An insubstantial externalism

Journal of Philosophy 108 (10):576-582 (2011)
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Abstract
Alvin I. Goldman has argued that since one must count epistemic rules among the factors that help to fix the justificational status of agents (generally called J-factors), not all J-factors are internalist, that is, intrinsic to the agent whose justificational status they help to fix. After all, for an epistemic rule to count as a genuine J-factor, it must be objectively correct and, therefore, “independent of any and all minds.” Consequently, it cannot be intrinsic to any particular epistemic agent. In this brief commentary, I will argue that Goldman’s argument misunderstands what it takes for epistemic justification to be internalist and, therefore, fails to guarantee his externalist conclusion. In particular, I want to demonstrate that Goldman’s argument trivializes the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic properties that lays at the basis of the internalist/externalist debate. I will show that, if sound, simple variations on Goldman’s argument could be used to prove the absurd conclusion that all properties are extrinsic. Now, since the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction is fundamental to debates in several areas of philosophy, not only the internalist/externalist debate in epistemology, I conclude that Goldman’s argument cannot be sound.
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