BonJour, Ernest Sosa - Epistemic Justification~ Internal Ism vs. External Ism, Foundations vs. Virtues - Wiley

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Epistemic Justication

Great Debates in PhilosophySeries Editor: Ernest Sosa Dialogue has always been a powerful means of philosophical exploration and exposition. By presenting important current issues in philosophy in the form of a debate, this series attempts to capture the avour of philosophical argument and to convey the excitement generated by the exchange of ideas. Each author contributes a major, original essay. When these essays have been completed, the authors are each given the opportunity to respond to the opposing view. Personal Identity Sydney Shoemaker and Richard Swinburne Consciousness and Causality D. M. Armstrong and Norman Malcolm Critical Theory David Couzens Hoy and Thomas McCarthy Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson Atheism and Theism, Second Edition J. J. C. Smart and J. J. Haldane Three Methods of Ethics Marcia W. Baron, Philip Pettit, and Michael Slote Epistemic Justication Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa

Epistemic JusticationInternalism vs. Externalism, Foundations vs. Virtues Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa

2003 by Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148-5018, USA 108 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JF, UK 550 Swanston Street, Carlton South, Melbourne, Victoria 3053, Australia Kurfrstendamm 57, 10707 Berlin, Germany The right of Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa to be identied as the Authors of this Work has been asserted in accordance with the UK Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, except as permitted by the UK Copyright, Designs, and Patents Act 1988, without the prior permission of the publisher. First published 2003 by Blackwell Publishing Ltd Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data BonJour, Laurence, 1943 Epistemic justication: internalism vs. externalism, foundations vs. virtues / Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa. p. cm. (Great debates in philosophy) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-631-18283-7 (alk. paper) ISBN 0-631-18284-5 (pbk.: alk. paper) 1. Justication (Theory of knowledge) I. Sosa, Ernest. II. Title. III. Series. BD212 .B66 2003 121.2 dc21 2002015309 A catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library. Set in 10 on 12.5 pt Melior by SNP Best-set Typesetter Ltd, Hong Kong Printed and bound in the United Kingdom by MPG Books Ltd, Bodmin, Cornwall For further information on Blackwell Publishing, visit our website:


Acknowledgments Introduction I 1 2 3 4 5 A Version of Internalist Foundationalism Laurence BonJour The Regress Problem and Foundationalism Externalist Accounts of Justication In Search of Coherentism Back to Foundationalism The Conceptualization of Sensory Experience and the Problem of the External World Beyond Internal Foundations to External Virtues Ernest Sosa Knowledge and Justication Does Knowledge Have Foundations? Skepticism and the Internal/External Divide A Virtue Epistemology

vii 1 3 5 24 42 60 77 97 99 119 141 156 171 173 201 229 233

II 6 7 8 9

III Replies 10 11 Reply to Sosa Reply to BonJour

Bibliography Index


Laurence BonJour My main essay is a development and piecing together of a number of earlier papers and presentations. I am grateful to many different audiences and critics, including many students, for suggestions and criticisms. I am also especially grateful to Ann Baker for reading and commenting extensively on both the main essay and my reply. Ernest Sosa In my main essay I have tried to make a coherent whole cut of a diversity of materials found until now only in widely scattered publications. It has been helpful and rewarding to discuss these matters, over many years, with colleagues and students. Special thanks go to John Greco, Peter Klein, David Sosa, and Jim Van Cleve.

IntroductionLaurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa

Epistemology is the theory of episteme, of knowledge. Ever since Plato it has been thought that one knows only if ones belief hits the mark of truth and does so with adequate justication. The issues debated by Laurence BonJour and Ernest Sosa concern mostly the nature and conditions of such epistemic justication, and its place in our understanding of human knowledge. BonJour defends a traditional, internalist epistemology, according to which epistemic justication derives from the subjects (1) taking what is given to his conscious awareness, and (2) accepting claims or steps of reasoning on an a priori basis. Rejecting the emphasis of epistemology on the concept of knowledge, he is mainly interested in the question of whether we have or could have good reasons to believe in an external world of the sort that we normally take ourselves to inhabit, and in the question of what could possibly constitute such reasons. His answer to the latter question is internalist and foundationalist, in that it takes the justication for claims about the external world to begin from apperceptions of present states of consciousness (mainly sensory consciousness) and to proceed from there on the basis of (allegedly) a priori reasoning, specically an argument that the truth of our beliefs about the external world constitutes the best explanation of our sensory experience. BonJour also rejects recent proposals according to which justication can derive from contingent factors external to the consciousness of the believer: factors involving how that belief is caused, or how well it tracks the facts, or how reliably it is formed. While he grants some lesser epistemic status to beliefs that do satisfy such external requirements of causation, tracking, or reliability, he insists that the more important issues for epistemology, and certainly the more prominent and important issues in the tradition, are the questions that he wishes



to address, concerning the internally accessible reasons that one might have for ones beliefs about the world around us. Sosa had in earlier work (as BonJour points out) drawn a similar distinction, between animal knowledge and reective knowledge, so on the issue of whether there are two importantly different kinds or levels of epistemic assessment they are in agreement. But there is still a relevant difference in focus and emphasis. Sosa is interested in understanding the conditions of animal knowledge, and not only those of reective knowledge. His cognitive virtues account of animal knowledge is reliabilist. About such knowledge his views are thus in line with contemporary externalism. In distinguishing between animal and reective knowledge, however, and in requiring reliability for animal knowledge his views agree surprisingly with Descartess. Recall the passage early in Meditation Three where the cogito is said to derive its high epistemic standing from its clarity and distinctness, which, we are told, it could not possibly do if clarity and distinctness were to the slightest degree unreliable (and could ever lead us to a false belief). Sosa likewise takes reliability to be necessary in a source of justication, but of course not sufcient. Sosa rejects the sort of internalist foundationalism favored by BonJour, while agreeing to put aside issues of knowledge and its conditions, in order to focus on epistemic, rational, justication. He agrees that a beliefs having a reliable source is not enough to render it justied. The source must be a cognitive virtue seated in the subject. This already yields a kind of internalism. Moreover, the source must operate fundamentally through the promptings of experience, through either introspective or perceptual belief formation. Reective justication goes beyond such unreective rational justication in requiring a coherent epistemic perspective that underwrites the belief thus justied. What the externalist virtue theorist will add, in sharp disagreement with any kind of internalism, including BonJours, is that there is no way to delineate what a cognitive virtue is in general, if we prescind from all contingent relations that such belief formation might bear to our external environment. In understanding rationality, having a reason, being reasonable, and the like, as these notions apply to empirical beliefs, we must make proper allowance for such external factors.

I A Version of Internalist FoundationalismLaurence BonJour

1 The Regress Problem and Foundationalism

1.1 IntroductionThe aim of this essay is to investigate one main aspect of what I take to be the central question of epistemology. That question concerns the rational status of our beliefs about the world in relation to the independent world that they purport to describe: Do we have any good reasons for thinking that our beliefs about the world, at least the main ones that we hold most rmly, are true or at least approximately true any rational basis for thinking that they succeed in describing the world more or less correctly? And if so, what form do these reasons take? It is fairly standard to describe a belief for which such truthconducive reasons exist as being epistemically justied; and I will adopt this usage here (often omitting the qualier epistemic for the sake of brevity), though with the warning that the term epistemic justication has also been employed in somewhat different ways that we will eventually have to take note of. Here and throughout, I will assume the correctness of the realist conception of truth as correspondence or agreement with the appropriate region or chunk of mind-independent reality.1 Thus the issue to be discussed is what reasons we have for thinking that our beliefs stand in such a relation to the world. For present purposes, I will conne my attention a