Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The Structure and Grounding of Epistemic Justification
by Roche, William A., Ph.D., The Ohio State University, 2006, 275; 10835720
Abstract (Summary)

I articulate and defend a new version of the coherence theory of epistemic justification. It is new, in part, because, unlike traditional varieties of coherentism, it is externalist's viz., it implies that justification supervenes, in part, on things that are neither mental nor supervenient on the mental.

The theory, overall, has three distinguishing components. First, there is an explanationist component, which says that an inductive inferential relation is cogent only if it is explanatorily virtuous. In this respect, my account is in the spirit of both William Lycan's brand of coherentism, and the brand oft attributed to Gilbert Harman and Wilfrid Sellars. Second, there is a meta-perspectivalist component, saying (for starters) that S has good reason for thinking that p obtains only if from S's perspective it is likely that he is connected to p. This, when fully spelled out, has the result that S's belief system is coherent only if S has a view as to how he is connected to the outside world, and according to which the mechanisms involved (e.g., vision) are reliable. And third, there is a veridicality component, which requires that S's reasons be true, and that S's reasons for his reasons be true, and so on. This, together with the meta-perspectivalist component, requires that S be correct as to how he is reliably connected to the outside world. This is what makes my position externalist. I develop and argue positively for each of these three distinguishing components, thereby refuting my theory's chief rivals in the coherentist camp. I also argue against the three standard objections to coherentism: the Alternative-Systems Objection, the Isolation Objection, and the Experience Objection. Take the Experience Objection, for instance. It charges that foundationalist theories are superior to coherentist theories because, unlike coherentist theories, they allow a role for experiences (e.g., visual experiences) in justification. I argue that, initial appearances notwithstanding, experiences are unfit to serve as reasons, either for or against beliefs.

The ultimate payoff is philosophical understanding of the structure and grounding of justification—an understanding, that is, that justification is coherentist in structure and externalist in grounding.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pappas, George
School: The Ohio State University
Department: Philosophy
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 79/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Epistemology, Philosophy
Keywords: Coherence, Coherentism, Epistemic justification, Foundationalism, Good reason, Inference to the best explanation
Publication Number: 10835720
ISBN: 978-0-355-96701-2
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