Epistemic Internalism: Mentalism or Access?


The so-called internalism/externalism debate is of interest in epistemology since it addresses one of the most fundamental questions in the discipline: what is the basic nature of epistemic justification? What has been called epistemic internalism holds, as the label suggests, that all the relevant factors that determine positive epistemic status of a belief must be “internal”. A common way that the “internal” is understood is those things that are, or easily can be, available to the agent’s conscious awareness. However, there is another, and increasingly popular, way of spelling out the epistemically “internal”. A view advocated by Feldman and Conee which they regard as a kind of epistemic internalism, called ‘Mentalism’, holds that epistemic justification strongly supervenes upon the mental. In this paper I will show that even many of those who claim to deny an awareness requirement implicitly appeal to it to motivate their accounts of justification. By considering the arguments for ‘Mentalism’ I will show that, unless an awareness requirement is presupposed, the cases that such arguments appeal to are of no intuitive force. Therefore, insofar as one wants to be an internalist about epistemic justification, one needs to motivate, articulate, and defend an access/awareness condition. Epistemic Internalism, properly construed, ought to stress the epistemic significance of consciousness and the first person perspective



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B. J. C. Madison
United Arab Emirates University

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