Introduction to Theory of Knowledge
Please choose one of the following papers. Extract the central argument from the paper and present it in numbered premise-conclusion form. If the paper is primarily replying to some other argument, present that argument in numbered premise-conclusion form as well. Make sure to specify which premise the author is rejecting.
Then present your own argument in numbered premise-conclusion form against one of the author’s premises. The arguments must be deductively valid. You can accompany the arguments with brief explanations/defences of the premises if they are required for intelligibility.
Arguments need to be submitted to me by midnight, February 29 via email to chris dot tillman at gmail dot com.
Reliabilists have a generality problem. Comesana (2006) proposes a solution.
Juan Comesaña (2006). A Well-Founded Solution to the Generality Problem. Philosophical Studies 129 (1):27 - 47.
According to reliabilists about epistemic justification, what makes a belief epistemically justified is that it was produced by a reliable process of belief-formation. Earl Conee and Richard Feldman have forcefully presented a problem for such reliabilism, "the generality problem."? The generality problem arises once we realize that the notion of reliability applies straightforwardly only to types of process--for only types of process are repeatable entities which can produce true or false beliefs in each of their instances. Moreover, any token process will be an instance of indefinitely many types of process. Which of these types must be reliable for my belief to be justified, according to reliabilism? That question, generalized to cover every case of belief-formation, is the generality problem for reliabilism. In this paper I propose a solution to the generality problem. The solution makes use of the basing relation, and so, given that it isn't clear how to characterize that relation, it might be thought to replace one problem with another. I argue that, however difficult it is to characterize the basing relation, every adequate epistemological theory must make use of it implicitly or explicitly. Therefore, it is perfectly legitimate to appeal to the basing relation in solving a problem for an epistemological theory.
Reliabilists have a “new” evil demon problem. Comesana (2002) proposes a fix.
Juan Comesaña (2002). The Diagonal and the Demon. Philosophical Studies 110 (3):249 - 266.
Reliabilism about epistemic justification – the thesis that what makes a belief epistemically justified is that it was produced by a reliable process of belief-formation – must face two problems. First, what has been called ``the new evil demon problem'', which arises from the idea that the beliefs of victims of an evil demon are as justified as our own beliefs, although they are not – the objector claims – reliably produced. And second, the problem of diagnosing why skepticism is so appealing despite being false. I present a special version of reliabilism, ``indexical reliabilism'', based on two-dimensional semantics, and show how it can solve both problems.
Michael Bergmann (2008) sets forth a new argument for proper functionalism.
Michael Bergmann (2008). Reidian Externalism. In Vincent Hendricks (ed.), New Waves in Epistemology. Palgrave Macmillan.
What distinguishes Reidian externalism from other versions of epistemic externalism about justification is its proper functionalism and its commonsensism, both of which are inspired by the 18th century Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid. Its proper functionalism is a particular analysis of justification; its commonsensism is a certain thesis about what we are noninferentially justified in believing.
Todd Long (2012) defends evidentialism from Bergmann (2006)’s critiques.
Todd Long (2012). Mentalist Evidentialism Vindicated (and a Super-Blooper Epistemic Design Problem for Proper Function Justification). Philosophical Studies 157 (2):251-266.
Michael Bergmann seeks to motivate his externalist, proper function theory of epistemic justification by providing three objections to the mentalism and mentalist evidentialism characteristic of nonexternalists such as Richard Feldman and Earl Conee. Bergmann argues that (i) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that justification depends on mental states; (ii) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of an epistemic input to a belief-forming process must be due to an essential feature of that input, and, relatedly, that mentalist evidentialism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of doxastic response B to evidence E is an essential property of B–E; and (iii) mentalist evidentialism is “unmotivated”. I object to each argument. The argument for (i) begs the question. The argument for (ii) suffers from the fact that mentalist evidentialists are not committed to the consequences claimed for them; nevertheless, I show that there is, in the neighborhood, a substantive dispute concerning the nature of doxastic epistemic fittingness. That dispute involves what I call “Necessary Fittingness”, the view that, necessarily, exactly one (at most) doxastic attitude ( belief , or disbelief , or suspension of judgment ) toward a proposition is epistemically fitting with respect to a person’s total evidence at any time. Reflection on my super-blooper epistemic design counterexamples to Bergmann’s proper function theory reveals both the plausibility of Necessary Fittingness and a good reason to deny (iii). Mentalist evidentialism is thus vindicated against the objections.
Rogers & Matheson (forthcoming) defend epistemic internalism from Bergmann (2006)’s critiques.
Jason Rogers & Jonathan Matheson (forthcoming). Bergmann's Dilemma: Exit Strategies for Internalists. Philosophical Studies.
Michael Bergmann claims that all versions of epistemic internalism face an irresolvable dilemma. We show that there are many plausible versions of internalism that falsify this claim. First, we demonstrate that there are versions of “weak awareness internalism” that, contra Bergmann, do not succumb to the “Subject’s Perspective Objection” horn of the dilemma. Second, we show that there are versions of “strong awareness internalism” that do not fall prey to the dilemma’s “vicious regress” horn. We note along the way that these versions of internalism do not, in avoiding one horn of the dilemma, succumb to the dilemma’s other horn. The upshot is that internalists have many available strategies for avoiding dilemmatic defeat.
Jonathan Schaffer (2010) presents a new argument for skepticism: a universal skepticism on which even your knowledge that you exist is not safe.
Jonathan Schaffer (2010). The Debasing Demon. Analysis 70 (2):228-237.
What knowledge is imperilled by sceptical doubt? That is, what range of beliefs may be called into doubt by sceptical nightmares like the Cartesian demon hypothesis? It is generally thought that demons have limited powers, perhaps only threatening a posteriori knowledge of the external world, but at any rate not threatening principles like the cogito. I will argue that there is a demon – the debasing demon – with unlimited powers, which threatens universal doubt. Rather than deceiving us with falsities, the debasing demon would allow us true beliefs, but only as guesses.
Nick Bostrom (2003) considers the likelihood that you are a computer simulation.
Nick Bostrom (2003). Are We Living in a Computer Simulation? Philosophical Quarterly 53 (211):243–255.
This paper argues that at least one of the following propositions is true: (1) the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage; (2) any posthuman civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof); (3) we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation. It follows that the belief that there is a significant chance that we will one day become posthumans who run ancestor-simulations is false, unless we are currently living in a simulation. A number of other consequences of this result are also discussed.
Keith DeRose (1999) proposes a “contextualist” solution to skepticism.
Keith DeRose (1999). Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense. In J. Greco & E. Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Blackwell Publishers.
In epistemology, “contextualism” denotes a wide variety of more-or-less closely related positions according to which the issues of knowledge or justification are somehow relative to context. I will proceed by first explicating the position I call contextualism, and distinguishing that position from some closely related positions in epistemology, some of which sometimes also go by the name of “contextualism”. I’ll then present and answer what seems to many the most pressing of the objections to contextualism as I construe it, and also indicate some of the main positive motivations for accepting the view. Among the epistemologists I’ve spoken with who have an opinion on the matter, I think it’s fair to say a majority reject contextualism. However, the resistance has to this point been largely underground, with little by way of sustained arguments against contextualism appearing in the journals,[i] though I have begun to see various papers in manuscript form which are critical of contextualism. Here, I’ll respond the criticism of contextualism that, in my travels, I have found to be the most pervasive in producing suspicion about the view.
Jonathan Schaffer argues that if you like contextualism, you’ll love contrasitivism.
Jonathan Schaffer (2004). From Contextualism to Contrastivism. Philosophical Studies 119 (1-2):73-104.
Contextualism treats ‘knows’ as an indexical that denotes different epistemic properties in different contexts. Contrastivism treats ‘knows’ as denoting a ternary relation with a slot for a contrast proposition. I will argue that contrastivism resolves the main philosophical problems of contextualism, by employing a better linguistic model. Contextualist insights are best understood by contrastivist theory.
Michael Blome-Tillmann (2006) takes a closer look at “transmission” arguments for skepticism.
Michael Blome-Tillmann (2006). A Closer Look at Closure Scepticism. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106 (3):381–390.
The most prominent arguments for scepticism in modern epistemology employ closure principles of some kind. To begin my discussion of such arguments, consider Simple Knowledge Closure (SKC): (SKC) (Kxt[p] ∧ (p → q)) → Kxt[q].1 Assuming its truth for the time being, the sceptic can use (SKC) to reason from the two assumptions that, firstly, we don’t know ¬sh and that, secondly, op entails ¬sh to the conclusion that we don’t know op, where ‘op’ and ‘sh’ are shorthand for ‘ordinary proposition’ and ‘sceptical hypothesis’ respectively. (SKC), however, fails for familiar reasons: since knowledge entails belief (KB), we can derive the falsity (F) from (SKC) by hypothetical syllogism, and thus reduce (SKC) to absurdity: (KB) Kxt[p] → Bxt[p]. (F) (Kxt[p] ∧ (p → q)) → Bxt[q].
Dylan Dodd (2011). Against Fallibilism. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (4):665 - 685.
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.
Stewart Cohen (2002) presses the problem of “easy knowledge”.
Stewart Cohen (2002). Basic Knowledge and the Problem of Easy Knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2):309-329.
Can you know it’s a red paper and not a white paper with a red light shone on it without checking further? If so, your knowledge is had too easily. If not, skepticism.
Roger White (2006). Problems for Dogmatism. Philosophical Studies 131 (3):525--57.
I argue that its appearing to you that P does not provide justification for believing that P unless you have independent justification for the denial of skeptical alternatives – hypotheses incompatible with P but such that if they were true, it would still appear to you that P. Thus I challenge the popular view of ‘dogmatism,’ according to which for some contents P, you need only lack reason to suspect that skeptical alternatives are true, in order for an experience as of P to justify belief that P. I pursue three lines of objection to dogmatism, having to do with probabilistic reasoning, considerations of future or hypothetically available justification, and epistemic circularity. I briefly sketch a fall-back position which avoids the problems raised.
Nathan Hanna (2011). Against Phenomenal Conservatism. Acta Analytica 26 (3):213-221.
Recently, Michael Huemer has defended the Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism: 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.
Michael Huemer (2007). Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1):30–55.
I defend the principle of Phenomenal Conservatism, 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 Phenomenal Conservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that the demand for a metajustification for Phenomenal Conservatism either is an easily met demand, or is an unfair or question-begging one.
Clayton Littlejohn (2011). Defeating Phenomenal Conservatism. Analytic Philosophy 52 (1):35-48.
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 phenomenal conservatism is mistaken. They also claim that the view captures an important internalist insight about justification. I shall argue that phenomenal conservatism 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.
Crispin Wright (2007). The Perils of Dogmatism. In Nuccetelli & Seay (eds.), Themes from G. E. Moore: New Essays in Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
"Dogmatism" is a term renovated by James Pryor  to stand for a certain kind of neo-Moorean response to Scepticism and an associated conception of the architecture of basic perceptual warrant. Pryor runs the response only for (some kinds of) perceptual knowledge but here I will be concerned with its general structure and potential as a possible global anti-sceptical strategy. Something like it is arguably also present in recent writings of Burge 1 and Peacocke.2 If the global strategy could succeed, (...) it would pre-empt any role in the diagnosis and treatment of sceptical paradoxes for the kind of notion of entitlement (rational, non-evidential warrant) I have proposed elsewhere [Wright 2004]. But my overarching contention will be that Dogmatism is, generally and locally, too problematic a stance to be helpful in that project.