Perception and Basic Beliefs: Zombies, Modules and the Problem of the External World

New York, US: Oxford University Press. Edited by Jack Lyons (2009)
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This book offers solutions to two persistent and I believe closely related problems in epistemology. The first problem is that of drawing a principled distinction between perception and inference: what is the difference between seeing that something is the case and merely believing it on the basis of what we do see? The second problem is that of specifying which beliefs are epistemologically basic (i.e., directly, or noninferentially, justified) and which are not. I argue that what makes a belief a perceptual belief, or a basic belief, is not any introspectible feature of the belief but rather the nature of the cognitive system, or "module", that is causally responsible for the belief. Thus, even zombies, who in the philosophical literature lack conscious experiences altogether, can have basic, justified, perceptual beliefs. The theories of perceptual and basic beliefs developed in the monograph are embedded in a larger reliabilist epistemology. I use this theory of basic beliefs to develop a detailed reliabilist theory: Inferentialist Reliabilism, which offers a reliabilist theory of inferential justification and which solves some longstanding problems for other reliabilist views by demanding inferential support for some—but not all—beliefs. The book is an instance of a thoroughgoingly naturalistic approach to epistemology. Many of my arguments have an empirical basis, and the view that I endorse reserves a central role for the cognitive sciences—in particular, cognitive neuroscience—in filling in the details of an applied epistemological theory.



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Jack Lyons
University of Glasgow

Citations of this work

The Importance of Being Rational.Errol Lord - 2013 - Dissertation, Princeton University
Reliabilist Epistemology.Alvin Goldman & Bob Beddor - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
An Epistemic Non-Consequentialism.Kurt L. Sylvan - 2020 - The Philosophical Review 129 (1):1-51.
How and Why Knowledge is First.Clayton Littlejohn - 2017 - In J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon & Benjamin W. Jarvis (eds.), Knowledge First: Approaches in Epistemology and Mind. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 19-45.

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