Reason Without Freedom: The Problem of Epistemic Normativity (International Library of Philosophy)

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But then one day you inform me in all seriousness that you were actually born in New Haven, Connecticut and you provide a reasonable explanation for why your uncle thinks otherwise. However, suppose that your parents actually lied to you about where you were born. So the defeater in this situation would be an unwarranted belief of mine. This is a consequence of an internal aspect of cognitive proper functioning, what Plantinga specifically designates internal rationality. The former refers to the appropriate belief response to phenomenal imagery and doxastic experience, whereas the latter refers to proper functioning in the production of phenomenal imagery and doxastic experience.

Internal rationality will include coherence among our beliefs and drawing the appropriate sort of inferences from what we believe. So to say that I have acquired a rationality defeater D for my belief A is to say that a certain doxastic response is called for given that I have a sensuous or doxastic experience of a certain sort. The efficacy of a defeater depends on the relative positive epistemic status of each of the beliefs being compared.

Another issue, related to the first, concerns the relationship between having a mental state defeater and believing that one has such a defeater. But would this be sufficient for having a defeater? This is presumably the case when, due to my irrationally believing that my head is made of blown glass, I take my belief that my head is made of flesh, bone, and blood to be defeated. Alston and some other externalists would argue that only truth-conducively justified or reliably produced beliefs can be defeaters.

And for the internalist unlike the externalist that a belief has this kind of status will itself be a matter that is introspectively accessible. Moreover, the internalist will likely require that there be the appropriate kind of negative evidential relationship between the defeater and the defeatee. D must sufficiently lower the evidential probability of p. If we suppose that criteria of inductive and deductive reasoning are introspectively accessible, then an internalist version of the no mental state defeater condition can be internalist in this additional respect.

Swinburne, , pp. For the latter, S must simply take himself to have good reasons for denying p or good reasons for doubting that the grounds of his belief that p are trustworthy, truth-indicative, or reliable. It is only necessary and sufficient that the person take himself to have such reasons, and Bergmann places no restriction on what kinds of considerations might play this role for the subject. Since mental state defeaters include beliefs and beliefs may be occurrent or dispositional, it will be helpful to distinguish between conscious and reflective mental state defeaters Bergmann, a, pp.

There is a distinction between defeating experiences or beliefs of which one is aware at time t and defeating experiences and beliefs of which one is not aware at time t but of which one would become aware upon reflection. Accordingly, someone who advocates [MSD] may suppose that knowledge requires either the absence of conscious defeaters or the absence of a reflective defeater. Some externalists advocate [MSD], specifically parsed in terms of the subject S not taking his belief that p to be defeated.

Alston b appears to argue that the absence of a mental state defeater is not a necessary condition for knowledge. So the subject justifiably believes that his senses are not to be trusted. However, as this person is about to cross a street he seems to see a truck heading towards him, and he forms the belief that a truck is approaching. His sensory perceptual system is working fine, and a truck is approaching. Alston says that in this scenario the person knows that a truck is approaching, despite having overriding reasons for supposing that his senses are not reliable.

It would seem that the person has knowledge, despite having a mental state defeater. This makes it clear that the person in question does not consciously take his belief to be defeated when he sees the truck approaching. Rather, we have a reflective defeater, for the subject presumably would upon reflection take his belief to be defeated or epistemically inappropriate.

The fact that a no conscious defeater requirement is widely subscribed to by both externalists and internalists counts in favor of its intuitive plausibility. But Bergmann a, pp. His argument is based on the premise that knowledge is incompatible with veritic epistemic luck but not evidential epistemic luck. Veritic luck refers to a person being lucky to believe what is true, given the evidence the person has.

Evidential epistemic luck refers to a person being lucky to have the kind of evidence she has. Bergmann argues that there are cases where a person has a reflective defeater for a belief, but the situation is analogous to cases of evidential epistemic luck.

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So we have reason for resisting the idea that knowledge requires the absence of a reflective defeater. Due to a strange cognitive disorder Chuck thinks that reports he hears between pm and pm are highly unreliable. Immediately upon waking up Chuck hears noises outside his window. He looks and sees what appear to be city workers at work near a large hole in his front yard.

If Chuck reflected on the matter, he would consciously take it that his belief about what these men are doing is defeated. But Bergmann argues that most of us would be strongly inclined to say that in this scenario Chuck actually knows what the men in question are doing on his property, even though Chuck has a reflective defeater for this belief.

Chuck is certainly lucky here not to have evidence against his belief, but in much the same way in some Gettier-type cases e. Having considered the distinction between propositional and mental state defeaters, something should be said about the formalities of such defeaters. There are defeaters that are reasons for supposing that p is false, and there are defeaters that are reasons that, if added to ostensible evidence for p , would sufficiently lower the likelihood that p is true.

According to the first kind of defeater, we get reasons to believe the negation of p or that p is false. According to the second, we simply lose our reasons for supposing that p is true. Mary sees in the distance what appears to be a sheep in the field and forms the belief that there is a sheep in the field. The owner of the field then comes by and tells her that there are no sheep in the field. She has acquired what is commonly designated a rebutting defeater for her belief that there is a sheep in the field. She has acquired a reason for supposing that there is no sheep in the field.

Here she acquires a reason for believing something incompatible with her belief that there is a sheep in the field. These are of course examples of rebutting mental state defeaters. There can also be rebutting propositional defeaters. Of course, as noted above in connection with defeasibility analyses, there will be many true propositions that misleadingly count against the truth of beliefs. A person enters a factory and sees an assembly line on which there are a number of widgets that appear red.

Being appeared to red-widgetly, the person believes that there are red widgets on the assembly line. The shop superintendent then informs the person that the widgets are being irradiated by an intricate set of red lights, which allow the detection of hairline cracks otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Here the person loses his reason for supposing that the widgets are red, rather than acquires a reason for supposing that they are not red.

Again, these are illustrations of undercutting mental state defeaters. There can also be propositional defeaters of the undercutting variety. The mere fact that the widgets are being irradiated with a red light would be one such example. Or suppose that Jason believes his tie is red. The fact that he is red-green colorblind might be a propositional defeater for this belief. The fact that someone is prone to perceptual hallucinations might be a propositional defeater for some range of sensory perceptual beliefs, and so forth.

For example, Johnny believes that if he dies he will immediately thereafter be turned into a zombie. Now in each of these three cases parsed in terms of mental state defeaters , the acquisition of a defeater makes it epistemically inappropriate to continue holding a particular belief B given that i there is evidence against B , ii reasons for B have become neutralized, or iii there is a recognition that one has no reasons at all for holding B though one ought to have such reasons.

If knowledge entails justification, each of these kinds of defeaters has the potential to defeat knowledge. If parsed in terms of propositional defeaters, then the corresponding true propositions are such that they prevent an overall justified true belief from counting as knowledge. There are also defeater-types that appear to be derived from i , ii , and iii , and which apply specifically to cases where beliefs are based on other beliefs, that is, inferential or mediate beliefs. Mark believes that his computer has a hardware problem that is causing several operation errors.

He believes this because his wife tells him that Peter told her this and Mark knows that Peter is an expert on computers. Later, though, Mark discovers that it was not Peter but John who told his wife this, but Mark believes that John has little knowledge about computers. Thinking of defeaters in terms of argument forms, Pollock , pp. In the language of argumentation, they attack neither the conclusion nor the connection between the premises and the conclusion. In terms of argument forms, we can say that a reason-defeating defeater is a rebutting defeater against a premise in some argument.

Like undercutting defeaters, in acquiring a rebutting reason-defeating defeater we lose our reasons for supposing that the target belief that p is true. As a result, the grounds lose their power to confer justification on the target belief. However, this comes about by way of acquiring reasons for supposing that a ground of the target belief is false. See Bergmann a, pp. An undercutting reason-defeating defeater for some belief that p is a reason for supposing that the grounds, r , for some belief that q fail to be sufficiently indicative of the truth of q , but where q is itself a ground for believing p.

In terms of general logic, the premises of arguments are often themselves supported by reasons, thereby creating sub-arguments. Just as we can acquire reasons for the negation of a premise in an argument, we can acquire reasons for supposing that the premises of a sub-argument fail to be indicative of the truth of a premise in some main argument.

As with rebutting reason-defeating defeaters, we lose our reasons for believing the main conclusion, p , but here we do so by virtue of losing our reasons for believing a premise, q , rather than by acquiring a reason for denying the premise q. This article outlined two general types of defeaters: propositional defeaters and mental state defeaters. The former are conditions external to the perspective of the cognizer that prevent an overall justified true belief from counting as knowledge.

The latter are conditions internal to the perspective of the cognizer such as experiences, beliefs, withholdings that cancel, reduce, or even prevent justification. Propositional defeaters are designed to address the problem of accidentally true belief, whereas mental state defeaters arise from the variable nature of justification. Inasmuch as justification is necessary for knowledge, mental state defeaters are capable of defeating knowledge.

This leads to the viewpoint that knowledge requires the absence of any mental state defeater. So both kinds of defeaters ultimately relate to conditions of knowledge, and the article developed each in connection with their larger epistemological territory. This was followed by an examination of the complexities that arise in developing no propositional defeater and no mental state defeater conditions for knowledge.

The defeasibility theorist must select from among different criteria to locate the relevant range of true propositions that are genuinely indicative of a defect in justification that prevents knowledge. Advocates of mental state defeaters face a range of other issues, from choosing more or less subjective accounts of mental state defeaters, to choosing between conscious and reflective types of mental state defeaters for the no defeater condition for knowledge. Synchronic and diachronic aspects of mental state defeat were also considered. The latter part of the article outlined a taxonomy of defeaters that highlights the difference between getting defeaters for beliefs and getting defeaters specifically for beliefs based on reasons of varying degrees of complexity.

Here several of the dynamics that emerge within the taxonomy of defeaters were pointed out. The article also considered several ways in which a subject might lose his grounds for believing p. Defeaters in Epistemology The concept of epistemic defeat or defeasibility has come to occupy an important place in contemporary epistemology , especially in relation to the closely allied concepts of justified belief, warrant, and knowledge. The Concept of Defeasibility a. Defeasibility: Legal, Moral, and Epistemic The language of defeasibility is not unique to epistemology.

Defeaters in Epistemology: Basic Distinctions Defeater theories are generally distinguished by how they construe what does the defeating and what gets defeated. The Gettier Problem and Propositional Defeaters a. The Tripartite Definition of Knowledge and the Gettier Problem One of the primary tasks of epistemology is the examination of the nature of knowledge. Defeasibility Analyses and Propositional Defeaters Defeasibility analyses of knowledge come in a variety of different specific versions.

Constraints on Propositional Defeaters As widely discussed in the early literature on defeasibility theory Lehrer and Paxson, ; Annis, ; Swain, , the main challenge facing defeasibility analyses of knowledge is to specify the relevant range of true propositions that can function as defeaters. Mental State Defeaters and General Epistemology While defeasibility accounts of knowledge take defeaters to be facts external to the perspective of the cognizer, another approach to defeaters construes them as items internal to the perspective of the cognizer, as mental states such as experiences, beliefs, or withholdings.

Internalism, Externalism, and Mental State Defeaters Epistemic internalists typically recognize that mental state defeaters can defeat justification Pollock, , , pp. Coherentism, Foundationalism, and Mental State Defeaters The idea that mental state defeaters can cause justified beliefs to become unjustified and the correlated [MSD] condition is compatible with coherentism and foundationalism, and is arguably entailed by some versions of each. Prominent Features of Mental State Defeaters a. Newly Acquired State Defeaters and Newly Acquired Power Defeaters Mental state defeaters may defeat beliefs at the time the defeater is acquired or they may do their defeating at some later time when they acquire the power to defeat.

Diachronic Aspects of Mental State Defeaters The above account of mental state defeaters construes them as mental states that defeat a belief at some particular time. Defeater-Defeaters Mental state defeaters can of course be subsequently defeated by other mental states, and we can say that all mental state defeaters are continuing defeaters until they are defeated. Variations on Mental State Defeaters Advocates of mental state defeaters and the corresponding no mental state defeater condition differ on some crucial points regarding mental state defeaters.

The Epistemic Status of Defeating Beliefs One of the issues of debate between adherents of [MSD] is whether beliefs that function as mental state defeaters must have some positive epistemic status to have defeating power, specifically if they are to defeat beliefs that do have some positive epistemic status. Subjective and Objective Contours Another issue, related to the first, concerns the relationship between having a mental state defeater and believing that one has such a defeater.

Conscious and Reflective Defeaters Since mental state defeaters include beliefs and beliefs may be occurrent or dispositional, it will be helpful to distinguish between conscious and reflective mental state defeaters Bergmann, a, pp. Taxonomy of Defeaters and Formalities of Defeat Having considered the distinction between propositional and mental state defeaters, something should be said about the formalities of such defeaters.

Primary-Type Defeaters: Rebutting, Undercutting, and No Reason Defeaters i A rebutting defeater for some belief that p is a reason in the broad sense for holding the negation of p or for holding some proposition, q , incompatible with p Pollock, , p. Secondary-Type Defeaters: Defeaters for Grounds of Inferential Beliefs There are also defeater-types that appear to be derived from i , ii , and iii , and which apply specifically to cases where beliefs are based on other beliefs, that is, inferential or mediate beliefs.

Conclusion This article outlined two general types of defeaters: propositional defeaters and mental state defeaters.

PHILOSOPHY - Epistemology: Analyzing Knowledge #1 (The Gettier Problem) [HD]

References and Further Readings Alston, William. Beyond Justification: Dimensions of Epistemic Evaluation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Alston provides a systematic analysis of various epistemic desiderata and their implications for revising our approach to the concept of epistemic justification. Alston, William. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp.

Epistemic Justification. Reprinted in Alston, , pp. Page references are from reprint. Alston develops a theory of epistemic justification that combines elements of externalism and internalism.

Reason Without Freedom: The Problem of Epistemic Normativity (International Library of Philosophy)

Alston argues that justification construed in both internalist and externalist ways is not necessary for knowledge. The essay includes an argument for supposing that a person can know p even though she has a certain kind of mental state defeater for her belief. Will and Keith Lehrer. Annis, David. Critical response to the defeasibility analysis provided by Lehrer and Paxson in Lehrer and Paxson, , and which examines the nature of misleading or defective defeaters.

Audi, Robert. The Structure of Justification. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Barker attempts to tackle the Gettier problem in terms of a defeasibility analysis that distinguishes between genuine and misleading defeaters. Beilby, James ed. Naturalism Defeated?

Bergmann, Michael. Justification without Awareness. New York: Oxford University Press. Bergmann defends an externalist theory of justification, which includes both a proper function and no mental state defeater requirement. Bergmann argues that deontologism does not lend support to internalism. Essay provides several helpful observations on defeaters.

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Bergmann provides a detailed examination of the nature of defeaters and their relation to internalist and externalist theories of knowledge. Bergmann argues that the no mental state defeater condition being necessary for warrant is compatible with externalist theories of warrant. Section 4 contains an analysis of externalists who endorse some version of the no mental state defeater condition.

Boonin, Leonard G. Boonin examines the meaning of defeasibility in law and its implications for legal analysis. Chisholm, Roderick. Theory of Knowledge. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.


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Chisholm provides an internalist response to the Gettier problem, as well as an account of defeasible justification influenced by defeasibility in moral philosophy. First edition: Gettier, Edmund. Goldman, Alvin. Epistemology and Cognition. Goldman endorses a version of reliabilism with a no mental state defeater requirement for justification.

Goldman discusses a causal theory of perceptual knowledge and defeasibility analyses of knowledge. Harman, Gilbert. Hart, H. Originally published in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society , , Page references are from the reprint. Klein, Peter. Certainty: A Refutation of Skepticism. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press. Klein presents his revised and detailed development of a defeasibility analysis of knowledge. Klein presents a defeasibility analysis of propositional knowledge to handle the intuition that knowledge cannot be accidentally true belief.

Kvanvig, Jonathan L. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield. See especially articles by Peter Klein pp.

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Lehrer, Keith and Paxson, Thomas. Influential early defeasibility analysis of knowledge in response to the Gettier problem, focusing on the problem of specifying the relevant sub-set of true propositions that are indicative of a defect in justification. Nozick, Robert. Philosophical Explanations. Cambridge, MA: the Belknap Press.

An externalist account of knowledge that requires that the absence of a certain kind of mental state defeater, specifically that a person not believe that his belief does not track truth. Plantinga, Alvin. Plantinga responds to criticisms of his evolutionary argument against naturalism.

His detailed comments on rationality defeaters are particularly relevant. Warranted Christian Belief. Plantinga applies his externalist theory of warrant and proper function to questions regarding the positive epistemic status of Christian belief. In chapter 11 Plantinga provides a more developed account of his view of rationality defeaters earlier introduced in Plantinga a. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. Plantinga responds to various criticisms of his externalist theory of warrant and proper function.

Warrant and Proper Function. Warrant: The Current Debate. Plantinga articulates various inadequacies in contemporary internalist and externalist theories of warrant. Plantinga presents the idea of an intrinsic defeater-defeater. Pollock, John. Contemporary Theories of Knowledge. Savage, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Reprinted in Moser, Paul K.

Empirical Knowledge: Readings in Contemporary Epistemology. Pollock discusses how the acquisition of reasons for supposing that a belief was unreliably produced defeat justification, but that this does not commit the epistemologist to a reliabilist theory of justification. Knowledge and Justification. Shope, Robert. Shope provides an overview of a dozen or so early attempts to resolve the Gettier problem.

Chapter two examines defeasibility analyses. Steup, Matthias. An Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. In chapter 1 Steup distinguishes between propositional defeaters what he calls factual defeaters and mental state defeaters what he calls justificational defeaters and considers their implications for various issues in epistemology.

Sudduth, Michael. Swain, Marshall. Reasons and Knowledge. Swain attempts to address inadequacies in defeasibility analyses by combining a reliabilist indicator view of justification and a causal account of the basing relation. Swain examines defeasible vs. Reason without Freedom also aimed to show that discussion of issues in the moral psycho Reason without Freedom also aimed to show that discussion of issues in the moral psychology of belief would cast light on some of the traditional problems of epistemology and in particular on the problems of scepticism and testimony.

The present work continues that project and responds to some pertinent developments in recent epistemology. Also included is a substantial introduction. Keywords: normativity , control , responsibility , freedom , epistemology , scepticism , testimony , belief , action , intention. Forgot password? Don't have an account? All Rights Reserved. OSO version 0. University Press Scholarship Online. Sign in. Not registered? Sign up. Publications Pages Publications Pages. Search my Subject Specializations: Select