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Inference, Justification, and the Analysis of Knowledge Author(s): Michael Williams Source: The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 75, No. 5 (May, 1978), pp. 249-263 Published by: Journal of Philosophy, Inc. Stable URL: Accessed: 13/07/2010 22:05
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then we may say that a person S has knowledge that h if and only if S either has primary knowledge or secondary knowledge that h. JUSTIFICATION. Radical skepticism with regard to a given matter is the claim that. ns 96 (une 121-123. traditional theories of knowledge are best seen as offering different ways of responding to the threat of radical skepticism." This problem was brought into prominence by Edmund Gettier in an influential paper which presented arguments to show that justified true belief was not sufficient for knowledge. as I think. True Belief Knowledge?" Analysis. it follows that such theories are I "Is Justified. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE t M 2 wUCH recent discussion in epistemologyhas centered on the problem of stating necessary and sufficient conditions for the truth of "S knows that p. MARSHALL SWAIN The Ohio State University INFERENCE. Once that theory is developed.' Gettier's basic idea was that a person can make a warranted inference to a belief that happens to be true. use the phrase 'Gettier example' in a wider sense. and much more that needs to be said concerning the defectiveness of causal ancestries. Inc. There are events in that causal ancestry. xxiII. in such matters. 1963): 0022-362X/78/7505/0249$01. for example. however. one never has the slightest reason to believe one thing rather than another.6.INFERENCE. . JUSTIFICATION. It is not assumed in advance that all such failures to have knowledge must depend on the kind of inference made. such that it is essential to Smith's justifiably believing that h on the basis of his reasons R that he would be justified in believing that these events did not occur.50 ?) 1978 The Journal of Philosophy. to apply to any example intended to show that it is possible to have justified true belief without knowledge. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 249 for believing that either Jones owns a Ford or Brown is in Barcelona is clearly defective. Smith does not know that h. If. Some writers. even though its truth has nothing to do with the premises from which it is inferred. There are many other interesting examples to consider. the event of Jones's mistakenly saying that he owns a Ford. I hope that these few examples will give some idea of the manner in which the full theory of secondary knowledge is to be developed. Hence.

250 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY addressed to certain problems about justification.: University Press.2 From this point of view." Also: Harman. ed. But it would not be radical skepticism because the possibility of justified belief would be admitted. 4'bid. on the face of it. But it is quite consistent with this position to think such considerations very much in place if the problem is not to respond to radical skepticism but simply to state truth conditions for "S knows that p. Not just the philosopher. 1973)." where this amounts to finding a way to cope with the Gettier counterexamples. LXIV.5 He holds that Gettier's problem occupies a central position in the theory of knowledge and that the correct solution to it has far-reaching implications. a phenomenalist analysis of justification is entirely compatible with a causal account of the truth conditions for "S knows that p. for all he has shown. N."4 Indeed. .. the view that epistemological questions are questions of logic or justification. p. Alvin Goldman's claim that his causal analysis of knowing "flies in the face of a well-established tradition in epistemology. 3'A Causal Theory of Knowing." this JOURNAL. henceforth abbreviated "T. Accelptance and Rational Belief" (Boston: Reidel. Goldman himself points out that he has made no attempt to answer skepticism. then. not causal or genetic questions" 8 is just a mistake. 12 (June 22. "Induction" (henceforth "I"). for to do so would make his justification depend on the sort of facts whose credibility is in question. This only makes more puzzling his feeling that there is some disagreement between his theory of knowledge and those typical of the "well-established tradition." If the theories answer different questions. "Knowledge. Reasons and Causes" this JOURNAL." 5 Thought (Princeton. and this could be represented as an attack on the possibility of knowledge. "Induction. in Marshall Swain. A recent writer who would disagree is Gilbert Harman. Quotation. but even the cognitive psychologist has something to learn from Gettier's problem. remarking that he does not "take this to be one of the jobs of giving truth conditions for 'S knows that p'" (372). This is because radical skepticism denies the possibility of knowledge by denying the possibility of justified belief. 372. 1967): 357372.. 372. 1970): 841-855 (henceforth "KRC"). A philosopher concerned with radical skepticism about the external world will not appeal to causal relations between perceivers and objects. has very little to do with the traditional problem of knowledge. This is because 2 Someone might argue that the conditions that distinguish knowledge from jistified true belief are rarely. if ever. the fact that Gettier's problem lends itself to solution in terms not at all congenial to a radical skeptic reinforces the conclusion that this problem has nothing to do with the traditional problem of knowledge.J. 5. 21 (Nov. satisfied. But this means that. LXVII. 1970). p. the project of "analyzing knowledge.

but that there is such a connection is precisely what is not obvious. Why must discussions of justification get involved with the Gettier counterexamples? "An obvious connection between one's theory of knowledge and one's theory of reasoning. JUSTIFICATION. but uninteresting. Some philosopherseven deny that there are any casesin which inductivereasoningwarrantsbelief in a conclusion. for the whole point of such examples is to show that there can be justified true belief without knowledge.INFERENCE.Reasoning warrantsbelief in its conclusion if that reasoning could give a person knowledge (KRC 851/2). . for the purposes of debate over candidate fourth conditions. To make the claim interesting. philosophershave much less difficultyreaching agreement about whether various example are cases of knowledge . . . . but ineffective. the argument then reduces to the claim that inference is warranted or valid if it could lead to justified belief. that whatever interfering factors block knowledge in Gettier cases are absent. "is that one can take reasoning to be warranted or valid if it could give a person knowledge" (I 83). This argument is simple and direct. ." Harman writes. This would establish a deep connection between one's theory of knowledge and one's theory of reasoning. If there can be justified true belief without knowledge. But this is unconvincing. Therefore we can use our intuitive judgments about knowledge in order to get clearerabout reasoning. a philosopherwho wishes to discoverprinciples of warrantedinductive reasoning . inference does not fail to yield knowledge because it is unwarranted. This connection between one's theory of knowledge and one's theory of inference is obvious. among other things. soon discovers that it is extremely difficult to reach any sort of agreementon cases if one attempts to reach such agreementdirectly.On the other hand. why not study examples of justified belief. In Gettier examples. Harman needs to show that an appreciation of the interfering factors at work in Gettier examples is important for an understanding of warranted inference. ques- . . if one's aim is to understand justification? Harman would reply that . AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 251 [An] attempt to analyzewhat it is for a belief to be based on reasons becomes involved with questions about the goodness of reasons and the Gettier counterexamples(KRC 841). The agreement on "cases of knowledge" in the literature spawned by Gettier's article exists largely because. Harman's claim is uncontroversial only if we read "could give a person knowledge" as "would give a person knowledge provided." However.

not excluding skeptical questions about justification. and especially skeptical questions. If radically skeptical considerations were in order. about warranted inference. This account of the strategy underlying the construction of Gettier examples makes P seem a plausible enough way to account for them. This belief. But. though true and justified. assuming it to be otherwise warranted. will not count as knowledge. If a debate over the Gettier problem is to get started at all. In fact. and consider an inference that fails to meet the requirement set by P. with justification. Such an analysis is suggested by Harman's principle P Reasoning that essentially involves false conclusions. KRC 852). one that makes it clear that the extra conditions included to take care of Gettier examples contribute to our understanding of justification. Obviously. a belief that happens to be true. we should expect about as much agreement on cases of knowledge as there is on cases of warranted belief. That there may be agreement on cases when the analysis of knowledge is in question. it must be made on the basis of a specific analysis of knowledge. however. If there is a case for such a connection. we should have to deny that Gettier examples were examples of justified true belief without knowledge. Such an inference could give one knowledge. The direct argument for there being an obvious connection between one's theory of knowledge and one's theory of reasoning fails. Our question. and this means that the extra . intermediate or final. for P would commit us to tracing the failure to be justified. P does not commit us to anything of the sort. it is essential that the participants be prepared to concede the possibility of justified belief. if all the relevant conclusions were true. are shelved." Recall the claim that reasoning is warranted if it could give one knowledge. discussion of examples of justified true belief without knowledge could not get off the ground. and the answer is "No. when told that the topic is justification. advances Harman's cause not at all. when the subject is justification. philosophers who "deny that there are any cases in which inductive inference warrants belief in a conclusion" will no longer be so ready to agree on cases of knowledge. If the falsity of the conclusions were held to undermine the inference's warrant.252 THEJOURNAL PHILOSOPHY OF tions about justification. cannot give one knowledge(T 47. is whether this principle tells us anything about justification. Gettier examples often seem to depend on a general point about inference: that from justified but false beliefs one may infer. and when problems about justification are set aside.

he argues. Explaining belief by reasons. Harman notes that principle P can account for a failure of a justified true belief to be knowledge only if that belief can be seen to depend on inference.. then.. a psychological matter of fact as to what one's reasons for believing as one does really are. P tells us only that justification is not sufficient and that. for us to have knowledge. is like explaining why a nondeterministic automaton is in one state rather than another. . . But this is just to say that. given its initial position and various available routines. from the point of view of a philosopher interested in justification. JUSTIFICATION.. for believing as they did. in Harman's sense. Many Gettier examplesare not obviouslyaccountedfor by P. P does not pick out a relevant kind of inference at all.INFERENCE. we need all relevant conclusions to be true as well as justified. it had to end up in this state and no other. not even if we add requirements of sincerity and so forth (KRC 842ff. Harman holds that one has reasons for believing as one does if one's belief is based on reasoning. one which involves the claim that the analysis of knowledge provides a meeting ground for epistemology and empirical psychology. One reason this conclusion is important for his project is that people would not always give the kind of justification that his strategy for dealing with Gettier examples demands. One describes how it came to be in this state without implying that. since it is not always evident that there has been any relevant reasoning. would have no reasons. . this is to treat reasoning as a functionally defined pro- cess that is partly specified in terms of its role in giving a person knowledge(T 47). Let us take up another way in which the analysis of knowledge is claimed to shed light on reasoning and justification. T ch 3). This commits him to there being. why it justifies belief. Since . in a very strong sense. if their testimony were the last word on the subject. cannot be identified with reasons one would give to justify one's belief if questions of justification were raised. In some cases-those of so-called "direct" perception perhaps-many people would deny that any reasoning had taken place and so. [I suggest] that we use intuitions about knowledge and the Gettier effectto decide when reasoninghas occurredand what reasoningthere has been. We can account for such cases by means of principle P if we assume that the relevant reasoninghas occurred. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 253 condition imposed by P does not tell us anything about why a given inference is warranted. However. These reasons.

In fact. we don't have them now. This is the second possible use of intuitions about knowledge which I want to consider: that such intuitions can be used to draw the line between inferential and noninferential knowing. This is . there is no reason to suppose that such identities will be forthcoming. 1975). then F(x) is the (abstract)reasoning that x instantiates. pp. at least in certain cases. if Jerry Fodor 6 and others are right to suspect that psychologically interesting functional descriptions will cut across neurological categories. This idea lies at the heart of Harman's epistemological strategy and underlies his 6 The Language of Thought (New York: Crowell. a functional account says how the functioning of [a mental or neurophysiological] processallows it to be correlatedwith the reasoning. .* [The] relevant correlationis a mapping F from the mental or neurophysiologicalstructuresto abstractstructuresof inference. processes which might even be causal under other descriptions.. if "9realreasons" cannot be identified with what he would say to justify himself if pressed. 9-25. takento be an abstractinference.." but.which the processinstantiates. . Thus: . In any case.To ascribe reasoning r to someoneis to presupposethe existence of a reasoninginstantiator F and to claim that his belief resulted from a process x such that F(x) = r (T 48/9). But it is like a causal theory in that it makes the possession of knowledge depend on the occurrence of certain actual processes in the knower. Ordinarytalk about reasons and reasoning is to be explicated by way of the notion of a reasoning instantiator. Harman's theory of knowledge is not exactly a causal theory. what we think best explains his peculiar behavior. . . A question that naturally arises is: On what grounds should we ascribe one kind of reasoning to a person rather than another. If x is a processin the domain of F. .254 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY explanation by reasons is functional and nondeterministic. Harman does have an alternative criterion for the ascription of real reasons..that we use intuitions about knowledge and the Gettier effect to decide when reasoninghas occurredand what reasoning there has been (T 47). . or whatever else is authorized by common sense or psychoanalysis? Perhaps the existence of type-type identities between mental and neurological states would give point to a stronger notion of "real reasons for belief.

radical skepticism attacks the possibility of justification." As I have already argued. and then tries to show that there is no acceptable pattern of inference to supply the requisite justification. although arguments for radical skepticism must assume that the kind of knowledge under attack rests on inference. there is no reason to suppose that we have to use intuitions about when people know things as opposed to merely believing them with justification. 1977). people actually have for the beliefs they hold. so. sect. The Gettier effect offers a way to decide. . ix. The problem with this description of the project is to know what to read into the phrase "intuitive judgments about when people know things. see my Groundless Belief (Oxford: Blackwell. 1956). Let us begin with the supposed epistemological significance of the Gettier effect. Radical skepticism poses certain problems about justifiability and is not just concerned with the reasons. The distinction between inferential and noninferential knowing has always been of fundamental importance in the theory of knowledge. there is no clear way to decide a priori which beliefs should and which should not be counted inferential. For a discussion of this analysis of skepticism. if any. The Problem of Knowledge (London: Pelican Books. Ayer. radically skeptical argument does advance a way of distinguishing inferential 7 See A. It is proposed that we use the possibility of constructing Gettier examples to detect inference. .INFERENCE. claiming that his idea is . There is no real connection between the problems raised by radical skepticism and whatever we might hope to learn about inference by trying to account for Gettier examples. . JUSTIFICATION. and this suggests a linkup with the traditional problem of knowledge. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 255 claim that the "ordinary concept of knowledge" not only "plays an important role in common-sense psychological explanations" but also "ought to be taken more seriously in theoretical psychology" (KRC 841/2). Much of its importance derives from the fact that an important kind of argument for radical skepticism starts from the claim that beliefs of a certain sort can be justified only by inference. Furthermore. However. I do not think this will work. Harman would reply that. J.7 Harman himself sees a connection between his own project and the evaluation of arguments for radical skepticism. to turn skepticismon its head and use intuitive judgments about when people know things to discoverwhen reasoningoccursand what its principlesare (T 112). even if we agree to turn skepticism on its head. ch.

cit. in the final analysis." The idea that justification must conform to such a structure. we might call in question the whole idea of a strict order of epistemological priority and argue that the regress of justification is not vicious. though it is rather different from Harman's. Of course. both of which are thought to be unacceptable. because intended to cast doubt on the possibility of our holding with justification any belief of a given kind. see Williams. the valid principles of inference are those principles in accordance with which the mind works.Things can go wrong: we may fail to consider all the evidence. If our aim is the detection of covert psychological operations. John Pollock. derives in the main from a conviction that to think otherwise would be to commit oneself either to a coherence theory of justification or else to there being a potentially infinite regress of justification. 1974).. but argue that the particular skeptical argument we are concerned with takes too narrow a view of warranted inference or of the data from which inference has to proceed.: University Press.g. must require that. Harman would reply that the connection between the seemingly factual questions addressed by the study of Gettier examples and the normative questions raised by arguments for skepticism runs through his "psychologism. 3.256 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY from noninferential knowledge. beliefs later in the order being "inferential" relative to earlier beliefs. op. "Knowledgeand Justification"(Princeton. Still.8 Now if we decide to turn skepticism on its head. there are a number of positions we might argue for. But it is not obvious that we should be aided in any of these projects by a consideration of "real reasons for belief" in Harman's sense. a simple statement like that is an idealization. or perhaps that the coherence theory can be defended. For a critical evaluation of this argument.. e.. Alternatively.we can be biased. 23-29. Arguments which show that beliefs of a given kind do not meet the conditions for being basic will automatically show those beliefs to be to some degree "inferential. ch. Beliefs to which no beliefs are epistemologically prior are said to be epistemologically basic. This leads to the conception of a strict order of epistemological priority. and that there must therefore be epistemologically basic beliefs. . pp..we commit fallacies. Arguments for radically skeptical conclusions. the test of good inference is not whether it correspondswith rules that have 8 See. We might accept these general views about justification." according to which . N.J. we have simply changed the subject. evidence for beliefs of the kind in question must be sought at the level of "epistemologically prior" beliefs.

although this is just the connection Harman needs. On closer examination. the social evolution of objective knowledge. a theory of inference is just like an ethical theory or a normative social theory. what seems right to us now has not always seemed right. we must study it as it is practiced. in ef- . even when suitably psychologized. and inferences available in the public domain. and this is a fact an empirically grounded theory should take note of. Harman's psychologism does not exclude his approach to epistemology. (When we know what someone thinks and how he would justify himself. and main argument for. This backs up the claim that the problem with traditional debates in epistemology is that the participants have to make assumptions about inference which they cannot justify." It suggests a connection between the rejection of the a priori approach to questions about inference and a functional account of reasoning. in Harman's strong sense. The only sense in which any such theories are connected with "the way the mind works" is that they must have some relation to the particular judgments we are inclined to make. is the empirical field of study with which a non-a priori theory of inference should be most concerned. Be that as it may. The test can only be whether the inference seems right to someone who does his best to exclude things that can lead him astray(T 18/9). rather than examples of justified belief. JUSTIFICATION. we sometimes say we know how his mind works. it is clear that it is not really made.) But it is quite compatible with the idea behind Harman's brand of psychologism that the history of science.INFERENCE. Debate in such areas typically involves the interplay of proposed general principles with judgments about particular cases. To adopt the kind of "psychologism" under discussion is. justifications. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 257 been discovereda priori. "psychologism" is that the project of formulating general principles presupposes our having some pretheoretical dispositions to identify examples of sound practice. But.) In this respect. we have been given no reason to think that epistemology. If we want to understand inference. we see that Harman's explication of. (This brings us back to the point that we have been given no reason to suppose that these have to be examples of knowledge. The key phrase here is "those principles in accordance with which the mind works. but it does not require it either. should have a special concern with events in the individual subject's head rather than with debates. It does not even make it more plausible. After all. To be sure.

because he wants to use the occurrence of inference to account for Gettier examples by means of principle P. are not in fact believed and are therefore less plausible than common sense (T 16). man . particularly by someone who holds it to be a psychological matter of fact what the real reasons are for a person's believing as he does. one would expect a person's inferences to be conditioned by what he believes. I want now to take up the claim that intuitions about Gettier examples can be used to determine not just when reasoning has occurred but also what that reasoning has been. but this is to run in a very small circle. Harman wants Gettier examples to determine what inference has occurred. but a mirrorintervenesbetween that candle and the man in question. This is illustrated by Harman's response to radical skepticism. . which is that the alternative hypotheses advanced by skeptics to undermine common-sense beliefs. He is justifiedin believing that there is a . wants. A willingness to take seriously all kinds of pre-theoretical judgments about what seems right amounts to a refusal to ask questions about justification in the wholesale way which is typical of debates over radical skepticism and which. This strategy encourages us not so much to learn from the problems posed by skepticism as to turn our backs on them. still less that they can be replaced or overridden by a test based on our intuitions about Gettier examples. and this means that one's judgments about how he is likely to have reasoned in a given situation should be influenced by what one knows of his beliefs and desires. though it is not necessarily wrong in this. between this matter of fact and the proposed test for it. In general.. acquiresa belief that there is a candle about twelve feet in front of him. It is very hard to see how this proposal could be backed up. logical or empirical. pragmatic attitude to questions about justification. .. But to show that such common-sense tests are not infallible is not to show that they have no evidential weight. It is difficult to see any connection. for example.258 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY fect. simply to take a relaxed. and so on. Indeed there is. assuming he is sincere. Consider an example he discusses: a . that our experience of the external world is all a dream. etc. is necessary if there is to be a specifically philosophical problem of knowledge. I would argue. knowledge which is certainly not a function of anyone's views about the Gettier effect.What he sees is a reflectionof a Similar candle off to one side. It is true that Harman has arguments to back up his claim that a person's real reasons cannot be identified with the reasons he would give if asked.

This would not surprise a philosopher like Goldman. What this shows. he has to ensure that the reasoning ascribed concerns the perceiver's causal relation to the object. But what grounds do we have for selecting this reasoning instantiator rather than another. but to make this convincing he needs an independent way of determining a person's real reasons. for determining that this is what the man ''really thought"? There are other plausible inferences we might suppose him to have made. whenever there looks to be a candle in front of me. justification for S's belief that there is a candle in front of him is that he can see that there is. Since. he might have thought. JUSTIFICATION. and although in another context Harman allows inferences like this to be warranted (T 132). What he wants to say is that no one reasons this way. he would not want to say that one who reasoned this way would come to know that there is a candle in front of him. The alternative reasoning sketched above seems to satisfy principle P. also falls foul of principle P. for it is in connection with cases like the one under discussion that a causal analysis of knowledge can most easily be made to seem plausible. there usually is one. For example. I think. This Gettier example is accounted for if the reasoning instantiator ascribes to the man in question reasoning that infers that things look the way they do (or that the stimulation of his eye is as it is) because there is a candle twelve feet in front of him (T 50)." A natural. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGE 259 candle about twelve feet in front of him. At the same time. it is warranted to conclude that a given X is associated with a Y.e. I have no reason to suspect any unusual circumstances. "I'm a generally reliable observer. is that principle P is more plausibly applied to such cases if detached from the notion of "real reasons. and that belief is true. It depends on the principle that. i. Since Harman wants to account for such cases by ascribing reasoning to the person in question. but would not be allowed to yield knowledge. S fails to know that there is a candle in front of him because he does not stand in the right causal relation to the candle he thinks he sees. if questions . since it is false. if Xs are usually associated with Ys and if there is no reason to suspect any interfering factors. This kind of justification brings in the relevant causal considerations and. so there is a candle in front of me.INFERENCE. But he does not come to know that the candle is there. perhaps the natural. it would be implausible to claim that an inference of this kind is not warranted.." Although this inference involves no false lemmas essentially. it looks as if there is a candle in front of me now.

within limits. S will not come to know that there is a candle in front of him.260 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY about justification were pressed. about such matters are unlikely to affect his reliability as an observer. But now trouble threatens from another direction. So he infers: things look the way they do because I am bombarding a candle in front of me with visual fire. Suppose that S holds false views about perception. but I doubt Harman would say that S knew there was a candle there. or lack of them. Suppose that the two candles are on a kind of seesaw so that. We allow a person to back up a claim by saying he could see that it was true without requiring that he know all about mechanisms of visual perception. What is arguably inessential is the degree of theoretical detail it incorporates. a person's views. But he would not come to know in a non-Gettier case either. some claim like this would have to come up eventually. Then it is true that things look the way they do to S because there is a candle in front of him. One reason for this is that. we can let principle P take care of the example. We can reinforce this conclusion. if it is to prevent that inference from leading to knowledge. the second candle would fall over and no longer be visible. if we insist on accounting for the case in terms of whatever inference S actually made. But if "essential involvement" means what it seems to meanthat the inference would not be warranted if the conclusion were deleted-then the conclusion concerning visual fire is essential to the inference imagined above. Perhaps he has been reading some Greek scientists and become convinced that we see objects by bombarding them with visual fire. We do not usually want false theoretical views to undermine more prosaic claims to knowledge. he must infer a definite kind of causal involvement. if the candle behind the mirror were removed. Principle P is not violated. The natural response to this is to point out that principle P stipulates that a false conclusion must be involved essentially in an inference. This reinforces a point made earlier: it is not enough that S infer just any explanatory connection between the presence of the candle and the way things appear. provided of course that we are prepared to take a more liberal view of reasons for belief and allow the relevant reasons to include those which would come up if questions of justification were pursued. But it is fatal to Harman's project to concede that the degree of causal detail incorporated in S's . By principle P. observing that to require the subject S to infer that things look the way they do because there really is a candle in front of him is to understate what the "reasoning instantiator" must be supposed to ascribe to S.

in terms of whatever inferences may have led S to his belief at the time. But to follow this up is to move toward accounting for Gettier examples in terms of the demands of a full justification and not. Mr. It might be that. another of her friends. He argues that such rules cannot give a correct account of inference because they do not permit an explanation of Gettier examples by means of principle P..INFERENCE. concludes that one of her friends owns a Ford. on the basis of this belief. as Harman's linking of epistemology with empirical psychology requires. If the study of Gettier examples lends plausibility to an alternative view of justification. Because of this. whereas providing a reasoning instantiator. Nogot's Ford has been repossessed. This is a coherence theory of justification. they have been led to countenance epistemologically basic beliefs and to face the problem of radical skepticism. The problem for Harman is that accounting for perceptual Gettier cases requires bringing in the causal link somewhere. Harman sees the idea that inference involves the use of rules of acceptance as the main alternative to his own account of inductive reasoning.9 For example. on the grounds that an inference that went into less detail would have done as well. causal considerations would have to come eventually. There is also the problem of showing how a theory of inference based on rules of acceptance can avoid the lottery paradox. A purely probabilistic rule of acceptance authorizes believing a proposition to be true only if the probability that it is true exceeds some predetermined value. does own a Ford. AND THE ANALYSIS OF KNOWLEDGEI 261 actual inference was inessential. let me consider briefly Harman's claim that we can use Gettier's problem to learn something about inductive inference. if questions of justification were pressed. as we have already seen. the kind of theory many philosophers have thought faces intolerable difficulties. Finally. unknown to Mary. though she does not realize this and has never been given the slightest reason to think that 9 This is not his only argument. . there are justifying inferences that omit all the causal details.. We attempt to make the least change in our antecedent view that will maximize explanatorycoherence(T 159). . like providing a attempt to increase the explanatory coherence of our view. making it more complete. Harman himself characterizes induction as . However. Mary believes with good reason that her friend Mr Nogot owns a Ford and. less ad hoc. On the other hand. For. But my concern here is only with considerations connected with Gettier's problem. JUSTIFICATION. .. Havit. does not. more plausible. there will be an important link between that project and the traditional problem of knowledge.

None of this is meant to defend probabilistic rules of acceptance.262 THE JOURNAL OF PHILOSOPHY this is so. . But this does not follow... it is not enough that this conclusion merely be as probable on the evidence as the conclusion that Nogot owns a Ford: if she is to apply the rule. Mary need not first infer an intermediateconclusion and then deduce her final conclusion. or perhaps ought to. only to argue that such rules are not invalidated by considerations arising out of the need to account for Gettier examples. Harman concludes Mary has a justified true belief that one of her friends owns a Ford but she does not know that one of her friends owns a Ford. If a purely probabilistic rule of acceptance would permit Mary to infer from that evidence that her friend Nogot owns a Ford. since the latter conclusion is at least as probable on the evidence as the former. If Mary is to be justified in concluding that one of her friends owns a Ford. Given the nature of the evidence. Nogot owns a Ford. I suppose we might imagine Mary to possess some intuitive faculty that enables her to see immediately the probability the evidence confers on the conclusion that one of her friends owns a Ford without going through the intermediate conclusion. She does not know this because principle P has been violated. Mary'sreasoning essentially involves the false conclusion that Mr. Given a purely probabilistic rule of acceptance.The intermediateconclusionwould not be essential to her inference. the relevance of the conclusion about Nogot to that question could hardly be denied. bring up if the question of justifying her belief were raised. it would also permit her to infer directly that one of her friends owns a Ford. But even this would bring probabilistic rules of acceptance into conflict with principle P only on the assumption that reasons for belief are to be explained exclusively in terms of psychologically real processes of inference leading to belief. though it is hard to imagine this. Mary must know what the probability on the evidence of the former conclusion is. and her failure to know that one of her friends ownsa Fordcould not be explained by appeal to principleP (T 121/2). If we liberalize the notion of reasons for belief to include what Mary would.since by means of such a rule she could directly infer her final conclusion.. given the kind of evidence in question-Nogot's certificate of title and so on. the only way for her to show that the conclusion that one of her friends owns a Ford is sufficiently probable on the evidence is by showing that the conclusion that Nogot owns a Ford is sufficiently probable and then deducing the former from the latter.

16. rather than in terms of whatever unconscious reasoning might have led him to his belief. As such. its relevance to any typically epistemological problems is obscure. if this is a matter of detecting unconscious psychological processes. And as far as the Gettier problem itself goes. We have been given no reason to think that our understanding of that notion turns on our discovering what conditions we should need to add to the justified-truebelief analysis of knowledge to cope with the Gettier counterexamples. we in effect bet that there is no competitor it does not override. 1976): 527-531. and Zabludowski's "Quod Periit. Harman tries to establish a connection by arguing that the principles of inference that warrant belief are those in accordance with which the mind works. Fiction." ibid. I argued that principle P does not preclude a theory of inductive inference based on rules of acceptance. Periit. 0022-362X/78/7505/0263$00. As for the proposed use of Gettier examples to determine when beliefs are based on inference. Furthermore. this "psychologism" reduces to the claim that the study of inference requires some pre-theoretical ideas about when beliefs call for justification and about what kinds of justification are acceptable. Finally.THE SHORT OF IT 263 To sum up: the central problems of epistemology are concerned with the notion of justification. Thus whenever we I Third edition (Indianapolis: Hackett."this JOURNAL. 1973). When we judge a hypothesis projectible. it offers no support for the idea that unconscious psychological processes have some special significance for the epistemological study of justification. 9 (September 1977): 541-552. Inc. MICHAEL WILLIAMS Yale University THE SHORT OF IT A few final words on Zabludowski's arguments against Fact. 9 (Sept. We here omit discussion of the supererogatoryprinciple of wanton embedding.50 C 1978 The Journal of Philosophy. See further our "Projectibility Unscathed. and Forecast: 1 1. LXXIV. That anything important turns on coming up with a solution to Gettier's problem remains to be shown. we saw that Harman's attempt to account for the counterexamples by means of principle P is more plausible if the notion of "reasons for belief" is explained in terms of what a person would (or perhaps ought to) say if questions of justification were pressed. LXXIII. the test is of dubious validity. on closer examination. . However..

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