Epistemic normativity and the justification-excuse distinction

Synthese 194 (10):4065-4081 (2017)
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Abstract

The paper critically examines recent work on justifications and excuses in epistemology. I start with a discussion of Gerken’s claim that the “excuse maneuver” is ad hoc. Recent work from Timothy Williamson and Clayton Littlejohn provides resources to advance the debate. Focusing in particular on a key insight in Williamson’s view, I then consider an additional worry for the so-called excuse maneuver. I call it the “excuses are not enough” objection. Dealing with this objection generates pressure in two directions: one is to show that excuses are a positive enough normative standing to help certain externalists with important cases; the other is to do so in a way that does not lead back to Gerken’s objection. I show how a Williamson-inspired framework is flexible enough to deal with both sources of pressure. Perhaps surprisingly, I draw on recent virtue epistemology.

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Cameron Boult
Brandon University

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