Epistemology: Internalism and Externalism

Epistemology: Internalism and Externalism

Purpose of the book: to highlight the key scholarly articles concerning externalism and Internalism from 1980 to 2001.

What we should gather from the book: Externalism seems better than Internalism but both have deep issues that suggest we need to look at epistemology differently

Key Definitions

Knowledge: justified true belief

Internalism:  Beliefs are justified by internal factors to a person’s thought. Ex) I’m justified to believe Trump is the president (as outlandish at that might seem) because I have reliable sense experience, trusted authorities, and basic beliefs that inform me concerning the American government and the news. Internalism tends to focus on how to maintain intellectual integrity. Internalism tends to focus on a person’s perspective and access to information.

               Perspective: An agent’s perspective tends speak to how justified they are in their belief.

               Access: to be justified, an agent must have access to their belief structure. The amount of access varies, this is one of the main areas of criticism.

Externalism: Beliefs are justified because they correspond to external reality. Ex) I’m justified to believe Trump is the president because it’s true. Externalism tends to focus on knowledge having objective purchase on truth.

               Access: The agent does not need to have access to the reasons for their belief in order for the belief to be justified.

Flow of the Essays

  1. Bonjour comes out swinging against externalism, finding it laughable
  2. Goldman proposes that Internalism is so problematic that the only way out is externalism
  3. Alston demonstrates that Internalism fails for perspective and access,  and higher level Internalism fails
  4. Kornblith suggests we can be skeptical that our beliefs concerning our beliefs are true
  5. Stroud argues that we need to abandon the search to explain all human knowledge because externalism and internalism both have issues
  6. Sosa responds to how we might know that our beliefs are reliable, and suggests intellectual virtues.
  7. Foley suggests that our goal should be giving helpful advice from individual internal perspectives
  8. Schmitt argues that iterativist and perspectivist Internalism both fail
  9. Goldman reasserts fundamental problems with Internalism
  10. Conee and Feldman throw a hail Mary defense of internalism

BonJour – Internalist

Truth:

  • Internalist has the problem of infinite regress
  • Utilitarian comparison
    • The outcome of the belief being true doesn’t make the actions taken justified; in the same way the outcome of a moral event (more people are helped) doesn’t make the action good if undertaken for the wrong intent
  • Lottery paradox
    • From an internalist position that holds 99% certainty required for truth, if you know every ticket has a 99% chance of losing, then all ticket draws will lose. Externalist can appeal to outside truth of the 1 draw. Counter example: Angela is in a room with 100 real cups and 1 fake cup. She decides her cup is fake but it happens to be real, did she  real have a justified belief?

Twaddle:

  • A person must possess the justification for his belief if he is to consider it responsible
  • Clairvoyance rejection of externalism, “it seems intuitively clear nevertheless that this is not a case of justified belief or of knowledge.” “Samantha believes herself to have the power of clairvoyance though she has no reasons for or against this belief” (18).
    • BonJour argues that since someone can have a coincidence occur (e.g. I have a feeling and it turns out to be true) they can justify a false presence if all that matters is the truth of the outcome.
    • If one part is irrational, the new belief crumbles because Internalism is true. (picture of foundational beliefs with scribble for one)
    • Seems to assume an outside view of truth while denying it
    • A more extreme version: bet your life because clairvoyance led to truth even if a trustworthy news source reported something different
      • Fails because you could have the trustworthy news source produce correct outcomes more often. If you had only experience with clairvoyance I would suggest the rationale makes more sense.
  • Externalists are simply “abandoning the traditional idea of epistemic justification or rationality and along with it anything resembling the traditional conception of knowledge” (31).
    • This isn’t really the full picture

Goldman – Externalist

Truth:

  • Doxastic Decision Principles
    • DDP – Diagram of DDP as conditions of the belief being formed
  • Internalist infinite regress vs externalist
  • Can we find the right DDP from a Godlike perspective or from an internal perspective?
    • Externalism: DDP X is right if and only if X is actually optimal
    • Internalism: DDP X is right if and only if we are justified in believing that X is optimal
  • Internalist attempt to relativize (apply X to S and it’s reliable) fails because then everyone has their own justifications and truths
  • Internalist problem of trying to tell who is more justified: science advancement example
  • If the internalist objective is DDP without prior thought, where did they get that first DDP from? (51, Descartes), if you suspend all judgment, then what do you use for your first judgment?
  • Can we change the definition of knowledge to just be true belief without justification? No, that would confuse logical truth with knowing the truth
  • Belief comes before the selection of a DDP

Twaddle:

Alston – Externalist

Truth:

  • Two types of Internalism, access and perspective.
    • Must be able to perceive the belief and have access to the belief structure.
  • Perspective problem: seeing a tree, S must be able to directly perceive it according to BonJour’s version
  • We seem to know many things without knowing why we know them, we seem to make decisions without justification
    • We don’t usually think, “that belief I just formed is justified because I can identify the more foundational belief that is justified that led to the new belief”
  • Higher level problems – problems when referencing the belief structure as a whole
    • Don’t we also need to have justifications for the things that make our basic beliefs justified? Diagram on 90
    • Objection to access: we don’t always have access to everything we need to come to a justified true belief (94), we can gain access over time
    • There’s no way to know if you could access something

Twaddle:

  • An internalist perspective requires that we are always in direct control of our beliefs

Kornblith – Externalism

Truth:

  • The internalist position rests upon having an adequate grasp of all relevant beliefs
    • And all the connectors of those beliefs
  • Doxastic Presumption: at least most of an agent’s beliefs about the beliefs she has must be true
    • BonJour says we must reject skepticism of this point because you need to use it to reject it
    • Kornblith says that being skeptical of this claim is normal, it’s just realizing that you’ve made errors in the past
  • We presume that our mind puts us on the right track towards truth

Twaddle:

  • Psychology reveals truths about our mental states, their causes, and their doubts (119)

Stroud – neither external nor internal

Truth:

  • Abandon the search for certainty or epistemic priority
  • We must either just believe in a priori principles or try to explain those principles without appealing to other kinds of knowledge
  • Benefit of externalism is that the knower doesn’t need the a priori knowledge
  • Since both Internalism and externalism have serious issues, we need to reexamine the whole epistemological enterprise and stop trying to understand all human knowledge

Twaddle:

  • It would be as absurd to cast doubt on the prospects of scientific investigation of human knowledge and perception as it would be  to declare limits to our understanding of human digestion
  • A “Cartesian empiricism” relies on the idea that God exists and is good in order to ground the reliability of our truth seeking mechanisms (counters: most of us don’t believe it 139). Instead, suggests  that once we’re externalists we don’t need to care that our reliability is circular – also unsatisfying. Also unsatisfying is suggestion that science gets at reliable knowledge. Therefore, the externalist enterprise is also unsatisfying, i.e. there exist no good reasons to believe

Sosa – Virtue Epistemology

Truth:

  • Reliable externalism: general reliabilism, our beliefs are justified if the process used to create them are true (147). Three problems:
    • Too general or specific on criteria and either all beliefs or too few are justified
    • Evil-demon makes twin with same beliefs but world is fake – hard to think he is unjustified in beliefs because they don’t correspond to reality. Reliable internal beliefs lead to unreliable external belief
    • unreliable internal beliefs (clairvoyance) lead to reliable external belief (president in new York)
    • Proposed solution: weak and strong justifications based on reliability of the mechanism

Twaddle:

  • Internal virtues account for different people in the same situations arriving at different beliefs
    • If me and alien twin have the same virtues, and those virtues are the basis of justification, then we are both justified

Foley – internalist – must address probs from first person – guy who gives good advice

Truth:

Twaddle:

  • Goal of epistemology is asking, what should I believe? Answer: whatever adheres to your internal standards for justification
  • We are trying to give people useful advice on what to believe, simply saying “reliable processes leading to truth” doesn’t help, neither does saying that if it survives reflection it is helpful
  • You cannot give good advice for all human knowledge because it’s done from perspectives – goal should be giving people intellectual autonomy

Schmitt – externalist

Truth:

  • Reliabilist Iterativism and counterfactual reflective perspectivalism fail
    • S is justified in believing P if P is reliable; S is justified in believing P if they would believe P to be reliable upon reflection (181)
    • Iterativism: reliable processes don’t automatically entail justification (clairvoyance)
    • Perspectivism: 6 year old can’t reflect on beliefs but can still have justified beliefs (185)
    • Maybe perspectivism is only good for some people who can reflect well but not others
      • If a belief is irresistible then we cannot reflect and change it
      • Just because we ought to reflect doesn’t mean that we can

Twaddle:

  • Reluctant belief –
  • Trinity example – I can believe the Trinity even if I recognized that I shouldn’t and tried to responsibly rid myself of it
  • Rely on epistemic virtues to get at justification

Goldman – externalist

Truth:

  • Brings whole discussion back to “do I need to be able to justify my beliefs in order for them to be justified?”
    • Argues against KJ – the agent must be able to readily know the facts that justify his beliefs in order for them to be justified
    • Strong Internalism obviously fails – only conscious facts at time t can justified
    • Weak Internalism fails – only conscious or stored facts can justify
      • Problem of forgotten evidence
  • Another objection: the connections between our beliefs aren’t known or basic 217
  • You have to know the truth getting capability of your cognition in order to trust it – which would be an external factor

Twaddle:

Conee and Feldman – internalist

Truth:

  • Problem with externalism is if two people find the truth through different means then you can’t say one is more justified than the other (novice vs.  expert at bird watching)

Twaddle:

  • Internalism has much fewer problem if we “free it from deontological underpinnings”
  • Responding to Plantinga – 1+2=3 and impulsional beliefs
    • Plantinga: 1)   evidence consists only of other beliefs, 2) evidence consists of other beliefs or sensory states, 3) evidence also includes a sense of conviction
      • 1+2=3 defeats the first 2, conviction could justify any belief
    • Response: math is justified based on social or practical beliefs, we can reluctantly believe something
  • One can store justifiers, can justify forgotten belief by looking it back up 248?
  • Basically they just keep saying that one can ignore or brush off the difficulties
  • “internalist views stand in no jeopardy of being generally refuted”

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