Infallibilism is commonly rejected because it is apparently subject to easy counter-examples. I describe a strategy that infallibilists can use to resist this objection. Because the sentences used in the counter-examples to express evidence and belief are context-sensitive, the infallibilist can insist that such counter-examples trade on a vacillation between different readings of these sentences. I describe what difficulties await those who try to produce counter-examples against which the proposed strategy is ineffective.
When spelled out properly infallibilism is a viable and even attractive view. Because it has long been summary dismissed, however, we need a guide on how to properly spell it out. The guide has to fulfil four tasks. The first two concern the nature of knowledge: to argue that infallible belief is necessary, and that it is sufficient, for knowledge. The other two concern the norm of belief: to argue that knowledge is necessary, and that it is sufficient, for (...) justified certainty. With such a guide in hand infallibilism can be evaluated on its own merits. The most controversial parts are the first and fourth. The idea that knowledge requires infallible belief is thought to be excessively sceptical. The idea that knowledge warrants certainty is thought to be excessively dogmatic. The present paper addresses the first. It argues that knowledge requires infallible belief. (shrink)
Infallibilism is the view that a belief cannot be at once warranted and false. In this essay we assess three nonpartisan arguments for infallibilism, arguments that do not depend on a prior commitment to some substantive theory of warrant. Three premises, one from each argument, are most significant: (1) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then the Gettier Problem cannot be solved; (2) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then its (...) warrant can be transferred to an accidentally true belief; (3) if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then it can be warranted and accidentally true. We argue that each of these is either false or no more plausible than its denial. Along the way, we offer a solution to the Gettier Problem that is compatible with fallibilism. (shrink)
The relation of scepticism to infallibilism and fallibilism is a contested issue. In this paper I argue that Cartesian sceptical arguments, i.e. sceptical arguments resting on sceptical scenarios, are neither tied to infallibilism nor collapse into fallibilism. I interpret the distinction between scepticism and fallibilism as a scope distinction. According to fallibilism, each belief could be false, but according to scepticism all beliefs could be false at the same time. However, to put this distinction to work sceptical scenarios (...) have to be understood as ignorance-possibilities, not as error-possibilities. To show that scepticism is not tied to infallibilism I reject the principle of unrestricted relevance according to which any error- or ignorance-possibility whatsoever is relevant. Instead I argue that the sceptic should distinguish between local and global ignorance-possibilities. Global ignorance-possibilities are relevant even though not all ignorance-possibilities are relevant. The result is a refined version of the Cartesian sceptical argument that avoids two traps other versions do not avoid. (shrink)
Among the epistemological ideas commonly associated with the Descartes of the Meditations, at any rate, is a knowledge-infallibilism. Such an idea was seemingly a vital element in Descartes’s search for truth within that investigative setting: only a true belief gained infallibly could be knowledge, as the Meditations conceived of this. Contemporary epistemologists are less likely than Descartes was to advocate our ever seeking knowledge-infallibility, if only because most are doubtful as to its ever being available. Still, they would agree—in (...) a seemingly Cartesian spirit—that if infallible knowledge was available then it would be a stronger link to truth than fallible knowledge ever manages to be. But this paper argues that infallible knowledge lacks that supposed advantage over fallible knowledge. Indeed, we will see why we should move even further away from the epistemological model at the heart of the Meditations: we should adopt knowledge-minimalism, by conceiving of a belief’s being true as always sufficient for its being knowledge—this, for any belief. (shrink)
Could the standard interpretation of Gettier cases reflect a fundamental confusion? Indeed so. How well can epistemologists argue for the truth of that standard interpretation? Not so well. A methodological mistake is allowing them not to notice how they are simply (and inappropriately) being infallibilists when regarding Gettiered beliefs as failing to be knowledge. There is no Gettier problem that we have not merely created for ourselves by unwittingly being infallibilists about knowledge.
Philosophers and psychologists generally hold that, in light of the empirical data, a subject lacks infallible access to her own mental states. However, while subjects certainly are fallible in some ways, I show that the data fails to discredit that a subject has infallible access to her own occurrent thoughts and judgments. This is argued, first, by revisiting the empirical studies, and carefully scrutinizing what is shown exactly. Second, I argue that if the data were interpreted to rule out all (...) such infallibility, the relevant psychological studies would be self-effacing. For they adopt a methodology where a subject is simply presumed to know her own second-order thoughts and judgments--as if she were infallible about them. After all, what she expresses as her second-order judgment is trusted as accurate without independent evidence — even though such judgments often misrepresent the subject’s first-order states. The upshot is that such studies do not discredit all infallibility hypotheses regarding self-attributions of occurrent states. (shrink)
Anthony Brueckner argues for a strong connection between the closure and the underdetermination argument for scepticism. Moreover, he claims that both arguments rest on infallibilism: In order to motivate the premises of the arguments, the sceptic has to refer to an infallibility principle. If this were true, fallibilists would be right in not taking the problems posed by these sceptical arguments seriously. As many epistemologists are sympathetic to fallibilism, this would be a very interesting result. However, in this paper (...) I will argue that Brueckner’s claims are wrong: The closure and the underdetermination argument are not as closely related as he assumes and neither rests on infallibilism. Thus even a fallibilist should take these arguments to raise serious problems that must be dealt with somehow. (shrink)
Infallibilism is the view that a belief cannot be at once warranted and false. In this essay we assess three nonpartisan arguments for infallibilism, arguments that do not depend on a prior commitment to some substantive theory of warrant. Three premises, one from each argument, are most significant: if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then the Gettier Problem cannot be solved; if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then its warrant can (...) be transferred to an accidentally true belief; if a belief can be at once warranted and false, then it can be warranted and accidentally true. We argue that each of these is either false or no more plausible than its denial. Along the way, we offer a solution to the Gettier Problem that is compatible with fallibilism. (shrink)
According to one contemporary formulation of infallibilism, probability 1 infallibilism, if a subject knows that p, then the probability of p on her evidence is 1. To avoid an implausible scepticism about knowledge, probability 1 infallibilism needs to allow that, in a wide range of cases, a proposition can be evidence for itself. However, such infallibilism needs to explain why it is typically infelicitous to cite p as evidence for p itself. I argue that probability 1 (...)infallibilism has no explanation of this infelicity and should be rejected. (shrink)
George M. Searle (1839-1918) and Charles S. Peirce worked together in the Coast Survey and the Harvard Observatory during the decade of 1860: both scientists were assistants of Joseph Winlock, the director of the Observatory. When in 1868 George, a convert to Catholicism, left to enter the Paulist Fathers, he was replaced by his brother Arthur Searle. George was ordained as a priest in 1871, was a lecturer of Mathematics and Astronomy at the Catholic University of America, and became the (...) fourth superior general of his congregation from 1904 to 1909. Among the books he wrote for non-Catholic audiences was Plain Facts for Fair Minds (1895). On the 8th of August of 1895, Peirce found that book in a bookstore and the following day wrote a letter to George Searle developing his strong reservations about the question of the infallibility of the Pope. This letter (L 397) is almost unknown amongst Peirce's scholars. -/- After describing these historical circumstances as a framework, the aim of my paper is to describe Peirce's arguments against papal infallibility presented by George Searle in his book, and the contrast between the genuine scientific attitude and the putative metaphysical notion of absolute truth that is —according to Peirce— behind Searle's defense of infallibility. In this sense, Peirce's fallibilism will be explained with some detail, giving an account also of his practical infallibilism: "The assertion that every assertion but this is fallible, is the only one that is absolutely infallible. But though nothing else is absolutely infallible, many propositions are practically infallible; such as the dicta of conscience" (Minute Logic, CP 2.75, c. 1902). -/- Finally, having in mind the present interest in Peirce's religious ideas it will be suggested that some of Peirce's ideas on infallibility are nearer to contemporary understanding of that issue than Searle's defense. "I would with all my heart join the ancient church of Rome if I could. But your book," —Peirce writes to Searle— "is an awful warning against doing so." -/- . (shrink)
Infallibilism is the claim that knowledge requires that one satisfies some infallibility condition. I spell out three distinct such conditions: epistemic, evidential and modal infallibility. Epistemic infallibility turns out to be simply a consequence of epistemic closure, and is not infallibilist in any relevant sense. Evidential infallibilism i s unwarranted but it is not an satisfactory characterization of the infallibilist intuition. Modal infallibility, by contrast, captures the core infallibilist intuition, and I argue that it is required to solve (...) the Gettier problem and account for lottery cases. Finally, I discuss whether modal infallibilism has sceptical consequences and argue that it is an open question whose answer depends on one’s account of alethic possibility. (shrink)
This essay constitutes a brief response to Martin Blaauw's paper, 'Divorcing theism from infallibilism', "Religious Studies," 43 (2007), 349-354, in which he raises a number of thought-provoking objections to an earlier paper of mine which appeared in this journal: 'Theism and infallibilism: a marriage made in heaven?', "Religious Studies," 40 (2004), 193-201. In the following counter-response, I hope to show that the argument developed in my original essay manages to survive his objections. (All page references in the text (...) are to Martin Blaauw's paper above.). (shrink)
Robert Oakes has argued that theism defeats the 'doctrine of public-world fallibilism'. That is, Oakes has argued that theism supports infallibilism about public-world beliefs such as 'There is an olive on the floor', or 'I have two hands'. Given the enormous discussion of radical scepticism in the recent epistemological literature, this argument is well worth investigating. In this short note, however, I argue that the argument Oakes presents is unconvincing. The truth of theism does not support public-world infallibilism.
Descartes held the view that a subject has infallible beliefs about the contents of her thoughts. Here, I first examine a popular contermporary defense of this claim, given by Burge, and find it lacking. I then offer my own defense appealing to a minimal thesis about the compositionality of thoughts. The argument has the virtue of refraining from claims about whether thoughts are “in the head;” thus, it is congenial to both internalists and externalists. The considerations here also illuminate how (...) a subject may have epistemicially priviledged and a priori beliefs about her own thoughts. (shrink)
Understanding Peirce requires dealing with Peirce's religious concerns, which are increasingly recognized as being as philosophically relevant as his scientific concerns. In recent times, even Peirce's regular religious practice in his Milford years has been documented (L 244), including, at least occasionally, week-day Eucharist services, which were "the hallmark of Tractarian or Anglo-Catholic parishes". -/- I have argued elsewhere that for Peirce, scientific activity is a genuine religious enterprise, perhaps even the religious activity par excellence, and that to divorce religion (...) from science is antithetical to both the scientific spirit and the genuine Peirce. In this vein, I have also held that Peirce's framework for the relations between science and religion, reason and faith, seems congenial to the Roman Catholic tradition. Perhaps the strongest conflict between Peirce's view on science and Roman Catholic faith may be epitomized in the dogma of papal infallibility, declared by the Vatican Council I and Pius IX on July of 1870, only eleven weeks before Peirce's first visit to Rome. Since the first moment, papal infallibility has been a permanent object of mockery and derision in the cultivated circles of Anglo-American intellectuals. As the late Rorty wrote, Pius's decision "was making Catholicism look ridiculous". -/- In this broad framework, the aim of my paper is to provide some context for Peirce's letter about papal infallibility, as the doctrine was presented by his former colleague George M. Searle in his 1895 book "Plain Facts for Fair Minds", which Peirce came across almost by chance. According to Peirce, there is a deep contrast between the genuine scientific attitude and the putative metaphysical notion of 'absolute truth' that was behind Searle's defense of infallibility. "I would with all my heart join the ancient church of Rome if I could. But your book," —Peirce writes to Searle (L 397) — "is an awful warning against doing so." -/- In order to explain Peirce's position, the paper is arranged into four sections: 1) a brief presentation of George M. Searle and his book Plain Facts for Fair Minds; 2) a description of Peirce's letter to Searle; 3) Peirce's fallibilism and infallibility; and 4) an attempt to guess how Searle might have responded to Peirce. I will try to collect some of Peirce's texts and to quote them extensively, since it is possible to learn a lot from the exploration of this debate. (shrink)
Many philosophers ardently subscribe to what can be called the doctrine of public-world fallibilism (DPWF), i.e. the doctrine that human persons can never have infallible awareness of the truth of propositions such as that expressed by the sentence ‘There is an olive on the kitchen floor’. It has, of course, been standard to contrast such claims with epistemically tentative first-person phenomenological reports, e.g. ‘It seems to me that there is olive on the kitchen floor’. According to the DPWF, for any (...) public-world proposition p and person N who accepts that p, there is always some epistemic possibility (it may, of course, be quite small) that N is mistaken about p. I hope to establish – in something of a Cartesian spirit – that there is eminently respectable warrant for maintaining that theism requires the falsity of the DPWF. Further, I believe that this thesis can be seen to have far more epistemological significance than might initially be supposed. (Published Online April 21 2004). (shrink)
There is a traditional conception of knowledge but it is not the Justified True Belief analysis Gettier attacked. On the traditional view, knowledge consists in having a belief that bears a discernible mark of truth. A mark of truth is a truth-entailing property: a property that only true beliefs can have. It is discernible if one can always tell that a belief has it, that is, a sufficiently attentive subject believes that a belief has it if and only if it (...) has it. Requiring a mark of truth makes the view infallibilist. Requiring it to be discernible makes the view internalist. I call the view Classical Infallibilism. (shrink)
Let ‘warrant’ denote whatever precisely it is that makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief. A current debate in epistemology asks whether warrant entails truth, i.e., whether (Infallibilism) S’s belief that p is warranted only if p is true. The arguments for infallibilism have come under considerable and, as of yet, unanswered objections. In this paper, I will defend infallibilism. In Part I, I advance a new argument for infallibilism; the basic outline is as (...) follows. Suppose fallibilism is true. An implication of fallibilism is that the property that makes the difference between knowledge and mere belief (which I dub ‘warrant*’) is the conjunctive property being warranted and true . I show that this implication of fallibilism conflicts with an uncontroversial thesis we have learned from reflection on Gettier cases: that nonaccidental truth is a constituent of warrant*. It follows that infallibilism is true. In the second part of the paper, I present and criticize a new argument against infallibilism. The argument states that there are plausible cases where, intuitively, the only thing that is keeping a belief from counting as knowledge is the falsity of that belief. Furthermore, it is plausible that such a belief is warranted and false. So, the argument goes, infallibilism is false. I show that this argument fails. (shrink)
The idea that knowledge can be extended by inference from what is known seems highly plausible. Yet, as shown by familiar preface paradox and lottery-type cases, the possibility of aggregating uncertainty casts doubt on its tenability. We show that these considerations go much further than previously recognized and significantly restrict the kinds of closure ordinary theories of knowledge can endorse. Meeting the challenge of uncertainty aggregation requires either the restriction of knowledge-extending inferences to single premises, or eliminating epistemic uncertainty in (...) known premises. The first strategy, while effective, retains little of the original idea—conclusions even of modus ponens inferences from known premises are not always known. We then look at the second strategy, inspecting the most elaborate and promising attempt to secure the epistemic role of basic inferences, namely Timothy Williamson’s safety theory of knowledge. We argue that while it indeed has the merit of allowing basic inferences such as modus ponens to extend knowledge, Williamson’s theory faces formidable difficulties. These difficulties, moreover, arise from the very feature responsible for its virtue- the infallibilism of knowledge. (shrink)
Taking his conceptual cue from Ernest Sosa, John Turri has offered a putative conceptual solution to the Gettier problem: Knowledge is cognitively adept belief, and no Gettiered belief is cognitively adept. At the core of such adeptness is a relation of manifestation. Yet to require that relation within knowing is to reach for what amounts to an infallibilist conception of knowledge. And this clashes with the spirit behind the fallibilism articulated by Gettier when stating his challenge. So, Turri’s form of (...) response is irrelevant to that challenge, which was intended to pose a conceptual problem within fallibilist conceptions of knowledge. (And that failure on Turri’s part needs to be highlighted to remind epistemologists of the need to assess Gettier cases by a fallibilist standard. Although that need was described earlier by Robert Almeder, apparently his advice is being overlooked. This paper develops it anew, in a more general form.). (shrink)
The present piece is a reply to G. Hoffmann on my infallibilist view of self-knowledge. Contra Hoffmann, it is argued that the view does not preclude a Quinean epistemology, wherein every belief is subject to empirical revision.
This paper explores two related issues concerning Locke’s account of epistemic justification for empirical knowledge. One issue concerns the degree of justification needed for empirical knowledge. Commentators almost universally take Locke to hold a fallibilist account of justification, whereas I argue that Locke accepts infallibilism. A second issue concerns the nature of justification. Many (though not all) commentators take Locke to have a thoroughly internalist conception of justification for empirical knowledge, whereas I argue that he has a (partly) externalist (...) conception of justification: it is the fact that sensation is caused by an external object that justifies our belief in the corresponding object. So, while most commentators take Locke to be a fallibilist with an internalist conception of justification for empirical knowledge, I argue he is actually an infallibilist with an externalist conception of justification. (shrink)
This is a contribution to a symposium on Annalisa Coliva's book _The Varieties of Self-Knowledge_. I present her notion of a "commitment" and how it is used in her treatment of Moore paradoxical assertions and thoughts (e.g., "I believe that it is raining, but it is not;" "It is raining but I do not believe that it is"). The final section notes the points of convergence between her constitutivism about self-knowledge of commitments, and the constitutivism from my book _Self-Reflection for (...) the Opaque Mind_. (shrink)
God's necessary existence makes sense. Attempt at a transcendental modal proof. - In this essay I outline a novel three-stage proof of God's necessary existence using transcendental and deductive methods. In the first step of the proof, by retorsion, it is proved that there is at least one sentence that is necessary and inescapable. In the second step, the inescapability of the modal logic supposed in the proof is shown. This step also contains a new argument in favour of epistemic (...) anti-realism. The third step finally proves the necessary existence of the person who proves. The proof thus refers to the subject, the object, and the method of this proof itself. (shrink)
Empirical knowledge exists in the form of antiskeptical conditionals, which are propositions like [if I am not undetectably deceived, then I am holding a pen]. Such conditionals, despite their trivial appearance, have the same essential content as the categorical propositions that we usually discuss, and can serve the same functions in science and practical reasoning. This paper sketches out two versions of a general response to skepticism that employs these conditionals. The first says that our ordinary knowledge attributions can safely (...) be replaced by statements using antiskeptical conditionals, which provides a way around the standard sort of skeptical argument while accepting its soundness with respect to the usual targets. The second analyzes the objects of our ordinary knowledge attributions as antiskeptical conditionals, which allows us to refute, not just evade, the skeptic's argument. Both versions compare favorably to the best-knowncurrent approaches to skepticism, including semantic contextualism. (shrink)
_Self-Reflection for the Opaque Mind_ attempts to solve a grave problem about critical self-reflection. Psychological studies indicate not just that we are bad at detecting our own "ego-threatening" thoughts; they also suggest that we are ignorant of even our ordinary thoughts. However, self-reflection presupposes an ability to know one’s own thoughts. So if ignorance is the norm, why attempt self-reflection? While admitting the psychological data, this book argues that we are infallible in a limited range of self-discerning judgments—that in some (...) cases, these judgments are self-fulfilling or self-verifying. Even so, infallibility does not imply indubitability, and the author does not wish to provide a "foundation" for empirical knowledge. The point is rather to explain how self-reflection as a rational activity is possible. The book will be of interest to scholars working on the issue of self-reflection across a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, and cognitive science. (shrink)
Introduction -- Fallibilism -- Contextualism -- Knowledge and reasons -- Justification -- Belief -- The value and importance of knowledge -- Infallibilism or pragmatic encroachment? -- Appendix I: Conflicts with bayesian decision theory? -- Appendix II: Does KJ entail infallibilism?
Hope, in its propositional construction "I hope that p," is compatible with a stated chance for the speaker that not-p. On fallibilist construals of knowledge, knowledge is compatible with a chance of being wrong, such that one can know that p even though there is an epistemic chance for one that not-p. But self-ascriptions of propositional hope that p seem to be incompatible, in some sense, with self-ascriptions of knowing whether p. Data from conjoining hope self-ascription with outright assertions, with (...) first- and third-person knowledge ascriptions, and with factive predicates suggest a problem: when combined with a plausible principle on the rationality of hope, they suggest that fallibilism is false. By contrast, the infallibilist about knowledge can straightforwardly explain why knowledge would be incompatible with hope, and can offer a simple and unified explanation of all the linguistic data introduced here. This suggests that fallibilists bear an explanatory burden which has been hitherto overlooked. (shrink)
Carter and Pritchard (2016) and Pritchard (2010, 2012, 2016) have tried to reconcile the intuition that perceptual knowledge requires only limited discriminatory abilities with the closure principle. To this end, they have introduced two theoretical innovations: a contrast between two ways of introducing error-possibilities and a distinction between discriminating and favoring evidence. I argue that their solution faces the “sufficiency problem”: it is unclear whether the evidence that is normally available to adult humans is sufficient to retain knowledge of the (...) entailing proposition and come to know the entailed proposition. I submit that, on either infallibilist or fallibilist views of evidence, Carter and Pritchard have set the bar for deductive knowledge too low. At the end, I offer an alternative solution. I suggest that the knowledge-retention condition of the closure principle is not satisfied in zebra-like scenarios. (shrink)
On rationalist infallibilism, a wide range of both (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified (or absolutely warranted), i.e., justified to a degree that entails their truth and precludes their falsity. Though rationalist infallibilism is indisputably running its course, adherence to at least one of the two species of infallible a priori justification refuses to disappear from mainstream epistemology. Among others, Putnam (1978) still professes the a priori infallibility of some category (i) propositions, (...) while Burge (1986, 1988, 1996) and Lewis (1996) have recently affirmed the a priori infallibility of some category (ii) propositions. In this paper, I take aim at rationalist infallibilism by calling into question the a priori infallibility of both analytic and synthetic propositions. The upshot will be twofold: first, rationalist infallibilism unsurprisingly emerges as a defective epistemological doctrine, and second, more importantly, the case for the a priori infallibility of one or both categories of propositions turns out to lack cogency. (shrink)
This paper advances the debate over the question whether false beliefs may nevertheless have warrant, the property that yields knowledge when conjoined with true belief. The paper’s first main part—which spans Sections 2–4—assesses the best argument for Warrant Infallibilism, the view that only true beliefs can have warrant. I show that this argument’s key premise conflicts with an extremely plausible claim about warrant. Sections 5–6 constitute the paper’s second main part. Section 5 presents an overlooked puzzle about warrant, and (...) uses that puzzle to generate a new argument for Warrant Fallibilism, the view that false beliefs can have warrant. Section 6 evaluates this pro-Fallibilism argument, finding ultimately that it defeats itself in a surprising way. I conclude that neither Infallibilism nor Fallibilism should now constrain theorizing about warrant. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a doctrine I call ?infallibilism?, which I stipulate to mean that If S knows that p, then the epistemic probability of p for S is 1. Some fallibilists will claim that this doctrine should be rejected because it leads to scepticism. Though it's not obvious that infallibilism does lead to scepticism, I argue that we should be willing to accept it even if it does. Infallibilism should be preferred because it has (...) greater explanatory power than fallibilism. In particular, I argue that an infallibilist can easily explain why assertions of ?p, but possibly not-p? (where the ?possibly? is read as referring to epistemic possibility) is infelicitous in terms of the knowledge rule of assertion. But a fallibilist cannot. Furthermore, an infallibilist can explain the infelicity of utterances of ?p, but I don't know that p? and ?p might be true, but I'm not willing to say that for all I know, p is true?, and why when a speaker thinks p is epistemically possible for her, she will agree (if asked) that for all she knows, p is true. The simplest explanation of these facts entails infallibilism. Fallibilists have tried and failed to explain the infelicity of ?p, but I don't know that p?, but have not even attempted to explain the last two facts. I close by considering two facts that seem to pose a problem for infallibilism, and argue that they don't. (shrink)
Concessive knowledge attributions (CKAs) are knowledge attributions of the form ‘S knows p, but it’s possible that q’, where q obviously entails not-p (Rysiew, Nous (Detroit, Mich.) 35:477–514, 2001). The significance of CKAs has been widely discussed recently. It’s agreed by all that CKAs are infelicitous, at least typically. But the agreement ends there. Different writers have invoked them in their defenses of all sorts of philosophical theses; to name just a few: contextualism, invariantism, fallibilism, infallibilism, and that the (...) knowledge rules for assertion and practical reasoning are false. In fact, there is a lot of confusion about CKAs and their significance. I try to clear some of this confusion up, as well as show what their significance is with respect to the debate between fallibilists and infallibilists about knowledge in particular. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson's epistemology leads to a fairly radical version of scepticism. According to him, all knowledge is evidence. It follows that if S knows p, the evidential probability for S that p is 1. I explain Williamson's infallibilist account of perceptual knowledge, contrasting it with Peter Klein's, and argue that Klein's account leads to a certain problem which Williamson's can avoid. Williamson can allow that perceptual knowledge is possible and that all knowledge is evidence, while at the same time avoiding (...) Klein's problem. But while Williamson can allow that we know some things through experience, there are very many things he must say we cannot know. Given just how very many these are, he should be considered a sceptic. (shrink)
Infallibilism about a priori justification is the thesis that for an agent A to be a priori justified in believing p, that which justifies A's belief that p must guarantee the truth of p. No analogous thesis is thought to obtain for empirically justified beliefs. The aim of this article is to argue that infallibilism about the a priori is an untenable philosophical position and to provide theoretical understanding why we not only can be, but rather must be, (...) a priori justified in believing some false propositions. The argument develops notions of obviousness and conceptual understanding as a means of affording insight into the conditions for having a priori justification and, consequently, into why infallibilism cannot stand. (shrink)
A thorough examination of John Wesley’s writings will show that he was not a biblical literalist or infallibilist, despite his own occasional suggestions to the contrary. His most important principles for interpreting the Bible were: We should take its words literally only if doing so is not absurd, in which case we should “look for a looser meaning;” and “No Scripture can mean that God is not love, or that his mercy is not over all his works.” Eleven instances of (...) his not taking biblical texts literally are examined. His real view was something like this: Biblical language is infallibly and literally true if and only if it does not contradict more basic scriptures and is not absurd, that is, not construed literally when metaphorical, or not misleadingly metaphorical, or not oversimplified or exaggerated, or not culture bound, or not contrary to reason and experience, or not ethically unconscionable and unloving. (shrink)
ABSTRACT According to the fallibilist, it is possible for us to know things when our evidence doesn't entail that our beliefs are correct. Even if there is some chance that we're mistaken about p, we might still know that p is true. Fallibilists will tell you that an important virtue of their view is that infallibilism leads to skepticism. In this paper, we'll see that fallibilist impurism has considerable skeptical consequences of its own. We've missed this because we've focused (...) our attention on the high-stakes cases that they discuss in trying to motivate their impurism about knowledge. We'll see this once we think about the fallibilist impurist's treatment of low-stakes cases. […] when error would be especially disastrous, few possibilities are properly ignored. (shrink)
There is pragmatic encroachment on some epistemic status just in case whether a proposition has that status for a subject depends not only on the subject's epistemic position with respect to the proposition, but also on features of the subject's non-epistemic, practical environment. Discussions of pragmatic encroachment usually focus on knowledge. Here we argue that, barring infallibilism, there is pragmatic encroachment on what is arguably a more fundamental epistemic status – the status a proposition has when it is warranted (...) enough to be a reason one has for believing other things. (shrink)
According to a doctrine that I call “Cartesianism”, knowledge – at least the sort of knowledge that inquirers possess – requires having a reason for belief that is reflectively accessible as such. I show that Cartesianism, in conjunction with some plausible and widely accepted principles, entails the negation of a popular version of Fallibilism. I then defend the resulting Cartesian Infallibilist position against popular objections. My conclusion is that if Cartesianism is true, then Descartes was right about this much: for (...) S to know that p, S must have reasons for believing that p which are such that S can know, by reflection alone, that she has those reasons, and that she could not possibly have those reasons if p is not true. Where Descartes went wrong was in thinking that our ordinary, fallible, non-theologically grounded sources of belief (e.g., perception, memory, testimony), cannot provide us with such reasons. (shrink)
On rationalist infallibilism, a wide range of both (i) analytic and (ii) synthetic a priori propositions can be infallibly justified, i.e., justified in a way that is truth-entailing. In this paper, I examine the second thesis of rationalist infallibilism, what might be called ‘synthetic a priori infallibilism’. Exploring the seemingly only potentially plausible species of synthetic a priori infallibility, I reject the infallible justification of so-called self-justifying propositions.
Beginning with Zagzebski (The Philosophical Quarterly 44:65–73, 1994), some philosophers have argued that there can be no solution to the Gettier counterexamples within the framework of a fallibilist theory of knowledge. If true, this would be devastating, since it is believed on good grounds that infallibilism leads to scepticism. But I argue here that these purported proofs are mistaken and that the truthmaker solution to the Gettier problems is both cogent and fallibilist in nature. To show this I develop (...) the notion of evidence of a state of affairs, a crucial concept in the truthmaker theory. I also argue that a common principle of the transmission of evidence through entailment is false, and the cause of much of the trouble. (shrink)