What is the best account of process reliabilism about epistemic justification, especially epistemic entitlement? I argue that entitlement consists in the normal functioning (proper operation) of the belief-forming process when the process has forming true beliefs reliably as an etiological function. Etiological functions involve consequence explanation: a belief-forming process has forming true beliefs reliably as a function just in case forming-true beliefs reliably partly explains the persistence of the process. This account paves the way for avoiding standard objections to process (...) reliabilism and situations epistemic entitlement within a normative framework of functions and functional norms. (shrink)
This paper argues for the general proper functionalist view that epistemic warrant consists in the normal functioning of the belief-forming process when the process has forming true beliefs reliably as an etiological function. Such a process is reliable in normal conditions when functioning normally. This paper applies this view to so-called testimony-based beliefs. It argues that when a hearer forms a comprehension-based belief that P (a belief based on taking another to have asserted that P) through the exercise of a (...) reliable competence to comprehend and filter assertive speech acts, then the hearer's belief is prima facie warranted. The paper discusses the psychology of comprehension, the function of assertion, and the evolution of filtering mechanisms, especially coherence checking. (shrink)
How should we undertand the role of norms—especially epistemic norms—governing assertive speech acts? Mitchell Green (2009) has argued that these norms play the role of handicaps in the technical sense from the animal signals literature. As handicaps, they then play a large role in explaining the reliability—and so the stability (the continued prevalence)—of assertive speech acts. But though norms of assertion conceived of as social norms do indeed play this stabilizing role, these norms are best understood as deterrents and not (...) as handicaps. This paper explains the stability problem for the maintenance of animal signals, and so human communication, for we are animals too, after all; the mechanics of the handicap principle; the role of deterrents and punishments as an alternative mechanism; and the role of social norms governing assertion for the case of human communication. (shrink)
I hold that epistemic warrant consists in the normal functioning of the belief-forming process when the process has forming true beliefs reliably as an etiological function. Evolution by natural selection is the central source of etiological functions. This leads many to think that on my view warrant requires a history of natural selection. What then about learning? What then about Swampman? Though functions require history, natural selection is not the only source. Self-repair and trial-and-error learning are both sources. Warrant requires (...) history, but not necessarily that much. (shrink)
What is the biological function of perception? I hold perception, especially visual perception in humans, has the biological function of accurately representing the environment. Tyler Burge argues this cannot be so in Origins of Objectivity (Oxford, 2010), for accuracy is a semantical relationship and not, as such, a practical matter. Burge also provides a supporting example. I rebut the argument and the example. Accuracy is sometimes also a practical matter if accuracy partly explains how perception contributes to survival and reproduction.
Epistemic defeat is standardly understood in either evidentialist or responsibilist terms. The seminal treatment of defeat is an evidentialist one, due to John Pollock, who famously distinguishes between undercutting and rebutting defeaters. More recently, an orthogonal distinction due to Jennifer Lackey has become widely endorsed, between so-called doxastic (or psychological) and normative defeaters. We think that neither doxastic nor normative defeaters, as Lackey understands them, exist. Both of Lackey’s categories of defeat derive from implausible assumptions about epistemic responsibility. Although Pollock’s (...) evidentialist view is superior, the evidentialism per se can be purged from it, leaving a general structure of defeat that can be incorporated in a reliabilist theory that is neither evidentialist nor responsibilist in any way. (shrink)
Jennifer Lackey ('Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission' The Philosophical Quarterly 1999) and Peter Graham ('Conveying Information, Synthese 2000, 'Transferring Knowledge' Nous 2000) offered counterexamples to show that a hearer can acquire knowledge that P from a speaker who asserts that P, but the speaker does not know that P. These examples suggest testimony can generate knowledge. The showpiece of Lackey's examples is the Schoolteacher case. This paper shows that Lackey's case does not undermine the orthodox view that testimony cannot generate knowledge. (...) This paper explains why Lackey's arguments to the contrary are ineffective for they misunderstand the intuitive rationale for the view that testimony cannot generate knowledge. This paper then elaborates on a version of the case from Graham's paper 'Conveying Information' (the Fossil case) that effectively shows that testimony can generate knowledge. This paper then provides a deeper informative explanation for how it is that testimony transfers knowledge, and why there should be cases where testimony generates knowledge. (shrink)
How should we undertand the role of norms – especially epistemic norms – governing assertive speech acts? Mitchell Green has argued that these norms play the role of handicaps in the technical sense from the animal signals literature. As handicaps, they then play a large role in explaining the reliability – and so the stability – of assertive speech acts. But though norms of assertion conceived of as social norms do indeed play this stabilizing role, these norms are best understood (...) as deterrents and not as handicaps. This paper explains the stability problem for the maintenance of animal signals, and so human communication; the mechanics of the handicap principle; the role of deterrents and punishments as an alternative mechanism; and the role of social norms governing assertion for the case of human communication. (shrink)
C.A.J. Coady, in his book Testimony: A Philosophical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992), offers conditions on an assertion that p to count as testimony. He claims that the assertion that p must be by a competent speaker directed to an audience in need of evidence and it must be evidence that p. I offer examples to show that Coady’s conditions are too strong. Testimony need not be evidence; the speaker need not be competent; and, the statement need not be relevant (...) or directed to someone in need of evidence. I give alternative conditions. Coady was led into the stronger conditions by investigating testimony as it occurs in legal contexts, where special steps are taken to ensure that testimony provides the jury or the judge with evidence by a competent speaker that is relevant to the disputed question of the guilt or innocence of the defendant. (shrink)
Having an etiological function to F is sufficient to have a competence to F. Having an etiological function to reliably F is sufficient to have a reliable competence, a competence to reliably F. Epistemic warrant consists in the normal functioning of the belief-forming process when the process has forming true beliefs reliably as an etiological function. Epistemic warrant requires reliable competence. Warrant divides into two grades. The first consists in normal functioning, when the process has forming true beliefs reliably as (...) an etiological function, so that it reliably produces true beliefs when in normal conditions, but need not be in normal conditions. The second grade requires the first, and presence in normal conditions, so that the chance of true belief is high. Why is warrant normative? Because when reliably forming true beliefs is a function, both grades meet evaluative norms that follow from that function. The paper ends by comparing Tyler Burge’s answer to this question from "Perceptual Entitlement" and "Entitlement: The Basis of Empirical Warrant". It is argued that Burge’s answer implausibly presupposes that all belief-forming processes—not just those with forming reliably true beliefs as an etiological function—should form reliably true beliefs. (shrink)
Does epistemic justification aim at truth? The vast majority of epistemologists instinctively answer 'Yes'; it's the textbook response. Joseph Cruz and John Pollock surprisingly say no. In 'The Chimerical Appeal of Epistemic Externalism' they argue that justification bears no interesting connection to truth; justification does not even aim at truth. 'Truth is not a very interesting part of our best understanding' of justification (C&P 2004, 137); it has no 'connection to the truth.' A 'truth-aimed ... epistemology is not entitled to (...) carry the day' (C&P 2004, 138, emphasis added).Pollock and Cruz's argument for this surprising conclusion is of general interest for it is 'out of step with a very common view on the .. (shrink)
The case of very young children is a test case for the plausibility of reductionism about testimonial warrant. Reductionism requires reductive reasons, reductively justified and actively deployed for testimonial justification. Though nascent language-users enjoy warranted testimony based beliefs, they do not meet these three reductionist demands. This paper clearly formulates reductionism and the infant/child objection. Two rejoinders are discussed: an influential conceptual argument from Jennifer Lackey’s paper “Testimony and the Infant/Child Objection” and the growing empirical evidence from developmental psychology on (...) selective trust in children. Neither Lackey’s argument nor the empirical evidence vindicate reductionism. (shrink)
Alvin Goldman’s paper “What Is Justified Belief" and his book Epistemology and Cognition pioneered reliabilist theories of epistemic justifiedness. In light of counterexamples to necessity and counterexamples to sufficiency, Goldman has offered a number of refinements and modifications. This paper focuses on those refinements that relativize the justification conferring force of a belief-forming process to its reliably producing a high ratio of true beliefs over falsehoods in special circumstances: reliability in the actual world, in normal worlds, and in nonmanipulated environments. (...) This paper argues that Goldman’s refinements fall short and suggests instead the relativization to reliability in normal circumstances. Normal circumstances are those where the belief-forming process acquired the etiological function of reliably inducing true beliefs. This theory invites the Swampman objection. Two lines of response are pursued. (shrink)
Anti-reductionists hold that beliefs based upon comprehension (of both force and content) of tellings are non-inferentially justified. For reductionists, on the other hand, comprehension as such is not in itself a warrant for belief: beliefs based on it are justified only if inferentially supported by other beliefs. I discuss Elizabeth Fricker's argument that even if anti-reductionism is right in principle, its significance is undercut by the presence of background inferential support: for mature knowledgeable adults, justification from comprehension as such plays (...) no active role, and is superseded by inferential warrant. I show that her argument begs important questions. Inferential and non-inferential support combine to over-determine the justification of comprehension-based beliefs. (shrink)
This paper states three counterexamples to the claim that testimony cannot generate knowledge, that a hearer can only acquire testimonial knowledge from a speaker who knows: a twins case, the fossil case, and an inversion case. The paper provides an explanation for why testimony can generate knowledge. Testimonial knowledge involves the flow of information from a speaker to a hearer through the linguistic channel.
Alvin Plantinga argues by counterexample that no naturalistic account of functions is possible--God is then the only source for natural functions. This paper replies to Plantinga's examples and arguments. Plantinga misunderstands naturalistic accounts. Plantinga's mistakes flow from his assimilation of functional notions in general to functions from intentional design in particular.
Are we entitled or justified in taking the word of others at face value? An affirmative answer to this question is associated with the views of Thomas Reid. Recently, C. A. J. Coady has defended a Reidian view in his impressive and influential book. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. His central and most Oliginal argument for his positions involves reflection upon the practice of giving and accepting reports, of making assertions and relying on the word of others. His argument purports to (...) show that testimony is, by its very nature, a “reliable form of evidence about the way the world is.” The argument moves from what we do to why we are justified in doing it. Although I am sympathetic with both the Reidian view and Coady’s attempt to connect why we rely on others with why we are entitled to rely on others, I find Coady’s argument ineffective. (shrink)
Perceptual entitlement and basic beliefs Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9603-3 Authors Peter J. Graham, University of California, 900 University Avenue, Riverside, CA USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This paper argues that as a name for a speech act, epistemologists typically use ‘testimony’ in a specialist sense that is more or less synonymous with ‘assertion’, but as a name for a distinctive speech act type in ordinary English, ‘testimony’ names a unique confirmative speech act type. Hence, like any good English word, ‘testimony’ has more than one sense. The paper then addresses the use of ‘testimony’ in epistemology to denote a distinctive kind of evidence: testimonial evidence. Standing views (...) of a hearer’s testimonial evidence see it as partly supervening on a speaker’s assertion that P. The paper argues for a broader account that sees a hearer’s testimonial evidence as partly supervening instead on the hearer’s representation as of a speaker meaning that P. This broader account is the comprehension view of testimonial evidence. The upshot is that not all so-called “testimony-based beliefs” are caused by a speaker’s testimony. (shrink)
Radical skepticism about the external implies that no belief about the external is even prima facie justified. A theoretical reply to skepticism has four stages. First, show which theories of epistemic justification support skeptical doubts (show which theories, given other reasonable assumptions, entail skepticism). Second, show which theories undermine skeptical doubts (show which theories, given other reasonable assumptions, do not support the skeptic’s conclusion). Third, show which of the latter theories (which non-skeptical theory) is correct, and in so doing show (...) that all of the rival theories of justification, skeptical and non-skeptical alike, are mistaken. Fourth, explain why skeptical doubts are sometimes (or sometimes merely seem) intuitive, and thereby accommodate skeptical doubts without capitulation. Michael Williams has pioneered the very idea of a theoretical reply. A theoretical diagnosis consists in just the first two stages. An adequate reply, which is correct at each stage, would rebut the skeptic entirely. Williams’ own reply, I argue, is inadequate. I offer in its place an exhaustive and accurate diagnosis of skepticism. I distinguish four kinds of skepticism and five theories of justification. I then show which theories do, and which theories do not, support which kinds of skepticism. (shrink)
Social knowledge, for the most part, is knowledge through testimony. This essay separates knowledge from justification, characterizes testimony as a source of belief, explains why testimony is a source of knowledge, canvasses arguments for anti-reductionism and for reductionism in the reductionism vs. anti-reductionism debate, addresses counterexamples to knowledge transmission, defends a safe basis account of testimonial knowledge, and turns to social norms as a partial explanation for the reliability of testimony.
The standard taxonomy of theories of epistemic justification generates four positions from the Foundationalism v. Coherentism and Internalism v. Externalism disputes. I develop a new taxonomy driven by two other distinctions: Fundamentalism v. Non-Fundamentalism and Actual-Result v. Proper-Aim conceptions of epistemic justification. Actual-Result theorists hold that a belief is justified only if, as an actual matter of fact, it is held or formed in a way that makes it more likely than not to be true. Proper-Aim theorists hold that a (...) belief is justified only if it is held or formed in a way that it proper or correct insofar as truth is the aim or norm. Fundamentalists hold that which particular ways of holding or forming beliefs that confer justification is knowable a priori; epistemic principles are a priori necessary truths. Non- Fundamentalists disagree; epistemic principles are empirical contingent truths. The new taxonomy generates four positions: Cartesianism, Reliabilism, Intuitionism, and Pragmatism. The first two are Actual-Result; the second two are Proper-Aim. The first and third are Fundamentalist, the second and fourth are Non-Fundamentalist. The new taxonomy illuminates much of the current debate in the theory of epistemic justification. (shrink)
David Henderson and Terry Horgan argue that doxastic epistemic justification requires the transglobal reliability of the belief-forming process. Transglobal reliability is reliability across a wide range of experientially possible global environments. Focusing on perception, I argue that justification does not require transglobal reliability, for perception is non-accidentally reliable and confers justification but not always transglobally reliable. Transglobal reliability is an epistemically desirable property of belief-forming processes, but not necessary for justification.
Reductionism about testimony holds that testimonial warrant or entitlement is just a species of inductive warrant. Anti-Reductionism holds that it is different from inductive but analogous to perceptual or memorial warrant. Perception receives much of its positive epistemic status from being reliably truthconducive in normal conditions. One reason to reject the epistemic analogy is that testimony involves agency – it goes through the will of the speaker – but perception does not. A speaker might always choose to lie or otherwise (...) deliberately mislead. It is argued that the force of this derives (in part) from Libertarianism about agency, and that Libertarianism, if it undermines the Anti-Reductionist explanation of why we are entitled to rely upon testimony, undermines the Reductionist explanation as.. (shrink)
Jennifer Lackey argues that “testimony” in philosophy has one sense, but that sense—the concept expressed—is disjunctive. One disjunct she calls speaker-testimony and the other disjunct she calls hearer-testimony. A speaker then testifies simpliciter iff the speaker either speaker-testifies or hearer-testifies. Inadequate views of testimony, she argues, fail to recognize, distinguish and then disjoin these two “aspects” of testimony. I argue that her view about the semantics of “testimony” is mistaken and that her criticisms of two other views—mine included —are ineffective. (...) I argue that instead of one disjunctive concept, the word “testimony” expresses more than one concept; “testimony” means many things. In ordinary English, it names two distinct kinds of constative speech acts. In epistemology, it gets used a synonym for “assertion”. In epistemology, it also refers to the process whereby we form beliefs on the basis of comprehending assertions—to communication or interlocution. (shrink)
Committee: Fred Dretske (Advisor), Michael Bratman, Debra Satz, Ken Taylor. My thesis is that testimonial knowledge of particular matters of fact is a species of perceptual (non-inferential) knowledge. There are two rival views. The first holds that testimonial knowledge is a species of inductive knowledge. According to inductivism, we learn from others because we have inductively established that testimony is a reliable source. I argue that this view is too demanding. The second holds that testimonial knowledge is, like memory, preservative. (...) According to preservativism, a hearer learns from a speaker because the speaker's knowledge is transferred to the hearer. Testimony preserves knowledge across subjects at a time as memory preserves knowledge within a subject over time. This view is subject to counter-example. What matters to whether the hearer teams is not whether the speaker knows, but whether the hearer's cognitive state of taking the speaker to state that P adequately grounds the belief that P. One way to account for "adequate grounds" is in terms of Information-carrying I argue that knowledge is not preserved or transferred through testimony, rather Information is conveyed. This shows that testimonial knowledge is perceptual knowledge, for perceptual knowledge depends on adequate grounds and not prior knowledge. Testimonial knowledge, like standard cases of perceptual knowledge, is original. Call my position originalism. ;There are three main sources of opposition. First, linguistic acceptance is inferential in a way that perceptual belief is not. Second, acceptance, if reliable, is reliable in a way that perceptual belief is not. Third, testimony involves agency, free will, and the following of norms and perceptual belief does not. In reply I argue that linguistic acceptance that the world is a certain way does not depend on believing that the speaker stated that it is that way, that even if there are differences between the way in which testimony is reliable and the way standard cases of perception are reliable, those differences are only contingent or epistemologically irrelevant, and that even though testimony does involve agency and norms in a way that vision, taste, and so on do not, that fact does not matter to whether testimonial knowledge is a species of perceptual (non-inferential) knowledge. (shrink)
Gabor Forrai has written a very clear and articulate defense of internal realism, the view that the categories and structures of the world are a function of our conceptual schemes. Internal realism is opposed to metaphysical realism, the view that the world’s structure is wholly independent, both causally and ontologically, of the human mind. For the metaphysical realist, the world is one thing and the mind is another. For the internal realist, on the other hand, though the world is causally (...) independent of the human mind, the structure of the world – the individuals, kinds and categories of the world -- is a function of the human mind. (shrink)
Millianism is the view that all there is to the meaning of a name is its bearer. In a recent paper Bryan Frances seeks to undercut the traditional argument against Millianism as well as offer a new argument in favor of Millianism. I argue that both endeavors fail.