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Clayton Littlejohn McDowell has argued that perceptual knowledge is possible only if perceptual experience provides us with reasons that hallucination cannot. Perceptual experience, he continues, could provide these reasons only if experiential disjunctivism is true. In responding to his argument for experiential disjunctivism, McDowell’s critics criticize his epistemological disjunctivism and insist that our options are not limited to epistemological disjunctivism and skepticism. Epistemological disjunctivism is a far more plausible view than McDowell’s critics would have us believe and the prospects for an anti-skeptical view that dispenses with epistemological disjunctivism are quite dim. Where McDowell and many of his critics err is in their shared assumption that epistemological disjunctivism requires experiential disjunctivism. In this paper, I shall try to save epistemological disjunctivism from the disjunctivists. 0. INTRODUCTION You can have a good reason to believe p when it looks to you as if p. Indeed, if it looks to you as if p, you can have good enough reason to believe p. Since it can look to you as if p even if ~p, it seems experience can provide you with a sufficiently good reason for believing p even if ~p. Reasons provided by veridical perceptual experience give you the right to believe. Subjectively indistinguishable hallucination gives you this same right to believe. If this is right, it is those elements of your experience common to hallucination and perception that do the justificatory work regardless of whether you perceive things how they truly are or suffer some sort of hallucination.1 After all, you have the same evidence either way.2 McDowell thinks this is a horrible muddle. He thinks that hallucinations do not provide us with the same reasons provided by subjectively indistinguishable perceptual experiences. It comes as no surprise that he does not think that the reasons we have for our beliefs are grounded in features common to perception and subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. Some externalist epistemologists might agree with him in saying that we do not have adequate justification for believing in the bad case. Depending upon how she describes the processes that produce the beliefs, a reliabilist could say that hallucinations do not generate justified beliefs while recognizing that perceptual experiences do. Perhaps the idea would be that taking perceptual experience at face value is reliable, but believing on the basis of hallucination is not. Note that on such a view, the factors that determine whether a subject’s belief is justified would seem to be factors external to the subject’s perspective. One of the reasons McDowell’s view is so interesting is that he thinks that justifications must have a footing in something internal to the subject’s perspective. In spite of this, he rejects the view that is commonly taken to be the proper expression of this sort of epistemological internalism. He rejects the view that asserts that our experience and evidence are the same in the good and bad case.3 He writes: The root idea is that one’s epistemic standing … cannot intelligibly be constituted, even in part, by matters blankly external to how it is with one subjectively. For how could such matters be other than beyond one’s ken? And how could matters 1
beyond one’s ken make any difference to one’s epistemic standing? … But the disjunctive conception of appearances shows a way to detach this “internalist” intuition from the requirement of a non-question begging demonstration. When someone has a fact made manifest to him, the obtaining of this fact contributes to his epistemic standing on the question. But the obtaining of the fact is precisely not blankly external to his subjectivity, as it would be if the truth about that were exhausted by the highest common factor (1998: 390). McDowell thus argues that nasty epistemological consequences are avoided only if we adopt a certain view of the metaphysics of perceptual experience, one that denies that perception and hallucination are part of a common psychological kind. Our skeptic says that perception cannot furnish us with knowledge of the external world, not even if our experience is veridical. Most of us disagree. We all agree that hallucination cannot provide knowledge. If skeptic is wrong, it is only because perceptual experience gave us something hallucination does not. McDowell thinks that the difference between the good and bad case cannot simply be a difference in what subjects in these cases know (or can know). There must be further epistemic differences having to do with reasons or justifications and these further epistemic differences trace to mental differences that distinguish perception from hallucination. Any attempt to explain the difference in what can be known on the basis of perception versus hallucination that does not trace to a subjective difference between the good and bad case will explain the difference between knowledge and ignorance in terms of features of the situation that are beyond the subject’s ken (i.e., in terms of conditions that would be ‘blankly external’ to these subjects’ subjectivity). Thus, McDowell concludes, we can avoid skepticism only if we adopt a disjunctivist conception of experience, one that allows for the possibility of subjective differences that distinguish perceptual states from the state of mind one is in when hallucinating.4 On this view, it can look to S as if p even if it is not the case that p (e.g., when S hallucinates), but in the case of deception it is a mere appearance before the mind whereas in the case of veridical perception experience embraces the external facts themselves and thus there is no reason to think there is some mere defeasible connection between perceptual experience and the world.5 McDowell’s argument can be restated as follows: (1) If perceptual knowledge of the external world is possible, then epistemological disjunctivism must be true. (2) Epistemological disjunctivism could be true only if experiential disjunctivism is true. (C) Perceptual knowledge of the external world is possible only if experiential disjunctivism is true. The epistemological disjunctivist thinks beliefs based on perceptual experience enjoy a better standing than those based on subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. We need to sharpen this talk of epistemic standing. Everyone thinks that knowledge is possible only in the case of perception. It is plausible to think beliefs based on perceptual experience could be warranted while insisting that beliefs based on hallucinations cannot. The real controversy concerns McDowell’s claims about justification and justifiers.6 Let’s say that weak epistemological disjunctivism is the view that the reasons or evidence provided by experience in the good case are not just the reasons are evidence we have in the bad case. Let’s say that strong epistemological disjunctivism is the view that it is only in the good case where it looks to S as if p and S’s belief that p is the case is justified. I shall defend both weak and strong epistemological disjunctivism. Like McDowell, I 2
think weak epistemological disjunctivism is non-negotiable for non-skeptics. I shall argue in this paper that weak epistemological disjunctivism is something that non-skeptical contemporary foundationalists will just have to live. It can look to S as if p whether S perceives that p is the case or is hallucinating. The experiential disjunctivist says that perception and hallucination do not belong to a common psychological category. The difference between perception and hallucination is a kind of subjective mental difference, albeit one that might not allow the subject to introspectively distinguish perception from hallucination.7 Here is a common reaction to McDowell: he defends a deeply implausible claim about perceptual experience on the basis of deeply implausible claims about perceptual knowledge and the justification of perceptual belief. I do not intend to defend his claims about perceptual experience. I don’t have any view about experiential disjunctivism to defend. I think his epistemology is sound and is not nearly as interesting as McDowell or his critics would have us believe. McDowell’s epistemology is one that even the sense-data theorist could love.8 1. THE STATUS OF EPISTEMOLOGICAL DISJUNCTIVISM I want to begin by addressing objections to epistemological disjunctivism. After explaining why the objections to epistemological disjunctivism are not convincing, I shall offer an argument for the weak epistemological disjunctivist thesis. 1.1 OBJECTIONS TO EPISTEMOLOGICAL DISJUNCTIVISM Because McDowell says that the evidence S has for her beliefs in the good case are better than what she would have in the bad case on the grounds that only subjects in the good case have knowledge, some take him to be committed to the view that among the conditions necessary for knowledge is that the possession of evidence or reasons that the subject could have only in the good case. Because of this, some might take McDowell to be saying that it is impossible for the truth of a belief to be the only thing that distinguishes a good case of perceptual knowledge from the bad case. In turn, this suggests that his view is that a perceptual belief constitutes knowledge only if based on something that is incompatible with the falsity of that belief. Does that mean that McDowell subscribes to the infallibilist view that S can know p only if S’s basis for believing p is incompatible with ~p? He might, but epistemological disjunctivism as such does not entail infallibilism.9 At least, I hope it doesn’t. Infallibilism leads to skepticism.10 It might not lead to a skeptical attitude concerning perceptual knowledge, but it leads to skepticism concerning induction. If knowledge is possible only when we have infallible grounds for our beliefs, the external world skeptic might be wrong but I cannot see how the inductive skeptic could be. Is McDowell committed to infallibilism? According to fallibilism: (F) It is possible for a subject to know that p is the case on the basis of evidence or grounds that do not entail that p. If fallibilism is true, subjects in good and bad cases could have just the same evidence or reasons for believing p, but one of these subjects will be mistaken in believing p. But, then it seems that the difference between the good and bad case will be ‘blankly external’ to the subjects in these cases. So, either there can be differences in epistemic standing that are blankly external to the subjects in the good and bad case or infallibilism is true and knowledge based on non-entailing grounds or evidence is impossible. If the former is true, we do not need experiential disjunctivism to understand how perceptual knowledge is possible. If the latter is true, we trade one skeptical problem for another.
While I am not entirely convinced that this response is sufficient (or necessary), McDowell could say this. The objection assumes that p could be blankly external to the subject who knows p. Why would the truth of her belief be blankly external to her? Sure, you might say that the falsity of the mistaken subject’s belief is blankly external to her. Why can’t McDowell acknowledge this as a possibility and say that if someone is in the dark, there will be matters blankly external to her that explain why she believes p without knowing p? How much do you have to know to be ignorant?11 There are other concerns to address. A commonly held view is that experience can confer only those epistemic benefits that an indistinguishable hallucination can. In support of this view, some cite the widely held intuition that a subject who perceives p to be the case and believes p on the basis of this experience is not more reasonable than a subject who undergoes a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination and ends up believing the same thing.12 The lesson to take from this is supposed to be that we have the same evidence whether our experience is veridical or we are hallucinating. While the premise of this objection seems reasonable enough, the epistemological disjunctivist can say that it is controversial whether two subjects are equally reasonable in believing p only if the reasons that bear on whether they ought to believe p are equally good. The point of offering an excuse is to uphold someone’s rationality in spite of the fact that the subject acted against an undefeated reason. As such, intuitions about what is reasonable are not a good way to test claims about the comparative strength or goodness of reasons.13 When someone acts permissibly or acts with justification, this subject has better reasons for acting than a similar subject who engages in wrongdoing but can be excused for having done so. Conee thinks that disjunctivism is incompatible with what he takes to be a plausible principle concerning justification and defeat: The Defeat Principle: X’s justification for a belief is not stronger than Y’s justification for the same belief, if their respective justifications are prone to being equally well defeated by the same defeaters.14 If some subject perceived a table and another underwent an indistinguishable hallucination, he says that the justification these subjects had for believing that there was a table before them would be defeated to an equal degree if told by a trustworthy person that they were hallucinating. He writes: The assumption that the table and its rectangularity are directly manifested by the perception, and not by the hallucination, does not affect the capacity of the testimony to defeat. As this testimony example also illustrates, some defeaters of the justification would have true content in the hallucination case, and untrue content in the perception case. But this difference also does not affect their capacity to defeat the respective justifications. Thus, The Defeat Principle provides another way to see that the disjunctivist assumption of perceptual directness implies no justificatory advantage.15 Testimony could defeat these subjects’ justifications to the same degree. He is right on this point. I do not think this tells us much about the justification provided by perception and hallucination. Because Conee offers us one example of a defeater that defeats the justification provided by perception and hallucination, but offers no reason to think that all cases will resemble the case he gives us, he might have this principle in mind: The Defeat Principle (A): X’s justification for a belief is not stronger than Y’s justification for the same belief, if there is some defeater that defeats their justifications equally. 4
This principle is false. Asserting that my perceptual justification is no better than one provided by hallucination on the grounds that both could be defeated by the same thing is like saying that my three of a kind is no better than your pair because we would both lose if someone played a full house. Suppose God told me that my crystal ball pick the winning horse 99 times out of 100 and God tells you that your crystal ball will tell you who will pick the winner 87 times out of 100. My ball says that Sad Clown will win. Yours says Bride of the Fox will win. We read in the paper that Butternut Squash won. Before we read the paper, my justification was better than yours. After we read the paper, our justifications are equally defeated. Conee avoids this objection if he intended this to be his defeat principle: The Defeat Principle (B): X’s justification for a belief is not stronger than Y’s justification for the same belief, if their respective justifications are prone to being equally well defeated by all of the same defeaters. Here are four reasons to think this principle does not pose a threat to epistemological disjunctivism. First, he gave us one example of one defeater that seems to defeat the justification provided by perception and hallucination equally well. The existence of such a case is perfectly consistent with the existence of other defeaters that defeat only the justification provided by hallucination or defeat the justifications provided by hallucination and perception to different degrees. I can think of no reason to expect that every defeater will defeat these justifications to the same degree. I think Conee needs to give us some reason to think that this principle is incompatible with epistemological disjunctivism. Second, suppose Conee gave us some good reason to think that this second defeat principle is incompatible with epistemological disjunctivism. While I’m not convinced that you should combine epistemological and experiential disjunctivism, some do. According to epistemological disjunctivism, there can be subjective differences between perceptual experience and hallucination even if such states are introspectively indistinguishable. These subjective differences confer epistemic benefits upon the subject who is fortunate enough to have undergone a veridical perceptual experience. If Defeat Principle (B) is inconsistent with this view, this is because all of the same defeaters will apply to experience-based justifications a subject has for her beliefs when these experiences are introspectively indistinguishable. It will do so even when there are subjective differences between the relevant perceptual and hallucinatory experiences. Since this seems wrong, we can show that Defeat Principle (B) is false if it is inconsistent with the sort of doubly disjunctivist view I’m envisaging. Suppose we have a series of experiences: e1, e2, e3, and e4. These are the experiences you would have if you looked at very similar but increasingly dark paint chips: c1, c2, c3 and c4. These chips have been set out on the table and left unattended while you scout the store for more promising shades of gray paint. Suppose e1 and e2 are indistinguishable. Suppose that e2 and e3 are indistinguishable. Finally, suppose that e3 and e4 are indistinguishable. Owing to the subjective differences between e1 and e3, these experiences are distinguishable. Owing to the subjective differences between e2 and e4, these experiences are distinguishable. It should be that on every view, subjectively different and introspectively distinguishable experiences justify different and they should be liable to defeat from different defeaters. For example, the degree to which e3 will justify believing that you are looking at c3 is greater than the degree that it justifies believing that you are looking at c1. If someone tells you that you are looking at c1 but you believe that you are not because you believe you are looking at c3, the justification for your belief will be defeated by this speaker’s testimony to a greater degree if you are undergoing e2 than it would if you were undergoing e3 or e4. Note that if we say that all the same defeaters will apply to all the 5
same experience-based justifications when those experiences are indistinguishable, however, we get the unhappy result that all the same defeaters apply to e1 and e2 in virtue of their indistinguishability. All the same defeaters apply to e2 and e3 in virtue of their indistinguishability. Thus, all the same defeaters apply to beliefs justified by e1 and e3 in spite of the fact that they are subjectively distinguishable. It follows that the justification for the belief that you are looking at c3 will be defeated by the speaker’s testimony to the same degree regardless of whether you are undergoing e2, e3, or e4. That seems wrong. In short, the problem is that is indistinguishable from is intransitive but justifies the same beliefs to the same degree is transitive. Third, suppose S forms the belief that p on the basis of fallacious reasoning but then forgets the reasons for which she believed p. Suppose S’ comes to know that p is the case but then forgets the good reasons that led her to believe p. It seems that all the same defeaters would defeat the justifications they had for their beliefs to the same degree and so Defeat Principle (B) implies that their justifications are equally good. If you think that memory has a purely preservative function and agree with Owens that forgetting the bad reasons that convinced S to believe p should not lead to an improvement in the epistemic status of that subject’s belief, you can either accept Defeat Principle (B) and say that memory can never preserve the justified standing of a belief when the subject forgets her reasons for believing or reject the principle and say that in spite of their equal susceptibility to defeat, the subject who seems to know p has better justification for believing p than our first subject.16 Fourth, it seems plausible that experience gives us reasons to believe. It seems plausible to say that experience gives us reasons to believe beyond those reasons that introspection provides. Suppose I have the sort of conscious experience in which it looks to me as if p. Suppose you have a conscious experience indistinguishable from mine. I suppose that introspection and some background beliefs would give you some evidence for beliefs about the external world, but I would think that these reasons are different from the reasons provided by experience and that they are typically worse than the reasons provided by experience. However, if the gods were to tell us that our experiences are not veridical, our beliefs about the external world would presumably be defeated and defeated to the same degree. According to Defeat Principle (B), if this is true, experience does not give us reasons that are different from or better than the reasons provided by introspection. That does not seem right. The scope of non-inferential perceptual knowledge is not limited to that which we can know on the basis of introspection. There is something seriously wrong with Defeat Principle (B). 1.2 THE CASE FOR WEAK EPISTEMOLOGICAL DISJUNCTIVISM In this section, I shall argue that if we can have non-inferential knowledge of the external world, epistemological disjunctivism is true.17 The argument I’m offering does not show that the epistemological disjunctivist’s view is correct because I have no argument that shows that we do have non-inferential knowledge of the external world. Like McDowell, I am not trying to show that we have this sort of knowledge. I’m not trying to identify where skeptical arguments go wrong. I am trying to describe the conditions under which non-inferential knowledge of the external world is possible.18 With the skeptic sidelined, the argument for epistemological disjunctivism is straightforward. Consider three claims: (P) Evidence consists of propositions. (ET) If p is part of S’s evidence, p is true. (IKSE) If S knows p non-inferentially, p is included in S’s evidence.19 6
(P) and (ET) are claims about the constitution of evidence. Only true propositions constitute evidence. (IKSE) is a claim about what it takes to possess evidence. Nothing beyond non-inferential knowledge is needed. Here is an argument for weak epistemological disjunctivism. If noninferential knowledge on the basis of experience is possible, a subject in the good case can know p is true non-inferentially on the basis of the experience in light of which it looks to this subject as if p is the case. According to (IKSE), this subject’s evidence includes the proposition that p is the case. A subject could be in the bad case and it could look to such a subject as if p is the case, but on the assumption that this subject’s belief that p is the case would be mistaken, it follows from (ET) that this subject’s evidence does not include p. Thus, you can only deny that epistemological disjunctivism is true if you deny (ET) or deny (IKSE). There is some controversy as to whether evidence consists of propositions, but critics of epistemological disjunctivism typically believe (or are willing to grant) (P). They tend to focus on epistemological disjunctivism’s implications concerning the epistemic disparity between good and bad cases.20 Let’s focus on (ET) and (IKSE).21 What reason is there to think that (ET) is true? There is some linguistic evidence that suggests that (ET) is true.22 Consider this exchange: Scarlet: Does the prosecution have solid evidence against Mustard? Green: They say they do. Here is the evidence they have to use against him: that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that his alibi did not check out, that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he had written a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. Now, consider a second: Plum: How good is the prosecution’s evidence against Mustard? Peacock: It’s hard to say, really, but the prosecution says that they have strong evidence. However, Mustard’s prints are not on the murder weapon, his alibi checks out, and he was not the last one seen with the victim. It seems as if Peacock’s assertion flatly contradicts Green’s assertion. If evidence does not consist of true propositions, it is hard to see why there would be this tension. All that Peacock has done is assert that the falsity of certain propositions that Green asserts are included in the prosecution’s evidence. So, unless we say that claims about what someone’s evidence consists of entail that those claims are true, it’s hard to see how Peacock’s assertion could contradict Green’s assertion. Peacock’s assertion speaks to the veracity of the prosecution’s claims rather than speaking directly about the evidence that they have. Here is a related bit of linguistic evidence. Suppose Green had said this: Green: They say they have a good case. Here is the evidence they have against him: that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that his alibi did not check out, that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he had written a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. For what it is worth, I don’t believe that he wrote any letters or that his fingerprints were on the murder weapon. To my ear, this is incoherent. Either it is a contradiction or it is incoherent in the way that Moorean absurd assertions are. Someone who denies ET might say our evidence consists of propositions we stand in certain relations to regardless of whether those propositions are true or 7
not. But, then they would be hard pressed to explain why Green’s remark is incoherent. Surely it cannot be that Green’s beliefs are part of what determines what evidence the prosecution has if Green is not part of the prosecution. If, however, evidence consists of things known to the possessor or truths that the possessor is cognizant of, it would make sense why it is incoherent for some speaker to say that p is part of someone’s evidence while adding that they do not believe p. This would be the familiar sort of Moorean absurd omission along the lines of ‘She knows Custer died at Little Big Horn but I don’t believe he did’ or ‘Custer died at Little Big Horn but I believe he survived’. If you do not place a great deal of confidence in these sort of linguistic considerations, consider one more argument for (ET): (1) Inference to best explanation requires that evidence is constitutionally capable of figuring in explanation. (2) Evidence is constitutionally capable of figuring in explanation only if it is true. (C) Evidence consists of truths. In defense of (1), let me say this. If someone knows p to be part of her evidence, there is nothing further she needs to know to know that p can figure in an inference to best explanation. This is not to say that in knowing p, she is in a position to judge knowingly that there is some explanation of p. It is to say that when someone knows that p is part of her evidence, the inference to best explanation could only fail because p cannot be explained. So, if p is part of S’s evidence, p is constitutionally capable of figuring in an inference to the best explanation. There is a straightforward argument for (2). Explanations are factive. Claims of the form ‘p because q’ are true only if both p and q are true. What reason is there to think that (IKSE) is true? To say that (IKSE) is false, you have to say that someone could know p non-inferentially and yet not be entitled to reason from the premise that p for reasons having to do with the epistemic standing of the belief that p is the case. Insofar as it seems that whatever it is that would prevent that belief from being of sufficiently good epistemic standing to be used as a premise without further support from further premises would prevent someone from knowing it without the use of additional support from other beliefs, it is hard to see how (IKSE) could be denied. (IKSE) also seems to do justice to an important intuition concerning evidence: a subject’s evidence is that which the subject has to go on where the subject does not have to dig for something else to serve as the starting point of inquiry.23 Here is why I think (IKSE) does justice to this intuition. If S knows p non-inferentially, S’s belief that p is the case is justified non-inferentially. IKSE is entailed by: (IJSE) If S’s belief that p is non-inferentially justified, p is part of S’s evidence.24 In support of (IJSE), Fantl and McGrath say, “If your justification for a proposition is good enough for knowledge, then if it isn’t among your reasons for belief, it’s not for shortcomings in your epistemic position with respect to it”.25 Any proposition that is epistemically eligible to be a reason S has for believing something else that is not a derivative reason for belief (i.e., it is not a reason S is justified in treating as such only if there are further beliefs justifiably held by S that serve as the basis for believing p), is a proposition we should be inclined to say is included in someone’s evidence. If that works for (IJSE), it works for (IKSE). 2. DISJOINING DISJUNCTIVISM
In this section, I would like to explain why weak epistemological disjunctivism does not require experiential disjunctivism. McDowell’s argument to the contrary is this: The root idea is that one’s epistemic standing … cannot intelligibly be constituted, even in part, by matters blankly external to how it is with one subjectively. For how could such matters be other than beyond one’s ken? And how could matters beyond one’s ken make any difference to one’s epistemic standing? If you accept epistemological disjunctivism but think that experience embraces the same things in perception and hallucination, you end up having to say that facts blankly external to the subject are responsible for the superior epistemic standing of that subject’s beliefs in the good case when compared to the beliefs in the bad.26 McDowell thinks this is unacceptable. There are two things to say in response to McDowell. First, recall from earlier that in defending McDowell from the accusation that his epistemological disjunctivism leads to infallibilism and skepticism concerning induction, I suggested that the difference between the good case and the bad is not blankly external to the subject in the good case. Because she knows p, she knows something that she knows rules out the possibility that she’s the one in the bad case. How could a fact known to her directly on the basis of observation be blankly external to her? How could it matter to her that the difference between her and someone else who is ignorant is a difference lost on the subject who is in the dark about a great many things? If McDowell insists that the difference between the good and bad case cannot be a difference that is blankly external to the subject in the bad case, it seems he is committed to the rather odd view that there is something available to the subject in the bad case that would allow her to work out her epistemic predicament. Second, McDowell is right that the suggestion that something that is beyond someone’s ken can confer an epistemic benefit upon some believer is strange. Someone could say that this is one of the lessons of BonJour’s clairvoyant examples.27 Suppose it is indeed a lesson of that example. There is something subtle but important that I think McDowell misses. You can say that examples such as those involving BonJour’s clairvoyants show that the disparity in comparative epistemic standing between two cases never depends upon matters external to the subject’s perspective, but I don’t think that we’re compelled to say that. The lesson we draw from these cases could be a much more modest one. We could say that such cases show that positive epistemic standing cannot accrue to a belief in virtue of conditions that contribute positively to the subject’s epistemic standing if they do not leave some trace on the subject’s perspective. The challenge, however, that McDowell issued in his argument from epistemological disjunctivism to experiential disjunctivism was to explain how beliefs in the good case had comparatively better standing than beliefs in the bad case. This challenge could be met in two ways. We could argue that there are features that are beyond a subject’s ken that confer epistemic benefits upon a subject. Alternatively, we could argue that factors beyond a subject’s ken could constitute epistemic harms and that such factors are features only of the bad case. If this second sort of explanation of the comparative standing of beliefs in the good and bad cases can be given, it undermines McDowell’s argument for experiential disjunctivism. We can say that features beyond the subject’s ken constitute epistemic harms in the bad case and beliefs formed in the good case are better not because the basis for holding such beliefs is different but because the conditions that are epistemically harmful are not a feature of the good case. I shall argue for two claims. First, I shall argue that McDowell ought to recognize that there are negative features that are distinctive of the bad case that can explain why beliefs formed in the bad case are defective. Second, I shall argue that the kinds of epistemic relations that must be in 9
place for reasons-for to justify are not the kinds of epistemic relations that must be in place for reasons-against to prevent something from being justified. Essentially, what I shall argue is that reasons-for cannot justify if they are beyond the subject’s ken, but reasons-against can prevent a belief from being justified even when they are beyond the subject’s ken. This is a point that McDowell is in no position to reject. Moreover, if this point is correct, we can undermine his case for experiential disjunctivism while remaining true to epistemological disjunctivism. An epistemological disjunctivist who rejects experiential disjunctivism could explain the difference between good and bad cases without positing inaccessible factors in the good case that confer benefits but by recognizing that inaccessible factors in the bad case constitute harms. Suppose someone does something there is reason not to do. Suppose that there happens also to be reason to do it. Bernie shoots a kid carrying a weapon (that is something there is a pro tanto reason not to do), but doesn’t know that the kid is carrying a weapon. Maybe the kid was going to use that weapon to attack a bunch of people (perhaps that’s a pro tanto reason to shoot the kid). Since this has nothing to do with Bernie’s reasons for shooting, it is hard to see how facts about what the kid was carrying and what the kid planned to do with his weapon could be cited to justify his deeds. Even if Bernie were made aware of the kid’s weapon, if Bernie is shooting the kid just because he hates kids it is hard to see how these facts could justify his conduct. To justifiably act against a reason, it seems that it is not enough that there is overriding reason that happens to be out there somewhere. It seems that this reason to act has to be the reason for which the subject acts if that reason is going to be the reason in virtue of which some other agent’s deeds are going to have a moral standing superior to the standing of Bernie’s deeds. The reasons that count in favor of acting seem to contribute positively to moral standing only if they play some motivational role. They cannot play that motivational role, however, if they are beyond the subject’s ken. This much seems right. It seems to be the sort of thing that might lead McDowell to say that there is something a subject in the good case is cognizant of that explains why a subject in this case ends up with beliefs better justified than beliefs formed in the bad case. The reasons that count against acting, however, can contribute negatively to the normative standing of an action without playing any motivational role.28 Additionally, the reasons that count against acting can contribute to normative standing of an action even if the agent is non-culpably ignorant of them. Think about cases where someone is imprisoned for a crime that we later discover that they did not commit. In the wake of this discovery, we discover that we have a duty of reparation and must compensate the victim. Such reparative duties are, however, not mere duties of beneficence. Such reparative duties should leave the victim better off than they were, but unlike duties of beneficence the duty is one that arises between the victim and the subject(s) that harmed the victim. These duties can exist when the parties responsible for imprisoning the victim were non-culpably ignorant of the fact that the accused was innocent. (Just think about cases where reliable eyewitnesses came forward to suggest that the victim was guilty and it was only later developments in forensic science that exonerated the person imprisoned.) These duties only exist when the agent acted against some genuine reason that contributed negatively to the normative standing of the original act. (Otherwise, helping the wrongly accused would not be a response to some past wrong and would be a mere duty of beneficence.) If this is right, the act of putting the innocent victim away and forcing them to suffer the hardships of prison was wrongful and wrongful for reasons that all relevant parties could have been non-culpably ignorant of. These examples suggest that there is an important asymmetry between reasons-for and reasons-against. Even if reasons-for cannot contribute to normative standing unless the subject is cognizant of them, reasons-against can contribute negatively to normative standing when the subject is not cognizant of them. Since comparative normative standing is a function of both the reasons10
for and reasons-against, there is a serious lacuna in McDowell’s argument from epistemological disjunctivism to experiential disjunctivism. The difference in comparative normative standing could be explained in terms of reasons-against present only in the bad case. Back to epistemology. If there are reasons-against believing p on the basis of how things look when its looking as if p is due to hallucination, it could be that beliefs in the good case are comparatively better off even if there is not something internal to the subject’s experience that is distinctive of the good case. The disparity is due entirely to reasons not to believe in the bad case that make beliefs formed in that case defective. Unless McDowell can show that there are no such reasons or show that such reasons make a normative contribution only when we are aware of them, his argument for experiential disjunctivism is inconclusive. I think there is reason to believe that the bad case contains reasons-against that apply to that subject and adversely affect the epistemic standing of her beliefs even when the subject is not aware of them. Some readers might be skeptical, but I think McDowell cannot deny that the kinds of reasons I have in mind exist. Earlier I said that we can show that epistemological disjunctivism is true by appeal to (P), (ET), and (IKSE). Here, I shall assume that we have the kinds of reasons we would have if these claims are true and try to show that epistemological disjunctivism does not have to take the form it does for McDowell. This is because there will be reasons-against believing on the basis of hallucinatory experiences and these reasons can affect the normative standing of beliefs even when subjects are non-culpably ignorant of such reasons. The reason I think there are these reasonsagainst is that there is an epistemic norm that enjoins us to refrain from treating non-reasons as if they were genuine normative reasons. Assuming that epistemological disjunctivism is true, hallucinatory experiences will always pass off a non-reason as if it is a reason because the contents of these hallucinatory experiences are not veridical.29 Anyone who treats the propositions that are the contents of these experiences as a reason to form a belief about the external world will violate the (alleged) norm that tells us not to treat a non-reason as if it were a reason. Epistemological disjunctivists could deny this only if they were to say that there is no norm of the sort described here. It is hard to see how someone could seriously maintain that there is no such norm. If there were no such norm, facts about what counts as a reason would not automatically have normative significance. If the fact that something is not a reason is not a reason to refrain from treating it as such, it is hard to see how facts about what the normative reasons are could have normative significance. If those facts do not have normative significance, what facts could? Can the epistemological disjunctivist agree that there is this norm and that it gives us a reason to refrain from treating non-reasons as if they were reasons but then say that such reasonsagainst only contribute to normative standing when we are aware of them? The example above of the wrongly imprisoned suggests that there is no principled reason to think that a subject must be cognizant of reasons-against for those reasons to contribute (negatively) to normative standing. If there is some important difference between, say, reasons-against incarcerating someone and reasons-against believing that someone should be incarcerated, I think we would need an argument to show that these differences exist.30 Upon discovering that an innocent person has been wrongly incarcerated, it seems everyone agrees that there is a duty of reparation that needs to be discharged. If someone said that cons affect normative standing only when someone is cognizant of them, it is hard to see how such a person could say that this is a case of wrongdoing that generates a reparative duty as opposed to a case of right action with unfortunate side effects. We can run an argument by analogy for the claim that reasons-against believing can count against believing even when those reasons are not present to the believer’s mind by observing that the reasons that speak against acting can negatively affect the normative standing of an action even when the subject is not cognizant of these reasons. If something stronger is needed, perhaps this 11
will do. If it is agreed that incarceration was wrongful but we insist that the reasons not to act are not, inter alia, reasons not to believe that the act was the thing to be done, we end up saying that there can be differences in normative standing that are blankly external. Sometimes we ought to act in accordance with our normative judgment but sometimes we should not. The norms that tell us when we ought to act in accordance with our normative judgment will give us reasons that are decisive reasons not to act that the subject will never be cognizant of. Does the disjunctivist really want to say that when someone concludes that they ought to do something there might be no reason that negatively effects the epistemic standing of that judgment when there is nevertheless a decisive reason for the agent to resist acting on that judgment by hook or by crook? That seems to be an awkward position to occupy. Better, it seems, for them to say that some reasons can adversely affect the normative standing of a belief and an action even when the subject is not cognizant of them. If they say this, however, the epistemic argument for experiential disjunctivism has been completely undermined. How would the epistemological disjunctivist avoid commitment to the sort of problematic infallibilist view that seems to lead to skepticism? My argument for epistemological disjunctivism was not driven by the idea that any difference between knowledge and ignorance corresponds to some further subjective difference. Instead, it was driven by a claim about the ontology of reasons for belief (i.e., they are facts) and a claim about how reasons are acquired (i.e., non-inferential knowledge is sufficient). Thus, my epistemological disjunctivist view is consistent with the view that there can be situations where two subjects have exactly the same evidence for their beliefs but only one subject has knowledge because the other subject’s evidence led them to form a false belief. McDowell might complain that I’m helping myself to something I have no right to when I assume that we can have non-inferential perceptual knowledge even if experiential disjunctivism is false, but I think this complaint is baseless. First, I’m engaged in the same sort of transcendental argument he is. I’m not trying to refute the skeptic. I’m describing the conditions under which we could have the knowledge the skeptic says is beyond our grasp. I’ve never asserted that we have non-inferential knowledge, only how things would have to be if we were to have it. Second, I’ve addressed his reason for saying that experiential and epistemological disjunctivism go hand in hand. If I didn’t use the reasons-against distinctive of the bad case to explain why the beliefs formed in the good case are in better epistemic shape, I would need to draw on experiential disjunctivism. But, this was not the shape that my explanation of epistemological disjunctivism took. Earlier, I distinguished between weak and strong epistemological disjunctivism. I think weak epistemological disjunctivism does motivate the stronger view. If we can have non-inferential knowledge, I would argue that we could have justified beliefs in the good case as follows: (1) In at least some such cases of veridical perception where it looks to S as if p, there is no reason not to believe p. (2) If there is no reason not to believe p, there is no undefeated reason not to believe p. (3) If there is no undefeated reason not to believe p, it is not the case that S ought not believe p. (4) If it is not the case that S ought not believe p, S is permitted to believe p. (5) It cannot be that S is permitted to believe p if S’s belief that p cannot be justified. (C1) S’s belief that p is justified if it looks to S as if p and S is in the good case. Here is an argument that we cannot have justified beliefs in the bad case: 12
In every case of hallucination where it looks to S as if p, there is a reason that has among its demands that S refrain from believing p on the basis of that hallucination. (7) S has no other reason to believe p. (8) There is always a reason to refrain from believing what you do not have reason to believe. (9) S can permissibly believe in the face of reasons not to believe only if there is some conflicting reason that has among its demands that S believe p where this reason is at least as strong as the reasons not to believe. (10) There are no such reasons. (11) In the bad case, there is always an undefeated reason for S not to believe. (12) If there is an undefeated reason for S not to believe, S is obliged not to believe. (13) S’s belief that p cannot be justified if S is obliged to refrain from believing p. (C2) In the bad case, S cannot be justified in believing p even if it looks to S as if p.31 One objection to my argument for (C1) is that it suggests that someone justifiably believes p with no reason at all to believe p. Since it seems that justified beliefs have something positive going for them, it might seem that the argument must be mistaken. I think the way to deal with this objection is to show that there is always reason to refrain from believing what you have no reason to believe. That would suggest that (1) could be true only if S has evidence or a reason to believe p. Williamson says that if someone ought not to believe p unless some condition, C, obtains, they also ought not believe p unless they have some reason to think that C does in fact obtain. At the very least, to do otherwise would be irresponsible.32 Whenever there is some norm that we are answerable to that prohibits believing unless C obtains, there is a kind of derivative reason to refrain from being irresponsible in the way someone would who knew that they ought not believe unless C obtains and then believes with no reason to think that this is not one of the cases where C does not obtain. Let’s look at the argument for (C2). (7) is just true by stipulation. I am arguing that in the absence of any reasons apart from those provided by experience, hallucinatory experience cannot justify belief. I have just explained why I think (8) is plausible in addressing the objection to (1). (9) simply states a connection between reasons and the obligations they give rise to. (10) might be controversial, but if you think it is false you have to show that there are reasons that apply to the subject in the case of hallucination that demand that the subject believe p and that these reasons are at least as strong as the reasons not to believe p. Such reasons, however, would make it prima facie wrong not to believe p. I think there are no such reasons. Nothing counts against not believing that things are as they appear. There are not that many sins of epistemic omission. I don’t think there are epistemic reasons that generate anything like a positive duty to believe. So, I don’t think there can be reasons that have among their demands that you believe something when you have some independent reason not to believe it. Note that if the argument for (C2) is sound, we have an argument for strong epistemological disjunctivism that does not depend upon (or motivate) any contentious claims about the nature of hallucination and perception. We get epistemological disjunctivism without the experiential disjunctivist’s commitments to controversial claims about the metaphysics of mind. We don’t need factive states of mind for facts to be reasons. 13
3. CONCLUSION In this paper, I have identified a flaw in McDowell’s epistemological argument for experiential disjunctivism. The problem with his argument for experiential disjunctivism is not with the epistemological disjunctivism that motivates it. Even if epistemological disjunctivism is true and my arguments for it are sound, belief in factive mental states is optional. The key to resisting McDowell’s argument was to note that reasons-against can have an effect on normative standing even when the subject is not cognizant of them, which means that if there are indeed reasons not to believe on the basis of hallucination. That one believes on the basis of hallucination can have a negative effect on the normative standing of a belief even if the fact that this is one’s basis is ‘blankly external’ to one’s perspective. If the disjunctivist thinks that reasons are facts, say, the facts that we know non-inferentially to be true in the good case, there must be a reason to refrain from treating non-reasons as if they were genuine. That gives us a reason to think that beliefs formed in the good case are epistemically better because we have no reason not to have such beliefs.
Annis, D. 1980. Memory and Justification. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 40: 324-33. Audi, R. 2002. An Internalist Theory of Normative Grounds. Philosophical Topics 1&2: 19-45. Bach, K. 1985. A Rationale for Reliabilism. The Monist 68: 246-63. Bird, A. 2004. Is Evidence Non-Inferential? The Philosophical Quarterly 54: 252-65. BonJour, L. 1985. The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Byrne, A. and H. Logue. 2008. Either/Or. In A. Haddock and F. Macpherson (ed.), Disjunctivism: Perception, Action, and Knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press. Cohen, S. 1984. Justification and Truth. Philosophical Studies 46: 279-95. ____. 1988. How to Be a Fallibilist. Philosophical Perspectives 2: 91-123. Comesaña, J. 2005. Justified versus Warranted Perceptual Belief: A Case Against Disjunctivism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research: 367-83. Conee, E. 2007. Disjunctivism and Anti-Skepticism. Philosophical Issues 17: 16-36. Conee, E. and R. Feldman. 2004. Evidentialism. New York: Oxford University Press. ____. 2008. Evidence. In Q. Smith (ed.), Epistemology: New Essays. New York: Oxford University Press. Dodd, D. 2007. Why Williamson Should Be a Sceptic. The Philosophical Quarterly 57: 635-49. Engel, M. 1992. Personal and Doxastic Justification in Epistemology. Philosophical Studies 67: 13350. Feldman, R. 2004. Foundational Beliefs and Empirical Possibilities. Philosophical Issues 14: 132-48. Gardner, J. 2007. Justifications and Reasons. In his, Offences and Defences. New York: Oxford University Press. Gibbons, J. Forthcoming. Things That Make Things Reasonable. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Goldman, A. 1979. What is Justified Belief? In G. Pappas (ed.), Justification and Knowledge. Dordrecht Reidel. ____. Forthcoming. Williamson on Knowledge and Evidence. Huemer, M. 2007. Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74: 30-55.
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This intuition that subjects in the good and bad case have equally justified beliefs is widely shared. Cohen (1984) appealed to this intuition to cause trouble for externalist views of epistemic justification such as Goldman’s (1979) view. The tradition of clobbering externalists with this intuition continues today. See Audi (2002), Conee and Feldman (2004), Huemer (2007), and Wedgwood (2002) for more recent examples. My view is that we can accommodate internalist 15
intuitions by distinguishing between personal and doxastic justification in the way that Bach (1985) and Engel (1992) do in defending reliabilism from the intuitions about error that led Cohen to first criticize Goldman’s early views. The idea is that a person is justified in believing p when the person can be defended from criticism directed at the person whereas a belief is justified when the belief can be defended from the criticism directed to beliefs. Conditions internal to the subject matter when we are trying to defend the believer from criticism but it is the conditions that determine whether the belief conforms to the norms governing belief that determine whether the belief is justified. If among the norms that govern belief are norms that enjoin us to refrain from believing when conditions that do not supervene upon conditions internal to the subject obtain, doxastic justification is an externalist notion. Because the new evil demon type objections have been dealt with elsewhere, I will not discuss them further here as I think Bach and Engel have said what needs to be said and have not seen a response to their work that shows that their response to the new evil demon problem is inadequate. 2 Williamson (2000) denies that subjects in the good and bad case have the same evidence, but he was careful to say that it does not follow that subjects in the bad case do not have sufficient evidence for their beliefs. It seems that Bird (2004), Maher (1996), and Unger (1975) also think that subjects in the good and bad cases have different evidence for their beliefs about the external world. Silins (2005) defends the view that subjects have the same evidence in the good and bad cases. See also Conee and Feldman (2004) and Turri (2009). 3 Let’s say that if it looks to S as if p because S veridically perceives that p is the case, S is in the good case. Let’s say that if it looks to S as if p but S is undergoing a hallucination introspectively indistinguishable from a veridical perception that p is the case, S is in the bad case. 4 Essentially, this is the argument that Neta (2008b) attributes to McDowell and it is this position that I shall discuss here. 5 McDowell (1998: 386). 6 Comesaña (2005: 370) thinks that McDowell’s arguments only establish an uninteresting version of disjunctivism according to which the differences in epistemic standing have to do with knowledge and warrant where warrant is understood as that which distinguishes mere true belief from knowledge. I think we can succeed where McDowell (allegedly) fails, but my reasons for endorsing epistemological disjunctivism differ from his. Byrne and Logue (2008) say that epistemological disjunctivism does not require experiential disjunctivism, but they do not explain how this is possible or address McDowell’s argument that suggests that the former entails the latter. 7 Neta and Pritchard (2007: 383) suggest that McDowell might reject the widely held view that the only facts that S can know by reflection alone are facts that would also obtain if S had recently been envatted. This suggests that their McDowell not only believes in factive mental states, but that such states can be reflectively identified. I do not know if they would take issue with the way I have described McDowell’s views concerning experience, but on its face, the claim that situations can arise in which S cannot discriminate between hallucination and perception seems perfectly compatible with the further claim that there are situations in which S can know by reflection alone that she is perceiving how things are. 8 Not that I’m one of those! Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. 9 The infallibilist view I have in mind is not the view that whenever someone knows p, this subject’s evidence entails that p is the case. It is the view that knowledge is possible only if S believes p on the basis of entailing evidence. See Cohen (1988) for discussion. It seems that van Cleve (2004: 485) thinks that McDowell is committed to the infallibilist view and there are passages where 16
McDowell (1998: 372) suggests that this is indeed his view. Comesaña (2005) also suggests that one of the assumptions in McDowell’s argument against views that posit some highest common factor between cases of perception and hallucination. For reasons that emerge later, I think that the epistemological disjunctivist should say that when we have perceptual knowledge that p is the case, we often have grounds that entail that p is the case. I do not think that they need to say that this is necessary for the possession of knowledge, per se. 10 For an argument that Williamson (2000) is committed to infallibilism and skepticism, see Dodd (2007). It seems that Dodd’s arguments apply to McDowell as well as Williamson. Lewis (1996) denied that infallibilism led to skepticism, but it seems that if Lewis is right, it is only the contextualist who can be an infallibilist without being a skeptic. Lewis thought that the fallibilist’s view was incoherent, but I think Stanley (2005) effectively deals with Lewis’ objections. 11 Here is a worry for McDowell’s view. The response I’m offering on his behalf might also undermine McDowell’s argument from the possibility of perceptual knowledge to epistemological disjunctivism. If McDowell can reject the infallibilist view by allowing that it is possible that the truth of a subject’s belief is the only thing that distinguishes some case of knowledge from a case of ignorance by saying that when the subject has knowledge the fact known is not blankly external, he cannot then argue from the claim that the differences in epistemic standing that distinguish cases of knowledge from ignorance will not be conditions that are blankly external to the subject who has knowledge to the further claim that the difference between truth and falsity will be reflected in the reasons or evidence we ascribe these subjects. 12 See Audi (2001), Conee (2007: 18), Silins (2005), and Wedgwood (2002) for versions of this objection. 13 For a useful discussion of excuses and justifications, see Gardner (2007). 14 Conee (2007: 19). 15 Conee (2007: 19). 16 Owens (2000: 156) says that irrational beliefs do not lose that status when a subject stores that belief in memory while losing track of the reasons that led her to believe initially. This is also the view of Annis (1980), Senor (1993), and Goldman (1999). This is not, however, a view universally shared. See Lackey (2005) for a defense of the opposing view. Conee and Feldman (2004) say that subjects who initially believe p without justification but then retain that belief in memory can later have justification for the belief that is provided by a kind of memorial feel. I don’t find this plausible, but note that Defeat Principle (B) seems to commit them to the stronger claim that the degree that this feel justifies such beliefs sets an upper limit on the degree to which a belief with better origins can be justified when stored in memory. Imagine creatures that were wired in such a way that every time they reasoned fallaciously to the conclusion that p is true they would thereby lose track of the reasons for which they believe. I have a hard time thinking that their beliefs are justificationally as good as our beliefs stored in memory could get. 17 For objections to the classical foundationalist view that limits the scope of non-inferential knowledge to those truths that supervene upon our non-factive mental states, see Pryor (2000) and Feldman (2004). For the purposes of this discussion, I assume that they have shown that there is no reason for us to think that the only alternative to skepticism is the classical foundationalist view. Assuming the skeptic is wrong, there are some things we can know non-inferentially about the external world. 18 See McDowell (2008). 19 In Author’s Work Under Review, I argue that a view that incorporates (IJSE) and (ET) is preferable to Williamson’s (2000) E=K and Conee and Feldman’s (2004) mentalist view. I am 17
reproducing the arguments offered there here so that referees can see the motivation for these claims. I don’t think I can just ask the referee to take my word for it that (IJSE), (IKSE), and (ET) are true. In Author’s Work Under Review, I address a variety of objections to (IJSE) and (ET) that I do not address here. 20 See Williamson (2000) and Neta (2008b) for arguments for the view that evidence is propositional. In discussing Williamson’s view, Conee and Feldman (2008: 101) say that they need not deny that evidence is propositional in the course of explaining why they think their mentalist view is preferable to Williamson’s. 21 Note that (ET) is consistent with views that say that our subjects will have the same evidence whether they are in the good case or bad. The same is true for (IKSE). What you cannot do is combine (ET) and (IKSE) with a view that says that subjects have the same evidence in the good and bad cases unless you say that no one ever has non-inferential knowledge at all. Again, since this is a conversation amongst non-skeptics only, we can ignore this little wrinkle. 22 There is also some textual evidence that suggests that critics of epistemological disjunctivism accept (ET). In describing what evidence one has for believing that there is a tree in the yard when one has a “treeish” experience of the sort that is indistinguishable from the veridical experience of a tree, Conee and Feldman (2008: 90) specify the subject’s evidence in terms of things that all happen to be true and things that could have been true had the subject been hallucinating. They go on to say that if we adopt the sort of view that McDowell adopts on which our perceptual evidence can include contingently true propositions about the external world (e.g., that this is a tree, that I see that this is a tree, etc…) they would say that the subject who undergoes a subjectively indistinguishable experience would not have such propositions as part of their evidence. This suggests that they do (sometimes) assume that ET is correct, otherwise they could say that the subject has the same evidence regardless of whether her experience is veridical or hallucinatory because there is no truth requirement on evidence. 23 Conee and Feldman (2008), Kelly (2008), and Silins (2005) seem to agree that this platitude is indeed a platitude about evidence. 24 IJSE is a consequence of claims defended by Fantl and McGrath (forthcoming) and Gibbons (forthcoming). It isn’t clear whether Fantl and McGrath believe (i) If p is a piece of evidence, it is proper for S to treat p as such provided that S’s belief that p is justified or (ii) If S’s belief that p is justified, p is a part of S’s evidence and properly treated as such. Their remarks suggest that (i) or (ii) must be correct, but don’t indicate which of these is correct. If they opt for (i), they can combine IJSE with EST and still say that there are false, justified beliefs. While these authors seem to suggest that any justified belief puts you in a position to treat something as a piece of evidence, Goldman (forthcoming) thinks that only non-inferentially justified beliefs provide us with evidence. 25 Fantl and McGrath (forthcoming: 111). 26 The response I offered on McDowell’s behalf earlier to the charge that his view led to a kind of infallibilism that came with skeptical consequences should work here if it worked earlier. The difference between the good case and bad will not be blankly external to the subject in the good case. Because she knows p, she knows something that rules out the possibility that she’s the one in the bad case. How could a fact known to her directly on the basis of observation be blankly external to her? How could it matter to her that the difference between her and someone else who is ignorant is a difference lost on the subject who is in the dark about a great many things? If McDowell insists that the difference between the good and bad case cannot be a difference that is blankly external to the subject in the bad case, it seems he is committed to the rather odd view that
there is something available to the subject in the bad case that would allow her to work out her epistemic predicament. 27 See BonJour (1985: 38) 28 A point that I owe to Gardner (2007). 29 I am assuming that there cannot be hallucinations that are wholly veridical. Soteriou (2000) argues that the particularity of perceptual experience poses a problem for those who think that there can be wholly veridical hallucinations. 30 As Gibbons (forthcoming) says, at this high level of abstraction we should expect similarities between practical and theoretical reasons because both are, after all, reasons. In Another of Author’s Works Under Review, I argue that reasons to refrain from acting constitute reasons to refrain from judging that you should act that bear on the epistemic standing of these normative beliefs. Essentially, I argue that there is a wide-scope ought that governs normative judgment and the actions and intentions such normative judgments rationalize. (In other words, if you shouldn’t (practically) Φ, you shouldn’t (epistemically) judge that you should (practically) Φ.) If you do not think that this wide-scope ought is genuine, I think you will have to say that the requirements of practical and theoretical reason cannot be unified. 31 I am assuming that the only potential justifying reasons the subject has are provided by experience. 32 Williamson (2000: 241).