Reliabilism

Reliabilism, a category of theories in the philosophical discipline of epistemology, has been advanced as a theory both of justification and of knowledge. Process reliabilism has been used as an argument against philosophical skepticism, such as the brain in a vat thought experiment.[1] Process reliabilism is a form of epistemic externalism.[1]

Overview

A broadly reliabilist theory of knowledge is roughly as follows:

One knows that p (p stands for any proposition—e.g., that the sky is blue) if and only if p is true, one believes that p is true, and one has arrived at the belief that p through some reliable process.

A broadly reliabilist theory of justified belief can be stated as follows:

One has a justified belief that p if, and only if, the belief is the result of a reliable process.

Moreover, a similar account can be given (and an elaborate version of this has been given by Alvin Plantinga) for such notions as 'warranted belief' or 'epistemically rational belief'.

Leading proponents of reliabilist theories of knowledge and justification have included Alvin Goldman, Marshall Swain, Kent Bach and more recently, Alvin Plantinga. Goldman's article "A Causal Theory of Knowing" (Journal of Philosophy, 64 (1967), pp. 357–372) is generally credited as being the first full treatment of the theory, though D. M. Armstrong is also regarded as an important source, and (according to Hugh Mellor) Frank Ramsey was the very first to state the theory, albeit in passing.

One classical or traditional analysis of 'knowledge' is justified true belief. In order to have a valid claim of knowledge for any proposition, one must be justified in believing "p" and "p" must be true. Since Gettier[2] proposed his counterexamples the traditional analysis has included the further claim that knowledge must be more than justified true belief. Reliabilist theories of knowledge are sometimes presented as an alternative to that theory: rather than justification, all that is required is that the belief be the product of a reliable process. But reliabilism need not be regarded as an alternative, but instead as a further explication of the traditional analysis. On this view, those who offer reliabilist theories of justification further analyze the 'justification' part of the traditional analysis of 'knowledge' in terms of reliable processes. Not all reliabilists agree with such accounts of justification, but some do.

Objections

Some find reliabilism of justification objectionable because it entails externalism, which is the view that one can have knowledge, or have a justified belief, despite not knowing (having "access" to) the evidence, or other circumstances, that make the belief justified. Most reliabilists maintain that a belief can be justified, or can constitute knowledge, even if the believer does not know about or understand the process that makes the belief reliable. In defending this view, reliabilists (and externalists generally) are apt to point to examples from simple acts of perception: if one sees a bird in the tree outside one's window and thereby gains the belief that there is a bird in that tree, one might not at all understand the cognitive processes that account for one's successful act of perception; nevertheless, it is the fact that the processes worked reliably that accounts for why one's belief is justified. In short, one finds one holds a belief about the bird, and that belief is justified if any is, but one is not acquainted at all with the processes that led to the belief that justified one's having it.

Another of the most common objections to reliabilism, made first to Goldman's reliable process theory of knowledge and later to other reliabilist theories, is the so-called generality problem.[3] For any given justified belief (or instance of knowledge), one can easily identify many different (concurrently operating) "processes" from which the belief results. My belief that there is a bird in the tree outside my window might be accorded a result of the process of forming beliefs on the basis of sense-perception, of visual sense-perception, of visual sense-perception through non-opaque surfaces in daylight, and so forth, down to a variety of different very specifically described processes. Some of these processes might be statistically reliable, while others might not. It would no doubt be better to say, in any case, that we are choosing not which process to say resulted in the belief, but instead how to describe the process, out of the many different levels of generality on which it can be accurately described.

An objection in a similar line was formulated by Stephen Stich in The Fragmentation of Reason. Reliabilism usually considers that for generating justified beliefs a process needs to be reliable in a set of relevant possible scenarios. However, according to Stich, these scenarios are chosen in a culturally biased manner. Stich does not defend any alternative theory of knowledge or justification, but instead argues that all accounts of normative epistemic terms are culturally biased and instead only a pragmatic account can be given.

Another objection to reliabilism is called the new evil demon problem.[4] The evil demon problem originally motivated skepticism, but can be resuited to object to reliabilist accounts as follows: If our experiences are controlled by an evil demon, it may be the case that we believe ourselves to be doing things that we are not doing. However, these beliefs are clearly justified. Robert Brandom has called for a clarification of the role of belief in reliabilist theories. Brandom is concerned that unless the role of belief is stressed, reliabilism may attribute knowledge to things that would otherwise be considered incapable of possessing it. Brandom gives the example of a parrot that has been trained to consistently respond to red visual stimuli by saying 'that's red'. The proposition is true, the mechanism that produced it is reliable, but Brandom is reluctant to say that the parrot knows it is seeing red because he thinks it cannot believe that it is. For Brandom, beliefs pertain to concepts: without the latter there can be no former. Concepts are products of the 'game of giving and asking for reasons'. Hence, only those entities capable of reasoning, through language in a social context, can for Brandom believe and thus have knowledge. Brandom may be regarded as hybridising externalism and internalism, allowing knowledge to be accounted for by reliable external process so long as a knower possess some internal understanding of why the belief is reliable.

References

  1. ^ a b DeRose, Keith (1999). "Responding to Skepticism". Archived from the original on 14 November 2000.
  2. ^ Gettier, Edmund L. (1963). "Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?". Analysis. 23 (6): 121–123. doi:10.1093/analys/23.6.121. JSTOR 3326922.
  3. ^ Conee, E.; Feldman, R. (1998). "The Generality Problem for Reliabilism". Philosophical Studies. 89 (1): 1–29. doi:10.1023/A:1004243308503. JSTOR 4320806.
  4. ^ Comesaña, Juan (2002). "The Diagonal and the Demon" (PDF). Philosophical Studies. 110 (3): 249–266. doi:10.1023/a:1020656411534. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-14.

External links

Alvin Goldman

Alvin Ira Goldman (born 1938) is an American philosopher who is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Rutgers University in New Jersey and a leading figure in epistemology.

Descriptive knowledge

Descriptive knowledge, also declarative knowledge, propositional knowledge, or constative knowledge, is the type of knowledge that is, by its very nature, expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions. This distinguishes descriptive knowledge from what is commonly known as "knowing-how", or procedural knowledge (the knowledge of how, and especially how best, to perform some task), and "knowing of", or knowledge by acquaintance (the non-propositional knowledge of something through direct awareness of it). Descriptive knowledge is also identified as "knowing-that" or knowledge of fact, embodying concepts, principles, ideas, schemas, and theories. The entire descriptive knowledge of an individual constitute his understanding of the world and more specifically how it or a part of it works.The distinction between knowing-how and knowing-that was introduced in epistemology by Gilbert Ryle. For Ryle, the former differs in its emphasis and purpose since it is primarily practical knowledge whereas the latter focuses on indicative or explanatory knowledge.

Epistemological idealism

Epistemological idealism is a subjectivist position in epistemology that holds that what one knows about an object exists only in one's mind. It is opposed to epistemological realism.

Epistemology

Epistemology ( (listen); from Greek ἐπιστήμη, epistēmē, meaning 'knowledge', and -logy) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the theory of knowledge.

Epistemology is the study of the nature of knowledge, justification, and the rationality of belief. Much debate in epistemology centers on four areas: (1) the philosophical analysis of the nature of knowledge and how it relates to such concepts as truth, belief, and justification, (2) various problems of skepticism, (3) the sources and scope of knowledge and justified belief, and (4) the criteria for knowledge and justification. Epistemology addresses such questions as: "What makes justified beliefs justified?", "What does it mean to say that we know something?", and fundamentally "How do we know that we know?"

Evidentialism

Evidentialism is a thesis in epistemology which states that one is justified to believe something if and only if that person has evidence which supports his or her belief. Evidentialism is therefore a thesis about which beliefs are justified and which are not.

For philosophers Richard Feldman and Earl Conee, evidentialism is the strongest argument for justification because it identifies the primary notion of epistemic justification. They argue that if a person's attitude towards a proposition fits their evidence, then their doxastic attitude for that proposition is epistemically justified. Feldman and Conee offer the following argument for evidentialism as an epistemic justification:

(EJ) Doxastic attitude D toward proposition p is epistemically justified for S at t if and only if having D toward p fits the evidence.

For Feldman and Conee a person's doxastic attitude is justified if it fits their evidence. EJ is meant to show the idea that justification is characteristically epistemic. This idea makes justification dependent on evidence.

Feldman and Conee believe that because objections to EJ have become so prominent their defense for it is appropriate. The theses that object EJ are implying that epistemic justification is dependent upon the "cognitive capacities of an individual or upon the cognitive processes or information-gatherings practices that lead to an attitude." For Feldman and Conee, EJ is in contrast to these theses; EJ contends that the epistemic justification for an attitude is only dependent upon evidence.

Hierarchical epistemology

Hierarchical epistemology is a theory of knowledge which posits that beings have different access to reality depending on their ontological rank.

Information source

An information source is a person, thing, or place from which information comes, arises, or is obtained. Information souces can be known as primary or secondary. To Group A from Legal Foundations at OU, if you don’t believe me that Wikipedia is not a reliable source, this wasn’t on the page before 7/20/2019. That source might then inform a person about something or provide knowledge about it. Information sources are divided into separate distinct categories, primary, secondary, tertiary, and so on.

Internalism and externalism

Internalism and externalism are two opposing ways of explaining various subjects in several areas of philosophy. These include human motivation, knowledge, justification, meaning, and truth. The distinction arises in many areas of debate with similar but distinct meanings.

Internalism is the thesis that no fact about the world can provide reasons for action independently of desires and beliefs. Externalism is the thesis that reasons are to be identified with objective features of the world.

Kent Bach

Kent Bach (born 1943) is an American philosopher and Professor of Philosophy at San Francisco State University. His primary areas of research include the philosophy of language, linguistics and epistemology. He is the author of three books: Exit-existentialism: A philosophy of self-awareness, Linguistic Communication and Speech Acts, and Thought and Reference published by Wadsworth, the MIT Press, and Oxford University Press, respectively.

List of epistemologists

This is a list of epistemologists, that is, people who theorize about the nature of knowledge, belief formation and the nature of justification.

Michael Levin

Michael Levin (; born 21 May 1943) is an American philosopher and writer. He is a professor of philosophy at City University of New York. He has published on metaphysics, epistemology, race, homosexuality, animal rights, the philosophy of archaeology, the philosophy of logic, philosophy of language, and the philosophy of science.

Levin's central research interests are in epistemology (reliabilism and Gettier problems) and in philosophy of race.

Naturalized epistemology

Naturalized epistemology, coined by W. V. O. Quine, is a collection of philosophic views concerned with the theory of knowledge that emphasize the role of natural scientific methods. This shared emphasis on scientific methods of studying knowledge shifts focus to the empirical processes of knowledge acquisition and away from many traditional philosophical questions. There are noteworthy distinctions within naturalized epistemology. Replacement naturalism maintains that traditional epistemology should be abandoned and replaced with the methodologies of the natural sciences. The general thesis of cooperative naturalism is that traditional epistemology can benefit in its inquiry by using the knowledge we have gained from the cognitive sciences. Substantive naturalism focuses on an asserted equality of facts of knowledge and natural facts.

Objections to naturalized epistemology have targeted features of the general project as well as characteristics of specific versions. Some objectors suggest that natural scientific knowledge cannot be circularly grounded by the knowledge obtained through cognitive science, which is itself a natural science. This objection from circularity has been aimed specifically at strict replacement naturalism. There are similar challenges to substance naturalism that maintain that the substance naturalists' thesis that all facts of knowledge are natural facts is not only circular but fails to accommodate certain facts. Several other objectors have found fault in the inability of naturalized methods to adequately address questions about what value forms of potential knowledge have or lack. Naturalized epistemology is generally opposed to the antipsychologism of Immanuel Kant, Gottlob Frege, Karl Popper, Edmund Husserl and others.

Neuroepistemology

Neuroepistemology is an empirical approach to epistemology—the study of knowledge in a general, philosophical sense—which is informed by modern neuroscience, especially the study of the structure and operation of the brain involving neural networks and neuronal epistemology. Philosopher Patricia Churchland has written about the topic and, in her book Brain-Wise, characterised the problem as "how meat knows". Georg Northoff, in his Philosophy of the Brain, wrote that it "focuses on direct linkage between the brain on one hand and epistemic abilities and inabilities on the other."

Problem of other minds

The problem of other minds is a philosophical problem traditionally stated as the following epistemological challenge raised by the skeptic: Given that I can only observe the behavior of others, how can I know that others have minds? It is a central issue of the philosophical idea known as solipsism: the notion that for any person only one's own mind is known to exist. Solipsism maintains that no matter how sophisticated someone's behavior is, behavior on its own does not guarantee the presence of mentality.

Speculative reason

Speculative reason, sometimes called theoretical reason or pure reason, is theoretical (or logical, deductive) thought, as opposed to practical (active, willing) thought. The distinction between the two goes at least as far back as the ancient Greek philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, who distinguished between theory (theoria, or a wide, bird's eye view of a topic, or clear vision of its structure) and practice (praxis), as well as techne.

Speculative reason is contemplative, detached, and certain, whereas practical reason is engaged, involved, active, and dependent upon the specifics of the situation. Speculative reason provides the universal, necessary principles of logic, such as the principle of non-contradiction, which must apply everywhere, regardless of the specifics of the situation.

On the other hand, practical reason is the power of the mind engaged in deciding what to do. It is also referred to as moral reason, because it involves action, decision, and particulars. Though many other thinkers have erected systems based on the distinction, two important later thinkers who have done so are Aquinas (who follows Aristotle in many respects) and Immanuel Kant.

Systemics

In the context of systems science and systems philosophy, systemics is an initiative to study systems. It is an attempt at developing logical, mathematical, engineering and philosophical paradigms and frameworks in which physical, technological, biological, social, cognitive and metaphysical systems can be studied and modeled.The term "systemics" was coined in the 1970s by Mario Bunge and others, as an alternative paradigm for research related to general systems theory and systems science.

Virtue epistemology

Virtue epistemology is a contemporary philosophical approach to epistemology that stresses the importance of intellectual, and specifically epistemic virtues. A distinguishing factor of virtue theories is that they use for the evaluation of knowledge the properties of the persons who hold beliefs in addition to or instead of the properties of propositions and beliefs. Some advocates of virtue epistemology claim to more closely follow theories of virtue ethics, while others see only a looser analogy between virtue in ethics and virtue in epistemology.

Intellectual virtue has been a subject of philosophy since the work of Aristotle, but virtue epistemology is a development in the contemporary analytic tradition. It is characterized by efforts to solve problems of special concern to modern epistemology, such as justification and reliabilism, by directing attention on the knower as agent in a manner similar to the way virtue ethics focuses on moral agents rather than moral acts.

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