In this new book, Foley defends an epistemology that takes seriously the perspectives of individual thinkers. He argues that having rational opinions is a matter of meeting our own internal standards rather than standards that are somehow imposed upon us from the outside. It is a matter of making ourselves invulnerable to intellectual self-criticism. Foley also shows how the theory of rational belief is part of a general theory of rationality. He thus avoids treating the rationality of belief as a (...) fundamentally different kind of phenomenon from the rationality of decision or action. His approach generates promising suggestions about a wide range of issues--e.g., the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic reasons for belief; the question of what aspects of the Cartesian project are still worth doing; the significance of simplicity and other theoretical virtues; the relevance of skeptical hypotheses; the difference between a theory of rational belief and a theory of knowledge; the difference between a theory of rational belief and a theory of rational degrees of belief; and the limits of idealization in epistemology. (shrink)
What propositions are rational for one to believe? With what confidence is it rational for one to believe these propositions? Answering the first of these questions requires an epistemology of beliefs, answering the second an epistemology of degrees of belief.
In “Conceptual Diversity in Epistemology,” Richard Foley reflects on such central topics in epistemology as knowledge, warrant, rationality, and justification, with the purpose of distinguishing such concepts in a general theory. Foley uses “warrant” to refer to that which constitutes knowledge when added to true belief and suggests that rationality and justification are not linked to knowledge by necessity. He proceeds to offer a general schema for rationality. This schema enables a distinction between “rationality” and “rationality all things considered.” Foley (...) proposes how these concepts can work together in a system that “provides the necessary materials for an approach to epistemology that is clarifying, theoretically respectable, and relevant to our actual lives.”. (shrink)
In his widely influential two-volume work, Warrant: The Current Debate and Warrant and Proper Function, Alvin Plantinga argued that warrant is that which explains the difference between knowledge and true belief. Plantinga not only developed his own account of warrant but also mapped the terrain of epistemology. Motivated by Plantinga's work, fourteen prominent philosophers have written new essays investigating Plantingian warrant and its contribution to contemporary epistemology. The resulting collection, representing a broad array of views, not only gives readers a (...) critical perspective on Plantinga's landmark work, but also provides in one volume a clear statement of the variety of approaches to the nature of warrant within contemporary epistemology, and to the connections between epistemology and metaphysics. Positions covered include internalism and externalism, reliabilism, coherentism and foundationalism, virtue theories, and defensibility theories. Alvin Plantinga responds to the essays in his own contribution. (shrink)
In his 1963 article, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?”1 Edmund Gettier devised a pair of counterexamples designed to illustrate that knowledge cannot be adequately defined as justified true belief. The basic idea behind both of his counterexamples is that one can be justified in believing a falsehood P from which one deduces a truth Q, in which case one has a justified true belief in Q but does not know Q. Gettier’s article inspired numerous other counterexamples, and the search was (...) on for a fourth condition of knowledge, one that could be added to justification, truth, and belief to produce an adequate analysis of knowledge. (shrink)
All of us get opinions from other people. And not just a few. We acquire opinions from others extensively and do so from early childhood through virtually every day of the rest our lives. Sometimes we rely on others for relatively inconsequential information. Is it raining outside? Did the Yankees win today? But we also depend on others for important or even life preserving information. Where is the nearest hospital? Do people drive on the left or the right here? We (...) acquire opinions from family and close acquaintances but also from strangers. We get directions from and heed the warnings of individuals we’ve never met, and likewise read books and articles and listen to television and radio reports authored by individuals we don’t know personally. Moreover, we undertake inquiries in groups in which the group relies on the conclusions of the individuals making up the group. In some of these collective efforts everyone knows one another, for example, a set of neighbors taking a census of birds in the neighborhood. But others, such as the effort to understand gravity, are not so nearly self-contained. Indeed, many of the most impressive human intellectual accomplishments are the collective products of individuals far removed from another in location (and sometimes even over time) who rely on each other’s conclusions without feeling the need to re-confirm them. (shrink)
Avoiding treating the rationality of belief as a fundamentally different kind of phenomenon from the rationality of decision or action, Foley's approach generates promising suggestions about a wide range of issues--e.g., the distinction between epistemic and non-epistemic reasons for belief; the questions of what aspects of the Cartesian project are still worth doing; and the significance of simplicity and other theoretical virtues.
The central issue of Descartes’s Meditations is an intensely personal one. Descartes asks a simple question of himself, one that each of us can also ask of ourselves, “What am I to believe?” One way of construing this question--indeed, the way Descartes himself construed it--is as a methodological one. The immediate aim is not so much to generate a specific list of propositions for me to believe. Rather, I want to formulate for myself some general advice about how to proceed (...) intellectually. (shrink)
The two most fundamental questions for an epistemology are, what is involved in having good reasons to believe a claim, and what is involved in meeting the higher standard of knowing that a claim is true? The theory of justified belief tries to answer the former, whereas the theory of knowledge addresses the latter.
It is commonly thought that the requirements of inferential justification are such that necessarily the process of inferentially justifying a belief will come to an end. But, If this is so, We should be able to pick out those requirements of justification which necessitate an end to the justification process. Unfortunately, Although there is nearly unanimous agreement as to the need for such an end, It is by no means clear which particular requirements of justification impose this need. I examine (...) and criticize several seemingly plausible ways of showing that regresses of inferential justification are impossible and then propose two requirements of inferential justification which, I argue, Are sufficient to show the impossibility. (shrink)
A common complaint against contemporary epistemology is that its issues are too rarified and, hence, of little relevance for the everyday assessments we make of each other=s beliefs. The notion of epistemic rationality focuses on a specific goal, that of now having accurate and comprehensive beliefs, whereas our everyday assessments of beliefs are sensitive to the fact that we have an enormous variety of goals and needs, intellectual as well as nonintellectual. Indeed, our everyday assessments often have a quasi-ethical dimension; (...) we want to know, for example, whether someone has been responsible, or at least non-negligent, in forming opinions. Nevertheless, epistemology, properly conceived, is relevant to our commonplace intellectual concerns. Epistemic rationality is an idealized notion, but its idealized character makes it suitable to serve as a theoretical anchor for other notions of rationality, including notions that are less idealized and, hence, potentially more directly relevant to our everyday assessments. (shrink)
There is a puzzle that is faced by every philosophical account of rational belief, rational strategy, rational planning or whatever. I describe this puzzle, examine Richard Fumerton’s proposed solution to it and then go on to sketch my own preferred solution.
Part of the appeal of classical foundationalism was that it purported to provide a definitive refutation of skepticism. With the fall of foundationalism, we can no longer pretend that such a refutation is possible. We must instead acknowledge that skeptical worries cannot be completely banished and that, thus, inquiry always involves an element of risk which cannot be eliminated by further inquiry, whether it be scientific or philosophical. The flip side of this point is that inquiry always involves some element (...) of unargued-for trust in one’s faculties and the opinions they generate. (shrink)
Descartes, and many of the other great epistemologists of the modern period, looked to epistemology to put science and intellectual inquiry generally on a secure foundation. Epistemology’s role was to provide assurances of the reliability of properly conducted inquiry. Indeed, its role was nothing less than to be czar of the sciences and of intellectual inquiry in general. This conception of epistemology is now almost universally regarded as overly grandiose. Nonetheless, Descartes and the other great epistemologists of the modern era (...) were not completely mistaken. Epistemology does have a foundational role to play, but not that of a guarantor of knowledge. Its role, rather, is the less flamboyant but nonetheless theoretically crucial one of providing a philosophically respectable foundation for a general theory of rationality. (shrink)
I reply to professor vaninwagen's comment on an earlier paper of mine ("analysis", March 1979), In which I argue that compatibilists are not committed to accepting the claim that people might have control over the past.
One of the advantages of classical foundationalism was that it was thought to provide a refutation of skeptical worries, which raise the specter that our beliefs might be extensively mistaken. The most extreme versions of these worries are expressed in familiar thought experiments such as the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis, which imagines a world in which, unbeknownst to you, your brain is in a vat hooked up to equipment programmed to provide it with precisely the same visual, auditory, tactile, and other sensory (...) inputs that you have in this world. As a result, your opinions about your immediate environment are the same as they are in this world. You have the same beliefs about your recent activities, your current physical appearance, your present job, and so on, but in fact you are a brain in a vat tucked away in a corner of a laboratory. Thus, in the brain-in-a-vat world, your beliefs about these everyday matters are mistaken, and mistaken not just in detail, but deeply mistaken. (shrink)
In epistemology Chisholm was a defender of FOUNDATIONALISM [S]. He asserted that any proposition that it is justified for a person to believe gets at least part of its justification from basic propositions, which are themselves justified but not by anything else. Contingent propositions are basic insofar as they correspond to selfpresenting states of the person, which for Chisholm are states such that whenever one is in the state and believes that one is in it, one’s belief is maximally justified. (...) There are two types of self-presenting states, intentional states (ways of thinking, hoping, fearing, desiring, wondering, intending, etc.) and sensory states (ways of being appeared to by the various senses). A noncontingent proposition is basic if understanding it is sufficient for understanding that it is true and also sufficient for making it justified. “2+3=5” and “If Jones is ill and Smith is away, then Jones is ill” are examples of such propositions, says Chisholm. Self-presentation and understanding are among the basic sources of epistemic justification, but according to Chisholm there are other sources as well. The most important of these other sources are perception, memory, belief coupled with a lack of negative coherence (e.g., no inconsistencies among the propositions believed), and belief coupled with positive coherence (i.e., mutual support among the proposition believed). For each of these sources, Chisholm forwards an epistemic principle that describes the conditions under which the source generates justification. Despite his thinking that there are many sources of epistemic justification, Chisholm is rightly regarded as a foundationalist because all the sources are such that they can produce justified beliefs only because some propositions are justified basically. For example, Chisholm’s principles concerning perception and memory make reference to propositions that are justified because they correspond to self-presenting states. In the case of perception, the relevant states are sensings, and for memory the relevant states are beliefs, in particular, beliefs to the effect that one remembers something.. (shrink)
The present article discusses threeactors whose interests shape legislativelanguage in the EU to a significant extent: thelay reader, the legislator and the linguist. Asthe end user of legislation, the first isconcerned with inscription – a reliable,i.e., transparent, final product. The secondhas a strong professional interest in prescription – fixing meaning to achieveconsistent application of the law. The third isand must be utterly disinterested, focusing ondescription – a systematic account ofprevailing usage. The dynamic obtaining amongthese interests is illustrated through a studyof (...) ambiguity in the use of the deontic modalsshall, may and must in legislation. Thediscussion first takes up inconsistencies ofuse that compromise transparency in what isassumed to be unambiguous drafting. It thengoes on to sketch attempts within the legalprofession to address issues of discrepantusage in the modals and outlines mediatingmechanisms, all feasible in and some unique tothe EU, which might contain the tensionsidentified. (shrink)
It is generally conceded that a principle of coherence is needed to give a complete account of justification. Even the most prominent foundationalists of this century have included coherence principles among those epistemic principles which they defend. Against this prevailing view, I suggest that a principle of coherence is not needed in order to give an adequate account of justification. However, Instead of arguing directly for this claim, I defend the only slightly less controversial claim that contrary to what foundationalists (...) such as roderick chisholm think, Foundationalists theories of justification can be developed adequately without recourse to a principle of coherence. (shrink)