There’s a CFP for a special issue of the journal Dialectica. The issue is on the current state of justification. The submission deadline is 7/1/2010. Click here to access full details of the CFP at the Certain Doubts blog.
Category Archives: Epistemic Justification
In “Evidence, Experience, and Externalism” Jack Lyons proposes a new twist on the Sellarsian dilemma. This dilemma typically argues against standard foundationalism. It claims non-doxastic experiential states cannot justify basic beliefs. This is thought to count in favor of standard coherentism, which is committed to the idea that only beliefs can justify beliefs (i.e., doxasticism). Lyons recasts the Sellarsian dilemma so that it does not count in favor of coherentism (doxasticism); instead, it counts in favor of non-evidentialism and, as a result, it counts in favor of externalism. Lyons’ argument might be reconstructed as follows:
- Evidential justification is distinct from non-evidential justification.
- Df: Evidential justifiers (e.g., other justified beliefs) are capable of justifying beliefs by serving as evidence for those beliefs, whereas non-evidential justifiers (e.g., reliability, coherence) are things in virtue of which beliefs are justified (i.e., they are not evidence for the beliefs but that on which justification supervenes, for example).
- The Sellarsian dilemma must be restricted to evidential justification; otherwise, it is a nonstarter.
- The distinction between evidential and non-evidential justifiers makes it possible to hold separate the Belief Principle and the Grounds Principle.
- Df: The Belief Principle claims that only beliefs can evidentially justify beliefs, whereas the Grounds Principle claims that all justified beliefs have grounds (i.e., evidential justifiers).
- Doxasticism is the conjunction of the Belief Principle and the Grounds Principle.
- When the Sellarsian dilemma is restricted to evidential justification (as premise 2 indicates it must be), it is only an argument for the Belief Principle.
- Thus, the Sellarsian dilemma is not an argument for coherentism (doxasticism); such an argument requires an argument for the Grounds Principle, which the dilemma does not provide.
- However, doxasticism can be rejected on independent grounds (assumption not argued for, assumed from the literature).
- Rejecting doxasticism for independent reasons results in rejecting the Belief Principle and the Grounds Principle.
- Thus, in rejecting doxasticism, the Sellarsian argument for the Belief Principle turns out to be an argument for rejecting the Grounds Principle.
- Therefore, the Sellarsian argument is an argument for non-evidentialism (i.e., not all beliefs must have evidential justifiers as grounds), and beliefs can be justified by factors external to the agent (i.e., externalism is true).
In laying bare Lyons’ argument we have already accomplished something because it’s easy to get lost in the mounting of distinctions, positions, and counter-positions in his paper. For a defense of each premise I recommend reading the whole paper, but for the remainder of this post I’ll focus on one aspect of the argument. This aspect might undermine the entire argument.
Lyons responds to an objection to his argument. The objection is that he’s working with too narrow of an understanding of evidence and this begs the question against non-doxastic evidentialist theories. Notice that the argument above is restricted to a brand of doxastic evidentialism. Perhaps a different understanding of evidence, one that included, for example, physical evidence like a murder weapon, would not commit one to doxasticism. As a result, it might be possible to satisfy evidential justification without being led into the Sellarsian dilemma. Lyons responds to this charge without argument, by citing philosophical tradition. Put candidly: if you’ve got a problem with my usage of evidence, it’s their problem not mine! The people he’s referring to are Feldman and Conee, Haack, and Alston. Lyons says that it’s their conception of evidence that implies the Belief principle, and he’s merely borrowing this conception for the sake of argument. Even if we grant Lyons that his use of the notion of evidence is not question-begging against his opponents, it ‘s still problematic for his argument.
There’s solid motivation to move away from a doxastic notion of evidence. If only beliefs can serve as evidential justifiers, even for the sake of argument, then the notion of justification hinges on defending and substantiating a doxastic notion of evidence. Recently, Ram Neta (in “What Evidence Do You Have?”) has provided extensive counterexamples to a doxastic notion of evidence as cashed out in its various theoretical forms (e.g., reliability, JTB, E = K, coherence, deontology, and so on).
As it turns out, Lyons makes a double-mistake. First, he fails to argue against doxastic theories, and merely cites that the literature supports the idea that “doxasticism is a lost cause,” thereby motivating premise 7 without argument. Second, he bases his argument on doxasticism because it is a notion endorsed by mentalism and other internalist-based epistemologies. Without arguing against a non-doxastic understanding of evidence his argument is something of a straw-man. That is, he set-up an easy opponent to knock down. To sustain his argument Lyons must discharge the burden in the literature which points away from a doxastic conception of evidence in the first place, a burden that undermines the initial premises (assumptions) in his argument unless it can be discharged.
I’m not big on new year’s resolutions. I usually sit down and write out goals for the year, which I take to be more thought out and of greater likelihood of being accomplished than vague resolutions like, “I hope to exercise more this year.” One of my goals this year is to blog with greater frequency. Richard Chappell has a good post on the pros and cons of academic blogging. I agree with Richard that the pros of philosophy blogging outweigh the cons. So, these are some of the questions I aim to explore throughout the new year. These questions are related to the theory of epistemic justification and knowledge that I’m in the process of developing.
- Are facts truth makers or simply truth bearers?
- How does a propositional account of evidence accomodate non-inferential evidence?
- What is the relationship between epistemic and doxastic justification?
- What theory of the epistemic basing relation is most tenable (i.e., causal, counterfactual, doxastic, causal-doxastic)?
- How can the same epistemic reason be both normative and explanatory?
- How does my principle (evidence and reasons for belief–ERB) result in epistemic justification when all things are considered (e.g., all evidence and reasons are accounted for)?
- How is ERB a more defeasible principle of epistemic justification than its competitors?
- If evidence is a subset of the total facts about a case is one still rationally required to assess the total evidence in one’s evidence set when assessing the justification of a belief? If the total evidence principle is not rationally required, then what is the alternative principle that prevents irrational yet justified beliefs?
- What are my responses to the three arguments against foundationalism proposed by Howard-Snyder and Coffman (2006)?
- How is my version of foundationalism different from Alston’s two-tier model?
- How is my reasons and evidence-based theory of justification related to evidentialism of the Conee and Feldman type?
- How does my factive account of evidence defend itself against evidence is sometimes non-factive views?
- Does my account of justification lend itself to an account of knowledge? How does it handle the sort of counterexamples proposed by Neta in “Defeating the Dogma of Defeasibility” found in the book on Williamson’s theory of knowledge?
- How does my account of knowledge relate to or differ from the E = K thesis?
Here’s to the New Year!