, seems to me to be Davidson's argument. In response to it, I accept (4) but reject (3). This is an unusual move for foundationalists, who tend to accept (3) and deny (4). Nevertheless, it is what I take to be the right move. (shrink)
This book offers a systematic and up-to-date account of the landscape of contemporary epistemology. It presupposes only a minimum of prior philosophical knowledge, and includes an account of the logical and conceptual tools needed for philosophical analysis. Focuses on the writings and ideas of W. Alston, R. Audi, L. BonJour, R. Chisholm, A. Goldman. H. Kornboith, K. Lehrer. A. Plantinga, W. V. Quine, E. Sosa, and B Stroud, among others; links particular theories and arguments to their chief proponents and critics.
Skeptics claim that we know radically less than we think we do. For example, skeptics might claim that we have next to no knowledge of the past, the future, or other minds. Here we will consider the skeptical claim that we have next to no knowledge of the external world: the world of physical objects that we at least seem to perceive. One well-known argument in support of this claim appeals to the possibility of being a BIV: a brain in (...) a vat. According to the BIV Hypothesis, you are a mere BIV without a normal body. This of course means, among other things, that you don't have hands. The nerve endings of your brain are stimulated in a manner so sophisticated that the perfect illusion of a normal life is generated. Let's distinguish between the.. (shrink)
In this book, Almeder distinguishes between three kinds of naturalism: Quine’s recommendation to replace traditional epistemology with science; the kind of reliabilism advocated in Alvin Goldman’s Epistemology and Cognition, according to which traditional epistemology should at least partially be transformed into science; and the kind Almeder himself proposes, which he calls “harmless” naturalism. The former two are examples of scientism: according to Almeder, the mistaken view that the only answerable questions are those that science can answer. Harmless naturalism is harmless (...) because it does not succumb to scientism; it advocates neither the replacement nor the transformation of traditional epistemology. The purpose of the book is to make a case against scientism and for harmless naturalism. Accordingly, it is divided into three parts, each of which is about one of the three kinds of naturalism. (shrink)
It seems plausible that there can be “no win” moral situations in which no matter what one does one fails some moral obligation. Is there an epistemic analog to moral dilemmas? Are there epistemically dilemmatic situations—situations in which we are doomed to violate an epistemic requirement? If there are, when exactly do they arise and what can we learn from them? A team of top epistemologists address these and closely related questions from a variety of new, sometimes unexpected, angles. Anyone (...) interested in epistemic dilemmas, the nature of justification and evidential support, higher-order requirements, or suspension of judgment will find a range of useful arguments and fresh ideas in this cutting-edge anthology. (shrink)
According to externalist reliabilism and dogmatic foundationalism, it's possible to gain knowledge through a perceptual experience without being in a position to know that the experience is reliable. As a result, both of these views face the problem of making knowledge of perceptual reliability too easy, for they permit deducing perceptual reliability from particular perceptual experience without already knowing that these experiences are trustworthy. Ernest Sosa advocates a two-stage solution to the problem. At the first stage, a rich body of (...) perceptual animal knowledge is acquired. At the second stage, perceptual knowledge becomes reflective after deducing perceptual reliability from the initial body of perceptual animal knowledge. I defend the alternative approach of rejecting both externalist reliabilism and dogmatic foundationalism. According to the alternative view, perceptual knowledge and knowledge of perceptual reliability require each other. Such a cognitive structure seems viciously circular. I propose that the appearance of vicious circularity dissipates when the relationship in question is viewed, not as one of temporal priority, but instead as synchronic mutual dependence. At a given time, one cannot have perceptual knowledge without knowledge of perceptual reliability, and vice versa. Such mutual dependence, I argue, is benign. (shrink)
Should we only believe what science can prove? Robert Almeder analyzes "naturalized epistemology," which holds that the only valid claims that can be made about the world must be proven by the natural sciences and that all philosophical questions are ultimately answered by science. The author examines and refutes different forms of naturalized epistemology before settling on "harmless naturalism," a compromise which implies that certain questions about the world are answerable and have been answered, without appealing to science. (publisher).
In this book, which is as much about postmodern continental philosophy as about analytic epistemology, Alcoff argues that epistemology is in need of a reorientation away from foundationalism and metaphysical realism toward coherentism and what Alcoff calls “immanent” realism. Alcoff begins, in the book’s introduction, by making an initial case for coherentism and against dismissing epistemology altogether. She considers it a valuable postmodernist insight that philosophical theorizing reflects social, gender, and ethnic hierarchies, and thus is driven by unacknowledged elements such (...) as desire and power. Alcoff suggests, however, that it would be a mistake for philosophers to be content with simply exposing the hidden role such forces play. Epistemology as a philosophical discipline answers to important questions and concerns. But, Alcoff urges, it must transform itself if it is to preserve the postmodernist lessons. Such a transformation, if accomplished, would end the autonomy of epistemology, for it would tear down the traditional boundaries between the philosophical and the political, the normative and the sociological. (shrink)