I review recent work on PhenomenalConservatism, the position introduced by Michael Huemer according to which if it seems that P to a subject S, in the absence of defeaters S has thereby some degree of justification for believing P.
Externalist theories of justification create the possibility of cases in which everything appears to one relevantly similar with respect to two propositions, yet one proposition is justified while the other is not. Internalists find this difficult to accept, because it seems irrational in such a case to affirm one proposition and not the other. The underlying internalist intuition supports a specific internalist theory, PhenomenalConservatism, on which epistemic justification is conferred by appearances.
What is the role of phenomenal consciousness in grounding epistemic justification? This paper explores the prospects for a global version of phenomenalconservatism inspired by the work of Michael Huemer, according to which all epistemic justification is grounded in phenomenal seemings. I’m interested in this view because of its global ambitions: it seeks to explain all epistemic justification in terms of a single epistemic principle, which says that you have epistemic justification to believe whatever seems to (...) you strongly enough on balance to be true. One of the attractions of phenomenalconservatism is that it offers such a simple and unified framework for explaining the epistemic role of phenomenal consciousness. I will argue, however, that the simplicity of phenomenalconservatism is not a theoretical virtue, but a theoretical vice, since it distorts the epistemological phenomena it is supposed to explain. In effect, phenomenalconservatism seeks to explain all epistemic justification on the same model as perception. But this has the predictable effect of distorting the epistemology of other domains, including introspection, inference, and a priori justification. (shrink)
In this chapter I introduce and analyse the tenets of phenomenalconservatism, and discuss the problem of the nature of appearances. After that, I review the asserted epistemic merits phenomenalconservatism and the principal arguments adduced in support of it. Finally, I survey objections to phenomenalconservatism and responses by its advocates. Some of these objections will be scrutinised and appraised in the next chapters.
In “Compassionate PhenomenalConservatism” (2007), “PhenomenalConservatism and the Internalist Intuition” (2006), and Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (2001), Michael Huemer endorses the principle of phenomenalconservatism, according to which appearances or seemings constitute a fundamental source of (defeasible) justification for belief. He claims that those who deny phenomenalconservatism, including classical foundationalists, are in a self-defeating position, for their views cannot be both true and justified; that classical foundationalists have difficulty (...) accommodating false introspective beliefs; and that phenomenalconservatism is most faithful to the central internalist intuition. I argue that Huemer’s self-defeat argument fails, that classical foundationalism is able to accommodate fallible introspective beliefs, and that classical foundationalism captures a relatively clear internalist intuition. I also show that the motivation for phenomenalconservatism is less than clear. (shrink)
Phenomenalconservatism holds, roughly, that if it seems to S that P, then S has evidence for P. I argue for two main conclusions. The first is that phenomenalconservatism is better suited than is proper functionalism to explain how a particular type of religious belief formation can lead to non-inferentially justified religious beliefs. The second is that phenomenalconservatism makes evidence so easy to obtain that the truth of evidentialism would not be a (...) significant obstacle to justified religious belief. A natural objection to phenomenalconservatism is that it makes evidence too easy to obtain, but I argue this objection is mistaken. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that PhenomenalConservatism (PC) is not superior to alternative theories of basic propositional justification insofar as those theories that reject PC are self-defeating. I show that self-defeat arguments similar to Michael Huemer’s Self-Defeat Argument for PC can be constructed for other theories of basic propositional justification as well. If this is correct, then there is nothing special about PC in that respect. In other words, if self-defeat arguments can be advanced in support of (...) alternatives to PC, then Huemer’s Self-Defeat argument doesn’t uniquely motivate PC. (shrink)
Recently, Michael Huemer has defended the Principle of PhenomenalConservatism: If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. This principle has potentially far-reaching implications. Huemer uses it to argue against skepticism and to defend a version of ethical intuitionism. I employ a reductio to show that PC is false. If PC is true, beliefs can yield justification for believing their contents (...) in cases where, intuitively, they should not be able to do so. I argue that there are cases where a belief that p can behave like an appearance that p and thereby make it seem to one that p. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that Michael Huemer’s phenomenalconservatism—the internalist view according to which our beliefs are prima facie justified if based on how things seems or appears to us to be—doesn’t fall afoul of Michael Bergmann’s dilemma for epistemological internalism. We start by showing that the thought experiment that Bergmann adduces to conclude that is vulnerable to his dilemma misses its target. After that, we distinguish between two ways in which a mental state can contribute to (...) the justification of a belief: the direct way and the indirect way. We identify a straightforward reason for claiming that the justification contributed indirectly is subject to Bergmann’s dilemma. Then we show that the same reason doesn’t extend to the claim that the justification contributed directly is subject to Bergmann’s dilemma. As is the view that seemings or appearances contribute justification directly, we infer that Bergmann’s contention that his dilemma applies to is unmotivated. In the final part, we suggest that our line of response to Bergmann can be used to shield other types of internalist justification from Bergmann’s objection. We also propose that seeming-grounded justification can be combined with justification of one of these types to form the basis of a promising version of internalist foundationalism. (shrink)
This paper criticizes phenomenalconservatism––the influential view according to which a subject S’s seeming that P provides S with defeasible justification for believing P. I argue that phenomenalconservatism, if true at all, has a significant limitation: seeming-based justification is elusive because S can easily lose it by just reflecting on her seemings and speculating about their causes––I call this the problem of reflective awareness. Because of this limitation, phenomenalconservatism doesn’t have all the (...) epistemic merits attributed to it by its advocates. If true, phenomenalconservatism would constitute a unified theory of epistemic justification capable of giving everyday epistemic practices a rationale, but it wouldn’t afford us the means of an effective response to the sceptic. Furthermore, phenomenalconservatism couldn’t form the general basis for foundationalism. (shrink)
John DePoe has criticized the self-defeat argument for PhenomenalConservatism. He argues that acquaintance, rather than appearance, may form the basis for non-inferentially justified beliefs, and that PhenomenalConservatism conflicts with a central motivation for internalism. I explain how PhenomenalConservatism and the self-defeat argument may survive these challenges.
Against Hanna on PhenomenalConservatism Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-10 DOI 10.1007/s12136-012-0148-2 Authors Kevin McCain, Department of Philosophy, University of Rochester, Box 270078, Rochester, NY 14627-0078, USA Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150.
In this paper, I respond to Michael Huemer’s reply to my objection against PhenomenalConservatism (PC). I have argued that Huemer’s Self-defeat Argument for PC does not favor PC over competing theories of basic propositional justification, since analogous self-defeat arguments can be constructed for competing theories. Huemer responds that such analogous self-defeat arguments are unsound. In this paper, I argue that Huemer’s reply does not save his Self-defeat Argument for PC from my original objection.
Huemer defends phenomenalconservatism (PC) and also the further claim that belief in any rival theory is self-defeating (SD). Here I construct a dilemma for his position: either PC and SD are incompatible, or belief in PC is itself self-defeating. I take these considerations to suggest a better self-defeat argument for (belief in) PC and a strong form of internalism.
Recently there has been a good deal of interest in the relationship between common sense epistemology and Skeptical Theism. Much of the debate has focused on PhenomenalConservatism and any tension that there might be between it and Skeptical Theism. In this paper I further defend the claim that there is no tension between PhenomenalConservatism and Skeptical Theism. I show the compatibility of these two views by coupling them with an account of defeat – one (...) that is friendly to both PhenomenalConservatism and Skeptical Theism. In addition, I argue that this account of defeat can give the Skeptical Theist what she wants – namely a response to the evidential argument from evil that can leave one of its premises unmotivated. In giving this account I also respond to several objections from Trent Dougherty (2011) and Chris Tucker (this volume) as well as to an additional worry coming from the epistemology of disagreement. (shrink)
In this paper, I outline a reductio against PhenomenalConservatism. If sound, this reductio shows that the phenomenal conservative is committed to the claim that appealing to appearances is not a trustworthy method of fixing belief.
For some years now, Michael Bergmann has urged a dilemma against internalist theories of epistemic justification. For reasons I explain below, some epistemologists have thought that Michael Huemer’s principle of PhenomenalConservatism can split the horns of Bergmann’s dilemma. Bergmann has recently argued, however, that PC must inevitably, like all other internalist views, fall prey to his dilemma. In this paper, I explain the nature of Bergmann’s dilemma and his reasons for thinking that PC cannot escape it before (...) arguing that he is mistaken: PC can indeed split its horns. (shrink)
Phenomenalconservatism is a popular theory of epistemic justification. Despite its popularity and the fact that some think that phenomenalconservatism can provide a complete account of justification, it faces several challenges. Among these challenges are the need to provide accounts of defeaters and inferential justification. Fortunately, there is hope for phenomenalconservatism. Explanationism, the view on which justification is a matter of explanatory considerations, can help phenomenalconservatism with both of these (...) challenges. The resulting view is one that respects the internalist character of phenomenalconservatism and its motivating intuitions while providing an intuitive and elegant account of both inferential justification and the justificatory impact of defeaters. (shrink)
I defend the principle of PhenomenalConservatism, on which appearances of all kinds generate at least some justification for belief. I argue that there is no reason for privileging introspection or intuition over perceptual experience as a source of justified belief; that those who deny PhenomenalConservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that thedemand for a metajustification for PhenomenalConservatism either is an easily (...) met demand, or is an unfair or question-begging one. (shrink)
Lycan (1985, 1988) defended a “Principle of Credulity”: “Accept at the outset each of those things that seem to be true” (1988, p. 165). Though that takes the form of a rule rather than a thesis, it does not seem very different from Huemer’s (2001, 2006, 2007) doctrine of phenomenalconservatism (PC): “If it seems to S that p , then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p (...) ” (2007, p. 30). My Principle was differently motivated and put to uses different from Huemer’s. In this paper I shall explore some of the differences. (shrink)
The primary aim of this book is to understand how seemings relate to justification and whether some version of dogmatism or phenomenalconservatism can be sustained. It also addresses a number of other issues, including the nature of seemings, cognitive penetration, Bayesianism, and the epistemology of morality and disagreement.
According to the phenomenal conservatives, beliefs are justified by non-doxastic states we might speak of as ‘appearances’ or ‘seemings’. Those who defend the view say that there is something self-defeating about believing that phenomenalconservatism is mistaken. They also claim that the view captures an important internalist insight about justification. I shall argue that phenomenalconservatism is indefensible. The considerations that seem to support the view commit the phenomenal conservatives to condoning morally abhorrent behavior. (...) They can deny that their view forces them to condone morally abhorrent behavior, but then they undercut the defenses of their own view. (shrink)
PhenomenalConservatismPhenomenalConservatism is a theory in epistemology that seeks, roughly, to ground justified beliefs in the way things “appear” or “seem” to the subject who holds a belief. The theory fits with an internalistic form of foundationalism—that is, the view that some beliefs are justified non-inferentially (not on the basis of other beliefs), and that […].
Phenomenalconservatism as developed by some philosophers faces a previously unnoticed problem. The problem stems from the fact that, as some develop the view, phenomenalconservatism holds that seemings alone justify—sensations have no justificatory impact. Given this, phenomenalconservatism faces a problem analogous to the isolation objection to coherentism. As foundationalists, supporters of phenomenalconservatism will want to allow that the isolation objection is effective against coherentism, and yet claim that a similar (...) objection is not effective against their view. Unfortunately, it appears that on most understandings of the nature of seemings phenomenalconservatism can only avoid its version of the isolation objection by sacrificing its internalist character. (shrink)
In this paper, I criticize Michael Huemer's phenomenalconservatism, the theory of justification according to which if it seems to S that p, then in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p. Specifically, I argue that beliefs and hunches provide counterexamples to phenomenalconservatism. I then defend a version of restricted phenomenalconservatism, the view that some but not all appearances confer prima facie justification (...) on their propositional contents. Specifically, I defend the view that S has defeasible justification for believing that p if and only if it seems to S that p and it seems to S that she is acquainted with the fact that makes p true. Finally, I criticize Huemer's self-defeat argument for phenomenalconservatism. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This paper is on the justification of, the epistemic principle defended by M. Huemer in his PhenomenalConservatism theory. Put in a straightforward way, we can ask: what reasons are there for thinking that is true, that is, for thinking that appearances justify beliefs? This question corresponds - to use L. BonJour’s vocabulary - to the demand for a “metajustification”. The pursuit of this metajustification can take different directions, depending on the general conception or nature of epistemic (...) justification we are working with and on who is supposed to satisfy the demand. Unfortunately, all of these directions seem to lead to a dead end. In other words, the apparently fair and even essential demand for a metajustification of cannot be met by the theory, at least in a satisfactory way. If we are right about that, it will remain the difficult question whether PhenomenalConservatism is the only one to be blamed for this failure. We will briefly talk about that in the conclusion. (shrink)
Our main aims in this paper is to discuss and criticise the core thesis of a position that has become known as phenomenalconservatism. According to this thesis, its seeming to one that p provides enough justification for a belief in p to be prima facie justified (a thesis we label Standard PhenomenalConservatism). This thesis captures the special kind of epistemic import that seemings are claimed to have. To get clearer on this thesis, we embed (...) it, first, in a probabilistic framework in which updating on new evidence happens by Bayesian conditionalization, and second, a framework in which updating happens by Jeffrey conditionalization. We spell out problems for both views, and then generalize some of these to non-probabilistic frameworks. The main theme of our discussion is that the epistemic import of a seeming (or experience) should depend on its content in a plethora of ways that phenomenalconservatism is insensitive to. (shrink)
PhenomenalConservatism (PC) is a promising, and popular, internalist theory of epistemic justification. Despite its popularity it faces numerous objections and challenges. In Seemings and Epistemic Justification (Springer, 2020), Moretti suggests that integrating PC with a theory of reflective/inferential justification would have the potential to shield PC from various challenges. Moretti also suggests that this sort of integration is worth exploring because it may allow PC to provide a more forceful response to skepticism and better account for ordinary (...) cognitive practices. In a similar vein, in “Explanationist Aid for PhenomenalConservatism” (Synthese 2018), McCain argues that PC cannot be a complete account of epistemic justification without being supplemented so that it provides an account of inferential justification as well as an account of the nature of epistemic defeat. McCain suggests that explanationism (roughly, the idea that epistemic support is a matter of explanatory relations between one’s evidence and propositions supported by that evidence) can provide the needed supplementation—when combined with explanationism PC can yield a satisfying account of inferential justification and defeat. This new monograph builds upon these insights. More specifically, after arguing that a number of challenges to PC demonstrate that it cannot be a complete theory of epistemic justification, we explore the prospects of integrating PC and explanationism. The resulting theory, what we call “Phenomenal Explanationism” (PE), has advantages over PC and explanationism taken on their own. PE is a complete internalist theory of epistemic justification that delivers on the promises of PC while avoiding its pitfalls. (shrink)
It is natural to think that many of our beliefs are rational because they are based on seemings, or on the way things seem. This is especially clear in the case of perception. Many of our mathematical, moral, and memory beliefs also appear to be based on seemings. In each of these cases, it is natural to think that our beliefs are not only based on a seeming, but also that they are rationally based on these seemings—at least assuming there (...) is no relevant counterevidence. This piece is an introduction to a volume dedicated to the question of what the connection is between seemings and justified belief: under what conditions, if any, can a seeming justify its content? (shrink)
Can religious experience justify belief in God? We best approach this question by splitting it in two: Do religious experiences give their subjects any justification for believing that there is a God of the kind they experience? And Does testimony about such experiences provides any justification for believing that there is a God for those who are not the subject of the experience? The most popular affirmative answers trace back to the work of Richard Swinburne, who appeals to the Principle (...) of Credulity and the Principle of Testimony. Since then, development of his line of reasoning has gone in a number of distinct directions. Here I propose yet another development. I argue first that the Principle of Credulity is false on the grounds that it has several implausible commitments. I then offer a Phenomenal Conservative perspective on the epistemology of religious experience suggesting a categorically affirmative answer to but a nuanced answer to which allows the possibility of reasonable disagreement about religious experience. (shrink)
We all have an intuitive grasp of the concept of evidence. Evidence makes beliefs reasonable, justifies jury verdicts, and helps resolve our disagreements. Yet getting clear about what evidence is is surprisingly difficult. Among other possibilities, evidence might consist in physical objects like a candlestick found at the crime scene, propositions like ‘a candlestick was found at the crime scene,’ or experiences like the experience of witnessing a candlestick at the crime scene. This dissertation is a defense of the latter (...) view. Evidence, we will argue, consists in experiences or mental states called ‘seeming states.’ We begin with a look at why the logical positivists came to abandon the experiential or “phenomenal” conception of evidence and adopted what I call “the courtroom conception.” Despite its appeal, we argue that this latter view is too objective; it has trouble playing the role of subjective reasons-provider. Being more subjective, the phenomenal conception deserves another look. However, many have thought that the phenomenal conception itself is unable to fulfill other important roles of evidence. In chapter two we dispute this, arguing that the phenomenal conception can play all four of the chief roles of evidence. Examining the religious epistemology of Alvin Plantinga in chapter three we come to see that the phenomenal conception, while attractive, is in danger of being too subjective. If the phenomenal conception of evidence is to be tenable, it must be offered in conjunction with a conservative epistemic principle which tethers together experiences with the beliefs they evidence in an epistemically appropriate manner. Hence in chapter four we consider a number of conservative epistemic principles and argue for the superiority of one in particular. But these principles have themselves been subject to criticism. For this reason, in chapter five we close by responding to a recent and pressing challenge to conservative principles in epistemology (Michael Bergmann’s dilemma for internalism) which might prevent their deployment alongside the phenomenal conception. If our arguments are correct, the phenomenal conception of evidence is still an attractive account of evidence today. (shrink)
In this chapter I introduce the thesis that perceptual appearances are cognitively penetrable and analyse cases made against phenomenalconservatism hinging on this thesis. In particular, I focus on objections coming from the externalist reliabilist camp and the internalist inferentialist camp. I conclude that cognitive penetrability doesn’t yield lethal or substantive difficulties for phenomenalconservatism.
It’s not implausible to think that whenever I have a justified noninferential belief that p, it is caused by a seeming that p. It’s also tempting to think that something contributes to the justification of my belief only if I hold my belief because of that thing. Thus, given that many of our noninferential beliefs are justified and that we hold them because of seemings, one might be inclined to hold a view like PhenomenalConservatism, according to which (...) seemings play a crucial role—perhaps the only crucial role—in the justification of our noninferential beliefs. But PhenomenalConservatism seems to conflict, in a number of ways, with externalist accounts of justification. As a result, the attractiveness of the intuitions appealed to in support of views like PhenomenalConservatism present something of a challenge to externalism. The purpose of this paper is to deal with that challenge by developing and defending an externalist-friendly account of the role of seemings in the formation and justification of our noninferential beliefs—an account that incorporates what is attractive in views like PhenomenalConservatism. Because this externalist-friendly account is compatible with both externalist accounts of justification and the plausible elements of views like PhenomenalConservatism, the challenge to externalism inspired by such views is thereby undermined. (shrink)