Intuitive Closure, Transmission Failure, and Doxastic justification

In Duncan Pritchard & Matthew Jope (ed.), New Perspectives on Epistemic Closure. Routledge (2022)
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In response to the claim that certain epistemically defective inferences such as Moore’s argument lead us to the conclusion that we ought to abandon closure, Crispin Wright suggests that we can avoid doing so by distinguishing it from a stronger principle, namely transmission. Where closure says that knowledge of a proposition is a necessary condition on knowledge of anything one knows to entail it, transmission makes a stronger claim, saying that by reasoning deductively from known premises one can thereby acquire knowledge of or justification for the conclusion. Wright’s thought is that in cases such as Moore what is really going on is a failure of transmission, not a failure of closure. The problem with this claim is that it relies on an outdated formulation of closure which few nowadays would find plausible. Once we stipulate that it is the intuitive closure principle that deserves our attention, it becomes far less obvious that the project of diagnosing what is wrong with arguments such as Moore in terms of transmission failure but not closure failure can be vindicated. In order to demonstrate this claim, I consider intuitive closure of propositional justification vs. transmission of propositional justification and concede that perhaps these can come apart in the way that Wright suggests. I then argue that despite this concession, we also need an answer to the question of whether intuitive closure for doxastic justification and transmission for doxastic justification can come apart. We need an answer to this question because our ultimate interest in these issues stems from our interest in whether knowledge obeys closure, not merely whether propositional justification does. I argue that, even on the assumption that there is transmission failure of propositional justification, there is no transmission failure of doxastic justification. And if this is true, then there is no transmission failure of knowledge either. The transmission failure diagnosis of Moore’s argument and its ilk is thus in trouble.

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Matthew Jope
University of Edinburgh


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