Justification, sociality, and autonomy

Synthese 73 (1):43 - 85 (1987)
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Theories of epistemically justified belief have long assumed individualism. In its extreme, or Lockean, form individualism rules out justified belief on testimony by insisting that a subject is justified in believing a proposition only if he or she possesses first-hand justification for it. The skeptical consequences of extreme individualism have led many to adopt a milder version, attributable to Hume, on which a subject is justified in believing a proposition only if he or she is justified in believing that there is testimony in favor of the proposition deriving from a reliable source. I argue that this Humean individualism also leads to skepticism in a wide range of cases; it makes it impossible for a layperson to be justified on expert testimony. In addition, I argue that the apparent motivation for the Humean view, an insistence on intellectual autonomy in justification, does not succeed in motivating it. I then explore the contours of a collectivist view of justification on testimony, with special attention to the place of a subject's intellectual autonomy in such justification. I try to bring empirical results of the psychology of persuasion to bear on the epistemological issues.



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Frederick Schmitt
Indiana University, Bloomington

Citations of this work

Kant on the Ethics of Belief.Alix Cohen - 2014 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 114 (3pt3):317-334.
Kant on testimony.Axel Gelfert - 2006 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (4):627 – 652.
Beauty and testimony.Robert Hopkins - 2000 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 47:209-236.

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References found in this work

A treatise of human nature.David Hume & D. G. C. Macnabb (eds.) - 1969 - Harmondsworth,: Penguin Books.
An essay concerning human understanding.John Locke - 1689 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Pauline Phemister.
The Modularity of Mind.Robert Cummins & Jerry Fodor - 1983 - Philosophical Review 94 (1):101.

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