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Myth Fjb Revised 2009

Myth Fjb Revised 2009

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Published by: cmlittlejohn on Oct 23, 2009
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1
THE MYTH OF THE FALSE
,
JUSTIFIED BELIEF
 Clayton LittlejohnIn this paper, I defend the unorthodox view that there cannot befalse, justified beliefs. Our best accounts of warranted assertiontell us that the norms that govern assertion enjoin us to refrainfrom asserting falsehoods. There cannot be false, justified beliefsif there cannot be false, warranted assertions. Mistaken beliefsmight serve to excuse wrongdoing, but they do not justify ouractions. There cannot be false, justified beliefs if the justificationfor including a belief in deliberation depends upon whether that belief is true.The orthodox view is that justification and truth are conceptually related but distinct componentsof knowledge.
1
The truth of a belief does not ensure that it is justified. The falsity of a belief doesnot ensure that it is unjustified. The orthodox view is mistaken. There are true, unjustified beliefs, but the false, justified belief is a myth.Two independent lines of argument support my thesis:Factivity: S’s belief that
 p
is justified only if S’s belief is true.First, Factivity is a consequence of our best accounts of warranted assertion. Second, we needFactivity to make sense of our moral intuitions. It would be naïve to think that in the space of asingle paper I could convince the reader that Factivity is true. My aim is more modest. In thispaper, I hope to convince the reader that Factivity deserves serious consideration. The objectionsto Factivity are actually quite weak. My arguments for Factivity may rest on assumptions that arecontroversial and intuitions that are not universally shared, but the crucial assumptions neverthelessenjoy wide acceptance. If I’m wrong about Factivity, it’s only because much of what many take to be true of justification is not.The paper will unfold as follows. In §1, I shall address the three objections to Factivity I’vefound in the literature. In §2, I shall try to make good on my claim that Factivity is a consequenceof our best accounts of warranted assertion. In §3, I shall try to show that we need Factivity tomake sense of our moral intuitions.1.
DEFENDING FACTIVITY
 I shall address three objections to Factivity. The first is that Factivity leads to skepticism. Thesecond is that it fails to do justice to the idea that justification is a normative notion. The third isthat Factivity conflicts with our intuitions about justification ascription. These objections fail. Theonly arguments that could show that Factivity leads to skepticism are arguments that wouldvindicate the skeptic. We can argue for Factivity on the grounds that justification is a deontologicalnotion, so it can hardly follow from the fact that justification is a deontological notion that there can be false, justified beliefs. It only appears that Factivity is counterintuitive when we neglect animportant distinction between two kinds of justification ascriptions. In the course of addressingobjections to Factivity, I hope to offer some positive characterization of the notion of justification.1.1
FACTIVITY AND SKEPTICISM
 Epistemologists tend to agree that there must be some sort of conceptual connection between justification and truth beyond the trivial fact that to justify believing
 p
we must justify believing
 p
to
 
2 be true. Beyond this, there is little about the so-called ‘truth-connection’ that is uncontroversialapart from the idea that the connection is weaker than entailment. In this passage, Cohen explainswhy he thinks that the truth-connection must be weaker than entailment:The strongest view one could take regarding the truth connectionis that taken by Descartes. The Cartesian view is that justificationlogically entails truth. To put it schematically: It is a conceptualtruth that, if conditions C justify belief B for subject S, then Clogically entails that B is true.He says that this Cartesian view faces a decisive objection:The legacy of the Cartesian view is scepticism. Descartesdemonstrated this in the first meditation that no such connectionis forthcoming … Given any plausible specification of C for any S,it will always be logically consistent to suppose that not B. That iswhat the evil demon argument shows. Where, e.g., C comprisesfacts about sensory data, and where B is a belief about the truth of some empirical proposition, it is always logically possible that theevil demon has arranged for C to obtain where B is false. Notwishing to be saddled with this sceptical result, mostcontemporary philosophers have rejected the Cartesian view andhave opted instead for a fallibilist theory of justification. Afallibilist theory allows that where C makes B justified for S, it isstill possible that B is false.
2
 Cohen thinks that Factivity entails infallibilism, but this is because he’s assuming that the onlyconditions that could determine whether our beliefs are justified are those common to us and ourdemonically deceived epistemic counterparts (i.e., those who are in precisely the same non-factivemental states that we are but deceived by a Cartesian demon).
3
Without this assumption, hisargument fails. If someone thought that the only factors that determine whether our beliefs are justified are factors that strongly supervened upon the factors that are common to all of our possibleepistemic counterparts, they would be committed to skepticism if they also held that there can beno false, justified beliefs. All this shows is that you should not combine internalism about justifyingconditions with externalism about the conditions necessary for justification. While you couldrespond to this skeptical worry by rejecting the externalist idea that the justification of our beliefsdepends upon more than just what is ‘in the head’, you could just as easily reject the internalistassumption that the only factors that go towards determining whether our beliefs are justified arethe factors that determine how things seem to us.Externalists should distinguish between the conditions that determine whether someone beliefs are justified and the conditions that determine what someone’s justification is or whatsomeone’s grounds are. For example, a reliabilist could say that my grounds for believing that I’mnow typing on a laptop include my visual and tactile experiences. Our reliabilist will go on to saythat the conditions that determine whether my belief based on these grounds is justified includeconditions that determine the likelihood that beliefs based on such grounds will turn out to be true.These further conditions do not strongly supervene upon my non-factive mental states and so twosubjects could have the same justification to offer for their beliefs while having beliefs that turn outto have different justificatory statuses. Similarly, two subjects could offer the same justifications forfailing to assist someone in need (e.g., that they had made a promise to be elsewhere) where onlyone subject acts with justification because the reasons for one subject to break that promise werestronger than the reasons for the other subject to break hers. Those who defend Factivity could say
 
3that my grounds consist of the sorts of things that are common to all of my epistemic counterparts, but the conditions that determine whether the justification I would offer for my beliefs is a justification offered for a belief that truly is justified includes the conditions that determine whethermy experiences are veridical.We can show that Factivity leads to no problematic skeptical conclusions. Consider theview that says that a belief is justified iff that belief constitutes knowledge.
4
If you know that
 p
istrue, it must be that
 p
is true. According to the knowledge account of justified belief, the facts invirtue of which your justified beliefs are justified entail that those beliefs are true. If Cohen is goingto show that this view leads to skepticism, he has to show that knowledge is unattainable. Of course, if he can show that knowledge
is
unattainable he could show that Factivity leads toskepticism, but then the (alleged) skeptical consequences of Factivity would not be so troubling.For what it’s worth, I don’t think that we should identify justified beliefs with items of knowledge.It seems that the propositions we know we believe with justification but there are justified beliefsthat do not constitute knowledge. If we revise the knowledge account of justified belief as I thinkwe should, we would weaken the account and say that something less than knowledge is necessaryfor justified belief. Any argument from Factivity to skepticism that addressed these accounts wouldhave to show that these conditions are conditions that our beliefs cannot satisfy, but as theseconditions would be necessary for knowledge, the argument from Factivity to skepticism wouldhave to include an argument that our beliefs do not satisfy some condition necessary for knowledge.Again, this would only show that the (alleged) skeptical consequences of Factivity would not be sotroubling. Of course, since we know that we have knowledge, we know that these arguments thatpurport to derive a skeptical consequence from Factivity are unsound unless additional argumentsare produced that show that
more
is necessary for justifiably believing
 p
than knowing
 p
. Whilethere may be cases of knowledge without justification, such cases are not typical. In the typical caseif someone says that you knew
 p
, they cannot then say that you shouldn’t have believed
 p
or thatyou didn’t believe with justification.
5
I doubt these additional arguments are forthcoming, so itseems there’s no argument from Factivity to skepticism.1.2
JUSTIFICATION AND EPISTEMIC DUTY
  Justification is often taken to be a normative or deontological notion, and many of those who saythat justification is a deontological notion subscribe to the view that justification is an internalistnotion.
6
These writers say that we should reject Factivity because it fails to do justice to the ideathat justification is a deontological notion.What do people mean when they say that justification is a deontological notion? Accordingto Steup:… I take the concept of epistemic justification to be a
deontological 
 one. I believe that epistemic justification is analogous to moral justification in the following sense: Both kinds of justification belong to the family of deontological concepts, concepts such aspermission, prohibition, obligation, blame, and responsibility …A belief that is epistemically justified is a belief that isepistemically permissible, a belief for which the subject cannot justly be blamed, or a belief the subject is not obliged to drop.
7
 Before him, Alston offered us this:The terms, ‘justified’, ‘justification’, and their cognates are mostnaturally understood in what we may term a “deontological” way,

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