Internalism and Evidence of Reliability

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  Internalism and Evidence of Reliability Anthony Brueckner Received: 18 July 2007 /Revised: 18 March 2008 /Accepted: 31 March 2008 / Published online: 26 April 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008 Abstract  This paper concerns various competing views on the nature of perceptual justification. Various thought experiments that motivate various views are discussed.Once reliabilism is rejected and some form of internalism is instead embraced, thefollowing issue arises: must an internalist nevertheless require that perceptual justification involve the possession of evidence for the reliability of our perceptual processes? Matthias Steup answers in the affirmative, espousing what he calls internalist reliabilism . Some problems are raised for this form of internalism. Keywords  PPR .StandardDemonWorld.RTB.Internalistreliabilism .Reverse DemonWorld Pure Process Reliabilism and the Standard Demon World What is the role of sense experience in the justification of perceptual beliefs  —   beliefsthat are based upon experience? On a  pure process reliabilist   (PPR) approach to justification in general,  R=J  , where  R  is the condition that one ’ s belief issues from asufficiently reliable belief-forming process, and  J   is the condition that one ’ s belief is justified. 1 On PPR,  K= RTB (knowledge is reliably produced true belief). So onPPR, my perceptual belief that my cat is on my lap is justified in virtue of the fact that it issues from the highly reliable  visual   belief-forming process. In a well-knowndiscussion, Stewart Cohen pointed to a very useful way of testing our intuitionsabout externalist theories of justification such as PPR. 2 Suppose that I am in anormal world, and, as I believe, my perceptual beliefs issue from highly reliable belief-forming processes. Now consider my mental twin who inhabits what we will Philosophia (2009) 37:47  –  54DOI 10.1007/s11406-008-9130-z 1 See, e.g., A. Goldman,  “ What is Justified Belief? ” , in G. S. Pappas (ed.),  Justification and Knowledge: New Studies in Epistemology  (Dordrecht: Reidel, 1979). 2 See S. Cohen,  “ Justification and Truth ” ,  Philosophical Studies  46 (1984), 279  –  95.A. Brueckner ( * )Department of Philosophy, UCSB, Santa Barbara, CA 93117, USAe-mail: brueckne@philosophy.ucsb.edu  call the  Standard Demon World  , in which the twin ’ s perceptual beliefs issue from belief-forming processes that are completely  un reliable. My twin has experiencesthat are qualitatively indistinguishable from mine, beliefs, thoughts, desires, andintentions that are just like mine, and so on. 3 In evaluating the demon-world  truth-ratios  of my twin ’ s perceptual belief-forming processes, the numerator of the pertinent ratio is always set at   zero . A powerful  internalist   intuition is elicited inmany philosophers by consideration of this pair of worlds. As Cohen says,[In the demon world] our experience is just as it would be if our cognitivereasoning processes were reliable,  … [In the demon world] we would haveevery reason for holding our beliefs … that we have in the actual world.Moreover since we actually have reason to believe that our cognitive processesare reliable, it follows that in the demon world we would have every reason to believe that our cognitive processes were in fact reliable. 4 Cohen ’ s intuition is that in light of the foregoing similarities between me in thenormal world and my twin in the demon world, and in light of the apparent fact that my perceptual beliefs are justified in the normal world, the conclusion to draw is that my twin ’ s perceptual beliefs in the demon world are also justified. If this is correct,then PPR is refuted: on this view my normal-world beliefs are justified in virtue of their reliability, while my demon-world beliefs are  un  justified in virtue of their unreliability. In what follows, we will consider a number of cases that motivaterefinements of the internalist approach to the concept of justification. 5 Just as inother areas of philosophy, we will follow the lead of our intuitive judgments about cases in analyzing the concept of justification. R without J: the Reverse Demon World If Cohen ’ s intuition is on the mark, then we have ~(R=J), since in the demon world,we have (J and ~R). Cohen ’ s thought experiment is the starting point for MatthiasSteup ’ s very fruitful discussion of various approaches to perceptual justification. 6 Steup is an internalist, and he shares Cohen ’ s intuition about the Standard DemonWorld thought experiment. According to Steup, not only do we have ~(If J, then R), but, further, we have ~(If R, then J). One way of arguing the latter is BonJour  ’ s. 7 3 I will ignore Putnamian worries about whether such a twin is really possible: one might hold that thedifference in environments between me and my  “ twin ”  would induce differences in the contents of our mental states, so that my  “ twin ”  does not, e.g., have the same beliefs as me. 4 See  “ Justification and Truth ” , 281. 5 It has been suggested that there are two distinct epistemic concepts that are lumped under the heading of  ‘  justification ’ : an internalist concept that applies to mature humans, and a broader externalist concept that applies to children and higher non-human animals as well as to human sophisticates. It may be that theinvestigations of this paper, then, concern just the internalist concept. 6 See M. Steup,  “ Internalist Reliabilism ” ,  Philosophical Issues  14 (2004), 403  –  25. 7 SeeL.BonJour, “ ExternalistTheoriesofEmpiricalKnowledge ” ,inP.French,T.E.Uehling,andH.Wettstein(eds.),  Midwest Studies in Philosophy V   (1980), 53  –  73. Goldman refined the basic reliabilist analysis he put forward in  “ What Is Justified Belief? ”  in his book   Epistemology and Cognition  (Cambridge: HarvardUniversity Press, 1986). One change he made was designed to handle the BonJour clairvoyant example.48 Philosophia (2009) 37:47  –  54  We consider a case in which, say, Madonna has a perfectly reliable clairvoyant  power regarding the whereabouts of the President. Madonna never bothers to check up on the deliverances of the little voice in her head  —  she is simply too busy. Oneday, her little voice whispers that NY=The President is in New York City. Madonnahas no reason to believe NY, and, we will suppose, she has a mountain of goodevidence against NY. The news media, along with Madonna ’ s White House contacts, proclaim that the President is in Washington, D.C., even though Jack Bauer has infact spirited him away to New York City to protect him from a terrorist threat. Still,Madonna goes with the little voice (whose deliverances she has never investigated)and so believes NY. According to PPR, Madonna has a JTB of NY because she hasan RTB of NY. So on PPR, Madonna knows NY. Many philosophers, however, havethe firm intuition that Madonna ’ s belief of NY is not justified since it is irrationallyheld in the face of strong counter-evidence and, further, lacks any positive evidential basis. So we have (R and ~J), and Madonna does not know NY.Steup ’ s alternative way of making a case against the sufficiency of R for J willtake us into the issues that are the main focus of the present paper. Steup has usconsider the Reverse Demon World, in which our belief-forming processes arehighly reliable but in which a Cartesian demon gives us compelling evidence for  believing that our perceptual faculties are unreliable. 8 In such a world, according toSteup, any perceptual belief formed on the basis of an in-fact-reliable perceptual process would lack justification due to the (misleading) evidence of unreliability that the demon foists upon us. 9 The Reverse Demon World is structurally similar to theMadonna example. In such a world, Madonna ’ s situation holds across the board: in-fact-reliability paired with misleading counter-evidence. Undefeated So for Steup, reliability is not required for perceptual justification (see Standard EvilDemon World), and reliability is not sufficient for perceptual justification (seeReverse Evil Demon World). A necessary condition for perceptual justification that emerges from consideration of the Reverse Evil Demon world, according to Steup, isthis: perceptual justification requires the absence of evidence of global perceptualunreliability, which evidence I would have in the Reverse Demon World. What would evidence of global perceptual unreliability be like? Suppose that right now Iseem to see a cat on my desk and then attempt to feel the cat  ’ s fur. If my hand seemsto pass through the cat, then this would be evidence that my visual perceptual facultyis not functioning well on this occasion  —  evidence of local unreliability. Similarly, if I blink my eyes and then cannot see any cat in my closed study, then this would also be evidence of current malfunctioning of my vision  —  again, evidence of local 8 We will discuss what such evidence would look like shortly. 9 One possibility is to hold that our perceptual beliefs in this demon world have prima facie justification,conferred upon them by their reliability, which justification is defeated by the evidence of unreliability.This view departs from PPR, according to which reliability is sufficient for all-things-considered justification.Philosophia (2009) 37:47  –  54 49  unreliability. 10 But more is required for me to have evidence that my perceptualfaculties are globally unreliable in the sense that Steup has in mind. I would need tohave memories of a dismal track record of perceptual failures of the sorts I just nowexperienced regarding the cat. Alternatively, if I have memories of completelychaotic past experiences, then this could count as evidence of global perceptualunreliability. 11 The important point for what will emerge later is that Steupemphasizes the role of memory in evidence regarding the global reliability of my perceptual faculties (or lack thereof). 12 We can now refine the necessary condition on perceptual justification that emerges from consideration of the Reverse Demon world: one must lack memoriesof perceptual unreliability. But this is not quite right, as Steup points out. In theReverse Evil Demon world, I do not have memories of perceptual unreliability, sincemy perceptual faculties are in fact reliable. So what we must instead require is that Ilack memory impressions (which might not be memories) of global perceptualunreliability. Call this condition on perceptual justification  Undefeated  . Certified Steup wants to put forward a further necessary condition on perceptual justification.I will first describe a case which Steup does not discuss. Suppose that on my fortieth birthday, I have a series of vivid experiences as of seeing a cat on my desk and then petting the cat. I form the appropriate perceptual beliefs on the basis of theseexperiences. Are these beliefs justified? We know that for Steup, the questionwhether the beliefs are produced by perceptual belief-forming process that are in fact reliable is irrelevant to our question of justification. Suppose I attempt to consult mymemory regarding past perceptual experiences and beliefs. I have been seized withamnesia and cannot dredge up any memory impressions at all regarding the past reliability of my perceptual faculties (or lack thereof). So I satisfy the conditionUndefeated for having perceptual justification. But for Steup, another condition must also be satisfied. Steup thinks that in addition to satisfying the purely negativeUndefeated, I must satisfy a further positive condition: I must have evidence for thereliability of my perceptual faculties. Call this condition  Certified  . So in the amnesiacase, my cat-beliefs are not justified, since I fail to satisfy Certified. The more precise condition Steup has in mind will again treat of memory. As a first shot, wewill hold that perceptual justification requires that one have memory impressions of a track record of perceptual success. Note that (a) the memory impressions might be 10 Evidence of such local unreliability would preclude my cat-beliefs in the foregoing cases from having justification. 11 Of course, if I inhabit what is in fact a completely chaotic world, then the right kind of chaoticexperience will issue from reliable perceptual processes, and the pertinent beliefs will be true beliefs.Think of the experience of a human space traveler such as that depicted at the end of Stanley Kubrick  ’ s 2001: A Space Odyssey . 12 An anonymous referee raised the question whether a mental state having complete chaos as its content could count as a  memory impression . Following Kant in the Refutation of Idealism, we might well inquireinto the conditions that are required for a mental state to represent a past series of temporally orderedevents. Such conditions might involve representation of stable, causally ordered sequences of events.50 Philosophia (2009) 37:47  –  54
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