Both traditional and naturalistic epistemologists have long assumed that the examination of human psychology has no relevance to the prescriptive goal of traditional epistemology, that of providing first-person guidance in determining the truth. Contrary to both, I apply insights about the psychology of human perception and concept-formation to a very traditional epistemological project: the foundationalist approach to the epistemic regress problem. I argue that direct realism about perception can help solve the regress problem and support a foundationalist account of justification, (...) but only if it is supplemented by an abstractionist theory of concept-formation, the view that it is possible to abstract concepts directly from the empirically given. Critics of direct realism like Laurence BonJour are correct that an account of direct perception by itself does not provide an adequate account of justification. However a direct realist account of perception can inform the needed theory of concept-formation, and leading critics of abstractionism like McDowell and Sellars, direct realists about perception themselves, fail to appreciate the ways in which their own views about perception help fill gaps in earlier accounts of abstractionism. Recognizing this undercuts both their objections to abstractionism and (therefore) their objections to foundationalism. (shrink)
Abstract The debate in the philosophy of perception between direct realists and representationalists should influence the debate in epistemology between internalists and externalists about justification. If direct realists are correct, there are more consciously accessible justifiers for internalists to exploit than externalists think. Internalists can retain their distinctive internalist identity while accepting this widened conception of internalistic justification: even if they welcome the possibility of cognitive access to external facts, their position is still quite distinct from the typical externalist position. (...) To demonstrate this, Alvin Goldman’s critique of internalism is shown to ignore important lessons from the case for direct realism about perception. In particular, it unjustifiably assumes that internalism entails that only facts simultaneous with the justification of a belief can justify the belief. Goldman’s definition of a “justifier” is also inconsistent with the overall guidance conception of epistemology he takes for granted in his critique of internalism. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-26 DOI 10.1007/s12136-012-0146-4 Authors Benjamin Bayer, Department of Philosophy, Loyola University, New Orleans, 6363 St. Charles Avenue, Box 046, New Orleans, LA 70118, USA Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
Recent years have seen increasing attacks on the "deontological" conception (or as we call it, the guidance conception) of epistemic justification, the view that epistemology offers advice to knowers in forming beliefs responsibly. Critics challenge an important presupposition of the guidance conception: doxastic voluntarism, the view that we choose our beliefs. We assume that epistemic guidance is indispensable, and seek to answer objections to doxastic voluntarism, most prominently William Alston's. We contend that Alston falsely assumes that choice of belief requires (...) the assent to a specific propositional content. We argue that beliefs can be chosen under descriptions which do not specify their propositional content, but instead specify the mental actions by which they are formed and maintained. We argue that these actions partially constitute the beliefs and that is it in virtue of resulting from and being partially constituted by such actions that the beliefs are subject to epistemic appraisal. (shrink)
This paper offers an interpretation of Quine's naturalized epistemology through the lens of Jaegwon Kim's influential critique of the same. Kim argues that Quine forces a false choice between traditional deductivist foundationalism and naturalized epistemology and contends that there are viable alternative epistemological projects. However it is suggested that Quine would reject these alternatives by reference to the same fundamental principles (underdetermination, indeterminacy of translation, extensionalism) that led him to reject traditional epistemology and propose naturalism as an alternative. Given this (...) interpretation of Quine, it is essential that a successful critic of naturalism also examine Quine's aforementioned principles. The divide between naturalist and nonnaturalist epistemology turns out to be defined by the divide between more fundamental naturalist and nonnaturalist approaches to semantics. (shrink)
This paper evaluates recent proposals for compatibilism about doxastic freedom, and attempts to refine them by applying Fischer and Ravizza’s moderate reasons-responsiveness compatibilism to doxastic freedom. I argue, however, that even this refined version of doxastic compatibilism is subject to challenging counter-examples and is more difficult to support than traditional compatibilism about freedom of action. In particular, it is much more difficult to identify convincing examples of the sort Frankfurt proposed to challenge the idea that responsibility requires alternative possibilities.
Until recently it has been conventional to assume that ethical egoism is "ethical" is name, alone, and that no account that considers one's own interests as the standard of moral obligation could count as seriously "ethical." In recent years, however, philosophers have shown increasing respect for more sophisticated forms of ethical egoism which attempt to define self-interest in enriched terms characterizing self-interest as human flourishing in both material and psychological dimensions. But philosophers are still skeptical that any conception of self-interest (...) could underpin ethical theory. This paper considers recent arguments by Richard Joyce, who is willing to concede enriched conceptions of self-interest, but who claims that egoism cannot support appropriate counterfactual conditionals about morality, or inferential uses of ordinary moral thinking. I argue that ethical egoism can satisfy each of Joyce's desiderata for morality, provided that it is taken to involve the very notion of enriched self-interest that Joyce is elsewhere willing to consider. In showing that egoism can count as a moral theory, I show, in effect, that Joyce's arguments for error theory about morality are really arguments for error theory about agent-neutral, non-egoistic morality. (shrink)
I defend of a version of doxastic voluntarism, by criticizing an argument advanced recently by Pamela Hieronymi against the possibility of belief at will. Conceiving of belief at will as believing immediately in response to practical reasons, Hieronymi claims that none of the forms of control we exercise over our beliefs measure up to this standard. While there is a form of direct control we exercise over our beliefs, "evaluative control," she claims it does not give us the power to (...) believe at will because it consists in the consideration of reasons "constitutive" of believing that are not, at the same time, practical reasons. I argue that evaluative control does amount to the ability to believe at will, because there is a practical reason that does in part constitute our believing, what I call "the will to believe the truth." However I argue that Hieronymi's case against belief at will is still relevant to critiquing the acceptability of so-called "beliefs" encouraged by anti-evidentialists. Unlike other versions of voluntarism, I defend one that is consistent and fully supportive of evidence as the sole norm of our beliefs. (shrink)
In this paper I examine a series of criticisms that have been levelled against Quine's naturalized epistemology, regarding its response to the problem of scepticism. Barry Stroud and Michael Williams, assuming that Quine wishes to refute scepticism, argue that Quine not only fails to undertake this refutation, but is also committed to theses (such as the inscrutability of reference and the underdetermination of theory by evidence) which imply versions of scepticism of their own. In Quine's defence, Roger Gibson argues that (...) Quine can succeed in showing sceptical doubts to be incoherent. But I contend that both parties of this dispute wrongly assume that Quine wishes to defeat the sceptic in a traditional way. Instead, Quine is happy to 'acquiesce' in scepticism about a certain kind of justification. No logical justification of our scientific beliefs is possible on his view. But Quine thinks that pragmatic justification is possible, and acknowledging that this is his view leads to the resolution of a number of interpretive quandaries. (shrink)
This paper observes that in the midst of a thickening debate over the concept of “epistemic possibility,” nearly every philosopher assumes that the concept is equivalent to a mere absence of epistemic impossibility, that a proposition is epistemically possible if and only if our knowledge does not entail that it is false. I suggest that it is high time that we challenge this deeply entrenched assumption. I assemble an array of data that singles out the distinctive meaning and function of (...) epistemic possibility, which suggest it to be distinct from other modals and an attitude toward a proposition, not a part of the content of a proposition. I suggest that this data is best explained by a positive evidentialist conception of epistemic possibility, one which maintains that a proposition is epistemically possible to a subject only if there is evidence specifically in support of that proposition that is cognitively available to that subject. I suggest that this view not only offers a superior explanation of the data, but also offers a unique and straightforward strategy for undermining skeptical arguments. (shrink)
Michael Bergmann (2006) has argued that an internalistic view of justification faces a dilemma. Assuming as internalism does that to have a justified belief, subjects must be aware of the justifiers of the belief and of their relevance to the truth of the belief, Bergmann notes that one is either aware of this relevance conceptually or not. But, says Bergmann, if the required awareness is conceptual, internalism is encumbered with an infinite regress. If it is not-if it is only "weak (...) awareness"—then internalism lacks any dialectical advantage over externalism. In this paper, I explore DePoe's (2012) defense of the dialectical advantage of weak awareness, and show how the case for its ability to account for awareness of the relevance of the justifiers can be improved by supplementation from a direct realist theory of perception and a theory of concept-formation and application informed by that theory of perception. (shrink)
In this paper I consider one of the leading philosophic-psychological theories of “folk psychology,” the simulation theory of Robert Gordon. According to Gordon, we attribute mental states to others not by representing those states or by applying the generalizations of theory, but by imagining ourselves in the position of a target to be interpreted and exploiting our own decision-making skills to make assertions which we then attribute to others as ‘beliefs’. I describe a leading objections to Gordon’s theory—the problem of (...) adjustment—and show how a charitably interpreted Gordon could answer this objection. I conclude, however, that the best case for Gordon’s position still runs into a new problem concerning the epistemological presuppositions of belief-attribution. This suggests a new account of folk psychological explanation that draws on children’s basic folk epistemological knowledge. Identifying this new alternative helps undermine the simplicity of a theory based on simulation-based explanation. (shrink)
“Naturalized epistemology” is a recent attempt to transform the theory of knowledge into a branch of natural science. Traditional epistemologists object to this proposal on the grounds that it eliminates the distinctively philosophical content of epistemology. In this thesis, I argue that traditional philosophers are justified in their reluctance to accept naturalism, but that their ongoing inability to refute it points to deeper problems inherent in traditional epistemology. I establish my thesis first by critiquing three versions of naturalism, showing that (...) each version either fails to implement its objectives consistently or starts from dubious objectives. “Optimistic naturalism” attempts to use naturalistic methods to give positive answers to traditional epistemological questions (such as by affirming that our beliefs can be justified). This fails because the form of traditional questions requires the concept “belief,” a concept that I argue naturalistic methodology cannot countenance (because of the severe constraints of naturalistic semantic theory). “Pessimistic naturalism,” the version advocated by Quine, is more consistent with naturalistic methodology, but fails because hidden behind its conclusions are assumptions (such as the underdetermination thesis) that cannot themselves be naturalized in the full context of scientific evidence. A final attempt to naturalize epistemology, deflationary naturalism, dispenses with traditional questions entirely, urging that the terms “knowledge” and “justification” be taken as mere pragmatic devices whose use can, nevertheless, be studied scientifically. Curiously, this view fails to take account of important facts about the actual use of those terms, as studied by psychologists. In the end, despite problems with each of these versions, traditional philosophers can learn something from their encounter with naturalism. In the course of showing how various naturalistic doctrines cannot themselves be naturalized, I identify the flaws in traditional epistemology (such as its reliance on a priorism, and its resulting inability to articulate a workable empirical foundationalist theory of justification) that make naturalism harder to challenge. These flaws must be corrected if philosophers are to preserve the autonomy of their discipline. (shrink)
In Causality and Explanation, Wesley Salmon has assembled two decades of his essays on scientific explanation and causality, many of which were previously unpublished or hard to find. Offering introductory essays for beginners in the philosophy of science, as well as advanced material on technical and applied topics, this collection traces the gradual development and modification of Salmon’s views. Throughout this development the central spirit of Salmon’s project shines through: to “put the ‘cause’ back in ‘because’”.