Justified Believing:Avoiding the Paradox

In James Maclaurin (ed.), Rationis Defensor: Essays in Honour of Colin Cheyne. Springer (2012)
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Colin Cheyne has argued that under certain circumstances an internalist or deontological theory of epistemic justification will give rise to a paradox. The paradox, he argues, arises when a principle of epistemic justification is both justifiably believed (in terms of the theory) and false. To avoid this paradox, Cheyne recommends abandoning the principle of justification-transference, which states that acts of believing made on the basis of a justifiably-believed principle are themselves justified. Since such a principle seems essential to any internalist theory of justified believing, internalist theories may also need to be abandoned. I argue that while some theories of epistemic justification may indeed give rise to this paradox, an internalist or deontological theory of subjective justification will avoid it. The reason for this is that a false principle of justified believing does not render acts of believing subjectively unjustified, provided that the agent does not realize that the principle is false.

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Gregory W. Dawes
University of Otago


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