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Enrique Villanueva Ridgeview Publishing Company
Externalism for Internalists Author(s): Jonathan Dancy Reviewed work(s): Source: Philosophical Issues, Vol. 2, Rationality in Epistemology (1992), pp. 93-114 Published by: Ridgeview Publishing Company Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1522857 . Accessed: 28/09/2012 18:33
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The current popularity of the distinction between internalist and externalist approaches to epistemology has not led to any great increase in our understanding of the area. The only thing on which most writers on the topic agree is that most other writers do not understand the distinction at all well. I am no exception to this rule, and in this paper I try to lay out what I think the basic structure of a theory of justification of belief should be in a way sensitive to the issues debated between internalists and externalists. At the same time I attempt to relate what I have to say to ethics. It has been common for proponents of both sides of the epistemological argument to make appeal to the appearance of a view like theirs in ethics, in ways of which I do not wholly approve.1
'See A.I. Goldman, "The Internalist Conception of Justification", and L. Bonjour, "Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge", in
94 JONATHAN DANCY Not that I mind the appeal to ethics itself. 2In pursuit of this aim. So facts that are not believed by the agent may suffice for justification. (eds. think of the leading such property as that of being the product of a reliable method or process. In my view the two areas are strongly analogous. And the problem is that even if the various analogies were sound. S inherits the faults of his acts (beliefs). The theory offers no room for differing accounts of belief and of believer. I just don't think that much is gained by finding a view similar to one's own in a cognate area which has had a good run for its money there. The externalist holds that a belief may be fully justified if it has certain properties which we may call truth-effective. the positions they appeal to in ethics are so contentious that not a lot is gained. But we don't mean by this to suggest that S (the agent) is here impeccable though his belief is flawed. I shall not be arguing from ethics to epistemology. So our externalist holds that a belief is fully justified if it is the product of a reliable method or process. We can say 'S's belief is not justified. Instead I will be trying to move forward on both fronts at once. Studies in Epistemology (Minneapolis. this seems to me quite in place. My general aim here is to discover the truth on both sides. French et al. 1980). This might achieve respectability for one's own view (were this in danger of being denied) but could hardly count as evidence for its truth. of act and of belief. vol. S's belief would be justified'.2 I start with a standard characterisation of extreme versions of the two views in epistemology. My epistemology is explicitly normative. nor is there any other notion of justification than this one. P. and the truth in one will probably be pretty like the truth in the other. to fix ideas.) Midwest Studies in Philosophy. I will be speaking indifferently of agent and of believer. (Of course among the facts that contribute to justification may be the fact that the agent believes something). University of Minnesota Press. However since I do not think that the truth of the matter has yet been discovered in ethics. No more than this is necessary for justification. . 5. but if things were in general as S believes them to be. among many others. and the agent's believing them adds nothing.
or from their belief that what they were .6. before moving on to more complex theories. In particular. that this sort of moral theory cannot cope with everything we want to say in ethics. we are not always inclined to attach much epistemic blame to the agent. Neither of these extreme positions admits the possibility that the belief be justified when the believer is not. The standard characterisation of internalism is the claim that justification can only be achieved by appeal to elements that are internal to the agent's perspective. In particular. though there are facts which. we want at this stage to make room for the idea that agents sometimes derives moral worth from the attempt to do the right thing. One way of making it less metaphorical is to read it as saying that only S's other beliefs are relevant to the question whether S is justified in the belief that p. both take it that if the belief is justified the believer is and vice-versa. The fact is. S's belief that p inherits S's faults as a cognitive agent. and nothing is subtracted if they are false. equally trenchant. and tries to write its account of the worth of agents directly from what it finds there. but we do not mean by this to suggest that S's belief that p is somehow sound as things stand. Extreme externalism will appeal to the sort of moral theory that focuses primarily on the value of acts. We can say 'S is not justified in believing that p. and I shall later argue that it suffers from ambiguity. to start with. however. there are no further questions about justification. nor that the believer be justified when the belief is not. that the agent's beliefs are true adds nothing. would have justified him in believing that p'. Two thoughts persuade us to make room for these possibilities. we may find something to approve in the end product. But I want to pause to look for ethical analogies for the positions we already have. The first is that even if things are going badly in externalist terms. This theory too has no room for differing accounts of belief and of believer. if S had believed them. So both my extreme internalist and my extreme externalist speak indifferently of the justification of belief and of believer. the second is that even if the agent's epistemic behaviour is irresponsible. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 95 The internalist position is. Once this sort of internal justification has been achieved. This is not yet much help.
So the sort of moral theory that extreme externalism can appeal to is not much support. Moral worth attaches itself primarily to agents. So the ethical analogies to which these two approaches appeal do not really offer much in the way of support. and only derivatively to acts. This is just the sort of idea that the extreme externalist is trying to get away from. . but I think that rather than accepting the distinction Kant has really left it behind. And there are other reasons for being unhappy with the choice between the two approaches. or from the fact that if the circumstances had been as they thought they would have been doing the right thing.96 JONATHAN DANCY doing was right. It is agreed that externalism probably makes our epistemic life very easy. We can test this by asking what Kant would say about the agent who obeyed the Categorical Imperative in this sense. but it is still enough to make the appeal to Kant a less than complete defence for the extreme internalist. is that Kant cannot be used like this. They are weak on the very point on which they were being looked to for help. This need not be the act/agent distinction itself. My own view. It is true that given the choice between act and agent Kant will always focus on the agent. but in a case where the maxim was not in fact universalisable. Given that human cognitive methods and processes are genuinely truth-effective. We could take this to mean that the distinction between act and agent has no moral relevance for Kant. The first chapter of the Groundwork is intended to undermine the apparently common-sense idea that actions can have moral properties which they derive somehow from the sort of difference they make to the world. according to one of which things are going on well enough and according to the other of which they are not. Nothing in Kantian scholarship helps me a lot with this question. It is likely to appeal to Kant in some way. Its purpose here is just to show that there is the same pressure for Kant to admit that there are two forms of evaluation going on at once. namely that there is no need for anything other than a trivial distinction between act and agent. that he acted out of respect for the universalisability of his maxim. The same is true for extreme internalism. however. in the sort of way that extreme internalism suggests.
as I believe it does. comes from R. Neither side is willing to admit the relevance of anything that the other side wants to see as important. This leads one to suppose that the two views I started with are too extreme. while accepting that the only things that can justify are things internal to the agent's perspective. but on the internalist perspective this will only be true of those agents who have the relevant beliefs. though it has considerable intuitive appeal. Internalism. comes out like this:3 S's belief that p is epistemically justified iff: 1 S's belief is based upon grounds G such that 3See W. which. and yet underlying each view there seems to be something intuitively plausible. but it is a gift for the sceptic. which I use merely for an example. leaves us very vulnerable to the sceptic. this formulation of Alston's position. Tomberlin (ed. Scepticism is not an endemic problem for externalism. Something has gone wrong here. Internalism may have the support of intuition. The first of these is Alston's internalistic externalism. Alston.6. I want to suggest a way of doing this. it looks as if justification is going to be a fairly rare occurrence. by the internalist's lights. . EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 97 most of our beliefs will be justified. Epistemology. Audi's contribution to J.) Philosophical Perspectives Vol. "Internalism and Externalism in Epistemology". What seems to be needed is a way of admitting that facts that are not believed can be relevant to the epistemic status of an agent or of a belief. 1988. Given then the difficulty of saying that everything necessary to justification is believed by every believer. and I shall work towards it by considering other compromise positions to be found in the literature. and that some form of intermediate position must be found. We would like to be able to say that the fact that human cognitive processes and methods are truth-effective does somehow contribute to the justification of the beliefs they generate. in Audi's formulation. and most of us are not in that fortunate position. The choice we are being offered is too stark. and this is both one of its chief attractions and one of its main weaknesses. on the other hand. 2.
Better would be to attempt to meet directly the defects we found in the extreme theories. The status of 2 in this respect is. I think. beliefs) (b) the members of G are fairly directly accessible to S upon reflection (c) G reliably indicates the truth of p and 2 S has no additional undermining beliefs. What seemed to emerge from them is that we need 1 a distinction between act (belief) and agent (believer) which 2 enables our assessment of them to diverge. experiences. but it is not the sort of compromise I am looking for -it is not one which either party is going to be able to accept. Something very much on these lines is supposed to be offered by the distinction commonly drawn between objective .98 JONATHAN DANCY (a) the members of G are the sorts of things that are typically accessible to normal humans (e. in a way that is merely stressed by the demand that they be accessible to this particular agent. and our internalist will not see that 1 (c) adds anything at all. there is no suggestion that this fact need be one on which S has any grip at all. experiences and beliefs are just the sorts of things that are within an agent's perspective. this position has both internalistic and externalistic elements. Alston seems to give us none of this. A plausible compromise position will be one which in some way respects the intuitions which drove the two originally opposing views. 1 (a) and 1 (b) are internalistic. indeterminate. As can be seen. Alston's view is in a sense a compromise.g. so that each can accept the compromise without abandoning too much of its own motivation. Our externalist will not see the relevance of requiring 1 (a)-(b). What I want to say in criticism of Alston here is that his position is one with which nobody will agree. 1 (c) is intended by Alston to be externalistic.
6. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 99 and subjective justification. the internalist accepts that as well as justification of agent there is justification of act. So far we have merely moved away from the insistence of the two extreme positions that where the act is justified. But despite this. we have still not reached a genuinely intermediate position between internalism and externalism. S is subjectively justified in believing that p iff S believes that his belief that p has properties Fl-Fn. but that need not be so. Here it is clear that subjective justification is defined in terms of objective justification. it is not a complete success. And this is how a compromise between internalism and externalism might be run. since it requires both sides to give up something of which they were fond. but a standard way would be this: S's belief that p is objectively justified iff it has properties Fl-Fn. objective justification being justification of act and subjective justification being justification of agent. and objective justification as concerned with the act. One might worry that the two sorts of justification are not very clearly related to each other. The externalist agrees that as well as justification of act there is justification of agent. so is the agent. As a compromise. But all they lose is the claim that the sort of justification they were focusing on is not the only sort of justification. There are various ways of running the objective/subjective distinction. What we purport to have here is a way of thinking of subjective justification as concerned with the agent. Neither loses the story they wanted to give about the place they started from. since (ignoring problems of opacity) we could write the second clause thus: S is subjectively justified in believing that p if S believes that his belief that p is objectively justified. This promises to provide a good sense to the act/agent distinction. we can say that the agent may be subjectively justified in holding a belief which is not . We now have room for the idea that our assessments of act and agent can come apart.
in a way that enables us to approve fully of the agent for holding a belief which is in fact unjustified. thus: . So justification is not one thing but two. The danger is that the gap that is opening up between objective and subjective justification will be so great that we are forced to hold that there are really two senses of the word 'justified'.100 JONATHAN DANCY objectively justified. rather we have told a completely separate story. The two stories need to be separate but not too separate. It is not that if we add subjective justification to objective justification we have made things better in the same direction. subjective justification is not the same sort of thing as objective justification at all. We make this move when we accept that these are genuinely independent assessments. for with this we begin to persuade ourselves that there are two independent elements in a full epistemic story. We could express this using the language of 'ought' rather than of 'right'. this distinction can be run in several ways. each of which can be fully satisfied without the other. Some philosophers are not frightened by the idea that there are two senses of 'justified'. They notice the very same move being made in ethics. the act (belief) story is the externalist story. but a classic way of doing it would have it that: An act is objectively right if its consequences are the best available. associated with the distinction between objective and subjective rightness. and there is no point in pretending that it is. But we have not yet made the final move. The objective/subjective distinction begins to have real bite with this addition. The main problem that I see as facing this position is that of coping with the gap between the two stories that it wants to keep apart. or that the agent may not be subjectively justified in holding a belief which is in fact objectively justified. S acts subjectively rightly if S believes his act to be the one whose consequences are the best available. The agent story is the internalist story. Again.
Given the obvioustruth that the action whose consequences are the best availablemay not be the one of which S believes this. so that S was subjectivelyjustified in believing that p iff S believed himself objectivelyjustifiedin believingthat p. We have the very same move in ethics as we have in epistemology. once we make explicit the fact that justificationof act and justificationof agent can come apart in this way. S both ought and ought not to believeit. so that each can be fully present without the other. The real worry was that it is impossible to keep assessment of act and agent apart without generatingtwo distinct senses of the relevant evaluative terms. But perhapsthings are not as bad as this makesout. This is in danger of meaning that S both ought and ought not to do it. By admitting that there are two senses of 'justified' we have implicitly abandonedour earlierclaim to have retained a comprehensible link between subjectiveand objectivejustification.6. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 101 S ought (objectively) to do the action whose consequencesare the best available. It is when we suggest that in such a case S is blamelessthat trouble arises. . all was well. So long as we simply understoodsubjectivejustification in terms of objective justification. we have it that the same action may be both objectively right and subjectivelywrong. Epistemicallyspeaking. S ought (subjectively)to do that action whose consequencesS believes will be the best available. the contradiction whichthreatenshereis apparently only relieved that the word has two distinct by admitting 'ought' (though of course related) senses. So there is a strong pressureto accept that. This worry is led by the but I myselfam not convinced 'discovery'of a contradiction. The contradictionthat drivesus is the admissionthat S may be justifiedin believing somethingwhich is not justified.for we now say that S can be justifiedin believing something unjustified. we have in effect admitted the existence of two senses of 'justified'. And to say this we have to give up the claim of harmlessinterdefinability. The claim that agent assessmentis independent of act-assessmenthas pulled the two sorts of evaluationtoo far apart.
81-4. The 'R' in 'Rp' is a modal operator. without admitting more than one sense of 'right' -and similarly for 'ought'. we have to admit two senses of 'right'. p. or (2) R(BS (RSda) -* Sda). We can express the ambiguity at issue here using a simplified form of Hintikka's deontic logic. we can make do with a single sense. There is no contradiction in: (2)a R(BS(RSda) -* Sda) & BS(RSda) & -RSda. .4 Take the following manual: BSp: S believes that p Sda: S does a Rp: it is right that p. This is because the crucial remark that S is right to do what he thinks right is structurally ambiguous. and want to say that some action which S believes right is in fact wrong. Analysis 37 (1977). We can assert that agents are right to do what they think right. For there is a contradiction in: (1)a (BS(RSda) -> RSda) & BS(RSda) & -RSda. It seems to me that anything we have yet unearthed can be handled using a single sense of 'ought'. If we use the second form. while accepting that they are sometimes mistaken in what they take to be right. which does not.102 JONATHAN DANCY that the discovered contradiction is a genuine contradiction at all. The sentence 'S is right to do what he thinks right' can mean either (1) (BS (RSda) -4 RSda) which makes S infallible on such matters. pp. If we read our English sentence as being of the first form. and 'Rp' is interpreted as saying that in all deontically perfect worlds. Note that we cannot infer (1) from (2) directly without committing the standard modal shift fallacy of moving from 4I first presented this idea in "The Logical Conscience".
For instance. 'ought' or 'justified'. So it may be possible to keep the assessment of act and agent far enough apart to satisfy the purposes of the compromise position. without pulling them so far apart that we are left with two different senses of the relevant evaluative terms. it is cruel to do what one thinks it is cruel to do. it is pointless to do what one thinks it is pointless to do: and so on. So I do not think that the distinction between objective and subjective justification is necessarily associated with the discovery of a contradiction of the sort contained in the thought that conscience is both paramount and liable to error.6. in a way which can only be resolved by accepting that there are two senses of 'right'. Are we to announce similar ambiguity in each such term. it is silly to do what one thinks it is silly to do. for the reason that I do not imagine that every action performed in a perfect world is itself going to be morally perfect or right.q) to (4) p -. It seems to me that at least some actions done there will be morally indifferent. This was that it made it possible for us to live . if we were to allow the existence of two senses in these cases. we would have to allow them in every structurally similar case -and there are too many such cases for us to feel at all comfortable here. or are we to allow the existence of the same structural ambiguity case by case? Simplicity argues strongly for the latter. not as a world in which everything done is morally right.Nq We might hope to support the inference in the special case of (1) and (2) by introducing a separate principle (5) R (Sda -. it is rational to do what one thinks it rational to do. What is more.RSda) but I do not see this as a reliable move. A morally perfect world is surely to be thought of as one in which every action right in the actual world is done. But we should not forget that the 'two senses' theory had a purpose. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 103 (3) N (p .
) So we are still stuck for an account of how our compromise theory can keep its evaluations of act (belief) and of agent coherent. And we can cope equally well with the idea that an agent can acquire moral worth from an action which. that our compromise position can recommend an act to an agent which it then says it would be wrong of him to do. when in fact it is wrong (not right) for him to do a.) Does the theory recommend his doing a? Not exactly.Sda)? I doubt it. It seems undeniable that this is what is going on within the full-blown version of the subjective/objective distinction. Can we escape this result by appeal to the structural distinction I drew between 1 BS(RSda) and 2 R(BS(RSda) . It seems to me that we are still left with an incoherence. (Of course it would be coherent if it merely failed to recommend either disjunct. But of this disjunction it recommends that S not do the first disjunct. and then the agent is told that. it would be wrong of him to do it.104 JONATHAN DANCY with an otherwise awkward fact. (Analogy: S believes that his evidence supports p when in fact it supports not-p. but which the agent derives no moral worth from doing. So in the sort of case we are considering it recommends that S not do the second disjunct either. and it seems to me that the whole thrust of the theory is that it can approve (and so recommend) one's believing that it is right to do an action which in fact it is wrong to do. but it recommends his either doing a or ceasing to believe that it is right for him to do a. Take any case where S believes that it is right for him to do a. Surely we are all familiar with the suggestion that there can be an action which is itself right. This is where the compromise position makes its real appeal to ethics. given his circumstances. The belief is recommended by the assertion that it is justified. But a theory which recommends a disjunction while recommending that we do neither disjunct is incoherent. through no fault of his -* RSda .
6. one might suppose that the belief is called justified because it is probable given the evidence that there is. calling the belief justified would not yet be to recommend it to anyone. It is not the . The motive is not a peculiar kind of cause. but only one. so that what is done is not affected in itself by why it was done. I suggest instead that we could distinguish the worth of the agent-in-the-action from any value the consequences may have. turns out badly. But this would be to confuse the theory of justification of belief with the theory of probability. One theory may of course build on the other. rather than because it is probable given the evidence that S has. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 105 own. So I am not much impressed by the ethical analogy to which we were appealing to show how it can be coherent to hold a theory that recommends an action (belief) which it then says the agent is wrong to do (believe). that I find these well-known views hard to accept in ethics. Here there are not two recommendations. A bad motive will mean a bad action. But I can see no rationale for carving things up in this way. but the agent was right to do it. where the action is supposed to be bad but the agent right to do it. Are we really to allow that the action is right here? This is to suppose that the motive is no part of the action. First. In the contrary case. I confess. The action makes the world worse. One might fail to see the problem here for either of two reasons. but they are not identical. I want to say that the motive infects the action. and this is bad enough. no matter how well things turn out. because it plays a large part in determining which action was done. which is all over with by the time the action starts. however. If this were so. and a belief which is not probable on the evidence that there is might still be one that given the evidence we have we are all right to believe. It may be that a theory that does this is not in direct contradiction with itself. all epistemic recommendation would occur at the level of the agent. Take the classic example of the Pharisee who gives alms to charity ostentatiously. but it does seem to be issuing contrary recommendations. it is not clear to me that the right way to cope with this is to cut the action off from the agent so that the two are assessed separately.
I think. though unfortunately this does not seem to mean that S is to be justified in believing it. that the very same belief that in one voice it recommends it may also in another forbid.g. . the problem is how to give a coherent story about the two sorts of recommendation it makes.) Reading Parfit.5 The thrust of my criticism of the compromise theory has been to cast doubt on the act/agent distinction which it uses. especially since we admit. Any such view is hopeless. One might think that this is clearly wrong. The second way of failing to see the problem is similar. In my view. the distinction between act and agent is just a different distinction from the distinction between objective and subjective anything. the belief we are concerned with is not an ownerless belief which is somehow justified in abstraction from any owner. it is making recommendations. but I attempt to rebut current claims that being self-defeating in this way does not matter in my "Parfit and Self-Defeating Theories". we obviously need some distinction between objective and subjective justification (as we do between objective and subjective rightness). given that. I do not see how a theory of justification can fail to be in the business of specifying a cognitive aim in this sense. but this should not obscure from us that we are setting ourselves an aim in the adoption of the theory. But. that this reply is a mistake. After all. We originally held that what was 51 do not have space to show this here. being the product of a reliable method). We may indeed specify non-normative conditions under which we accept a belief as justified (e. We might make the mistake of supposing that our account of what it is for a belief to be justified is non-normative in some strong sense. the theory will on occasions specify an aim for us and then tell us not to aim for it. forthcoming in J. but the belief in that proposition. I think. I take this to mean that the theory is self-defeating in a damaging way. Equally. namely the aim of acquiring beliefs like this. however. and surely this is all the act/agent distinction amounts to. It is justified as a belief of S's. or rather insist. Effectively.106 JONATHAN DANCY proposition believed that we are concerned with in the theory of justification. Dancy (ed.
Subjective and objective rightness for acts are defined as follows:7 An act is objectively right if its outcome is the best possible. An act is subjectively right if the agent believes that its outcome will be the best possible. We can call such a set of motives 'C-approved'. 6Oxford: Oxford University Press. it purports to be atomistic. An agent acts subjectively rightly (here) if he believes his motive to be a member of a C-approved set of motives. consider the opening chapter of Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons. Parfit is discussing a theory C (consequentialism) which defines rightness of act in terms of value of outcomes. To give an example of the sort of thing I mean here. 24. . and define something called 'agent-rightness' as follows:8 An agent acts objectively rightly (here) if his motive is a member of a C-approved set of motives. But one can distinguish between the objective and the subjective properties of an action. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 107 necessary was a way of distinguishing what we said about the belief (action) from what we said about the believer (agent).6 He offers four (not two) clauses. 8Notice that this notion offers an evaluation of the agent in doing a particular act. The worth of agents is defined differently. 1984. in terms of that of motives or sets of motives. It was a simple assumption that the right way to do this was to introduce the distinction between objective and subjective justification.6. 7p. A motive is a member of a set of motives which C can recommend if having that set of motives would lead to outcomes at least as good as the outcomes of any alternative set of motives. without running anything much in the way of a distinction between agent and action. Equally one can distinguish between properties of agent and action without concerning oneself about the difference between objective and subjective properties.
This creates a more convincing epistemological theory than the one I have laid out in the main text. A belief of S's is subjectively justified if S believes that his evidence supports it. A belief of S's is subjectively justified if. the evidence would support it. We could hold: A belief of S's is objectivelyjustified if S's evidence supports it. were things to be as S generally believes them to be. Thus we could take the externalist view that an act is right if it has the best outcomes or the internalist view that acts are right if they are expected to have the best outcomes (the criterion for rightness of act is not the actual but the expected consequences). written out in the terms I have used above. S is subjectively justified in believing if S believes his method to be T-approved. 153) a different distinction between the objective and the subjective which. The notion of the agent's general beliefs is intended to draw the focus away from the belief that the outcome of this action will be best or that the evidence favours this belief. would emerge like this: An act is objectively right if its results are best. And one could run the same 9There is a complexity here which it is worth keeping track of. The analogue in epistemology would look like this: A belief is objectively justified if the evidence supports it. its results would be best. An act is subjectively right if. were things to be as the agent generally believes them to be.108 JONATHAN DANCY An epistemological theory T could have the same structure as Parfit's C has here. all we need is the objective/subjective distinction. S is objectively justified in believing if S is using a Tapproved method. Parfit mentions later (p. . I am encouraged in this idea by the fact that the original distinction between internalism and externalism can be written separately for act and for agent (for belief and for believer).9 What are we to make of this? One's first thought is that for the purposes of moving away from the extreme theories with which I started.
and all the talk about act and agent was a irrelevance. The admission that matters is that a believer may be completely blameless in believing even though his belief is not justified. I have no trouble with this. taking the externalist line that an agent is justified if using a truth-effective method. I accept the need for an objective/subjective distinction. we will need both distinctions. If we want to distribute approval in the way the compromise theory does. It genuinely is the objective/subjective distinction that we should be using. and the distinction between objective and subjective properties of the belief is not calculated to help us much in that direction.6. This is what the subjective/objective distinction is concerned with. and for agent-justifiedness. This stress on the epistemic status of the believer as opposed to that of the belief (the independence thesis) seems to me to require the addition of the act/agent distinction to the objective/subjective one. from this perspective. FOR INTERNALISTS EXTERNALISM 109 distinction for agent-rightness. But the fact is that the thrust behind the compromise position does require of it both distinctions rather than merely the one. or the internalist one that the agent's justifiedness requires that the agent believe himself to be using a truth-effective method. . The act/agent distinction does not concern itself with what happens in cases where the agent is ignorant or in error. our distinction between act and agent is going to be a serious one rather than the lesser one capturable by separating objective from subjective properties of acts. I only want to reject the sort of act/agent distinction that the compromise theory relies on. what we want is not two ways of approving of one thing (why should we approve of an act just because its agent is satisfied with it?) but something like one way of approving of two different things. not just one. to resolve the internalism/externalism debate by appeal to a distinction between action and agent. With this motivation behind us. For myself. We want to be in the position of having nothing to say against the believer but much to say against the belief. Is it possible then that the act/agent distinction will do the job for the compromise position all by itself? I don't think so. So if we want to approve fully of the agent in certain cases of error. So it seems odd.
As I see it. on the final page of my Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology (Oxford: Blackwell. It is the proposition that: (Extreme internalism) Only beliefs of S's are relevant to the determination of S's epistemic status. In such a case.. this intuition can be more or less captured by any of three different approaches. When I first mooted this idea. A weaker but still strong form of internalism could hold this less demanding position: (Strong internalism) A set of justifiers which has some members not starting BS. each of which can therefore be called internalist.. BSp will be not a justifier but an enabler. In that sense each of them seems to me to be internalist enough. BSp will be among the justifiers... I start from my original expression of the intuition underlying internalism. The first and most extreme of these we have already seen. a member BSp. This was that justification must be achieved by appeal to elements that are internal to the agent's perspective (the believer's perspective). which makes room for the objective/subjective distinction but has no serious use for the act/agent distinction. I spoke more clumsily of 'allowers'. Each of them is in opposition to the externalist view that a fact can justify even when it is not l?Steven Strange suggested the term 'enabler'. And this is what I now attempt to provide. must have. . then for each such member p it must be true that BSp. for each such member p. without acting as a justifier itself.110 JONATHAN DANCY I take it then that a new way needs to be found of reconciling the opposing demands of internalism and externalism. 1985). though BSp need not be among the justifiers. The weakest version will hold only that: (Weak internalism) If a set of justifiers has some members not starting BS.'1 It enables p to contribute to the justification. Each of these positions could be an expression of the intuition that only what is in S's perspective can serve to justify a belief of S's.
that things do not happen just because one wants them to. So a fact does not need to be believed in order to contribute to justification. Second. if not all the intuitions that underly the original extreme positions. many enablers will be brute facts. (I need to believe this. First. So I want to claim that my approach captures. It is worth trying to lay out some differences between the strong and the weak forms of internalism. namely that it holds that facts are reasons. most of the things that occupy the justifiers box will be facts rather than beliefs. only it cannot in that case do so by functioning as a reason. at least enough of them to count as a genuine compromise. of course. . Further enablers might be beliefs which do not themselves count as reasons. In fact my reason is probably just this. but without which one could have no reasons at all. FOR INTERNALISTS EXTERNALISM 11I believed by the agent. that other people can understand what I say. This is in two ways. weaker form. however. Here I am talking about the absence of undermining beliefs. That undermining beliefs are absent enables the things that are my reasons to be the reasons they are. My preference is for the third.) Not all enablers are of this sort. facts which are not believed by the agent. To give a simple example: That my nervous system is in good working order is a truth which is not among my reasons for believing that tomorrow is Friday. that today is Thursday. or else it could hardly be a reason for me and so justify my belief. The contrast I intend to draw between justifiers and enablers is a contrast between considerations which are reasons and considerations which are not themselves reasons but which make it possible for the things that are reasons to function in that way.6. Sometimes the fact that I do not believe something functions as an enabler. Replacing talk about justifiers by talk about reasons should make one externalist aspect of this approach clearer. though it needs to be true for the things that are my reasons to be my reasons. And the reason for this is that this form can be shown also to capture something at least of the intuition underlying externalism. However I do not need to believe it. Here I am thinking of the belief that there are solid objects. they will be things believed rather than believings of them. and so on.
The strong version encourages us to suppose that we can divide the set of justifiers up into two halves. The strong form must claim that all such facts are irrelevant. and those which do not. or that the believer is justified though the belief is not. Such facts do not contribute to justification in the way in which reasons do.. because it offers two ways in which something can be relevant to justification. though its justification can increase.e. everything that does not contribute in that way is irrelevant. clauses are true justification is now possible. the relevant belief is in some sense already justified. The weak version does not encourage this sort of move. I find the story about enablers plausible in its own right. and it fits what I . We are then tempted to hold that where all the BS. (Note however that the fact that we are tempted to hold this does not mean that we can make very good theoretical sense of it.) The move we are considering here is the one which gives us the distinction between justification of act and of agent. The third and final difference is in a way the most telling. the fact that q where not BSq) to justification when they act as enablers. On the weak version. when all the relevant BS. I venture here the observation that the availability of the weak version can be hidden from one if one writes one's theory as a list of necessary and sufficient conditions for justification. This format imposes on one the idea that all relevant considerations are relevant in much the same sort of way. but they are not because of that to be excluded from the story altogether.. The second difference is that the strong version has a tendency to pull everything relevant to justification into the set of justifiers.112 JONATHAN DANCY The first is that the weak form can accept the relevance of brute facts (i. in the way that I expressed Alston's position earlier. The weak version is more flexible.. Since there is only one way in which a consideration can contribute to justification. but there is no temptation to suppose that the relevant belief is already to some extent justified.. members of the set are true.. This is the other reason why I am not happy with the compromise built round the act/agent distinction.. since it only countenances one sort of way in which a consideration can be relevant to justification. those which begin BS.
I find it hard to accept as well the distinction between justification of act and justification of agent. So it is hard for me to add the act/agent distinction in any serious form to what I already have in place. I end then by trying to lay out the picture as I see it. that S believes those facts is probably not among S's reasons for believing that p. But that is not at all the way my attempt to find a compromise between internalism and externalism is supposed to work. except in a special part of it labelled 'justification of agent'. I want to find in other places the same tripartite structure that I find here between justifiers. For me. though . states which enable those motivators to motivate. Equally. and properties that are pure background (here). They are not thought of as being in the set of justifiers. in a way that means that act-justification neither helps nor harms agent-justification. Of course this leaves me with the question what to say about a case where the agent is blameless though misguided. EXTERNALISMFOR INTERNALISTS 113 want to say in the theory of motivation and elsewhere. enablers and pure background. and states which play no such role. Given this. In the theory of motivation. and those agent-related facts (that S believes this or that) are largely not in the set of justifiers at all. That distinction leads us to suppose that we can sort out the agent's justification before we turn our attention to the justification of the act (belief). But I cannot hope to establish this here. S's reasons will mainly consist of facts. The general view must be that one can say everything that needs to be said here without any radical distinction between assessment of act and assessment of agent. S's belief that p is justified if S's reasons for believing that p are good reasons (are among the reasons). I want similarly to distinguish between motivating reasons. so that agent-assessment is entirely independent of act-assessment. We find ourselves supposing that in cases of well-intentioned failure we do not blame the agent. act-assessment depends upon agent-related facts. properties whose presence or absence enables the first properties to make the action good. in the theory of moral properties. So I have a general approach of which this is merely one application. I want to distinguish between properties that make the action good.6.
The facts that are S's reasons can only play that role if S believes them. but that is not to mean that S's reasons are beliefs of S's. . This might be the whole answer.114 JONATHAN DANCY the fact that one believes that q can sometimes be a reason for believing that p. Though it needs to be true. what justifies my belief that it is raining outside? Answer: I can see and hear the rain. Mustn't it be true that human perceptual mechanisms are in general reliable? Yes. This is not ruled out. I do not need to believe it for it to play this role. For instance. dreaming that I hear and see the rain? Yes. not the fact that I believe them to be so) could then be a justifier. Don't I need also to believe that I can hear and see the rain? Yes. Only facts that are reasons need to be believed. and the fact that I am not asleep dreaming is not among my reasons. Often the facts that justify a belief will not be very extensive. but this fact is another enabler. but it is not the normal situation. That S believes them enables them to justify and is not itself a justifier. but it doesn't need to be. Of course I can believe that human mechanisms are reliable. it does not need to be among my reasons. It makes it possible for what are my reasons to be the reasons they are. and this fact (the fact that they are reliable. Mustn't it be true that I am not asleep. but this belief is an enabler and not itself among my reasons.11 1lI am very grateful to Richard Gale for discussion of an earlier and very different version of this paper. but again this functions as an enabler. My reason was simply that I can hear and see the rain.
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