Goodness, availability, and argument structure

Synthese 198:10395-10427 (2021)
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According to a widely shared generic conception of inferential justification—‘the standard conception’—an agent is inferentially justified in believing that p only if she has antecedently justified beliefs in all the non-redundant premises of a good argument for p. This conception tends to serve as the starting-point in contemporary debates about the nature and scope of inferential justification: as neutral common ground between various competing, more specific, conceptions. But it’s a deeply problematic starting-point. This paper explores three questions that haven’t been given the attention they deserve, that complicate the application of the standard conception to cases, and that reveal it to be underspecified at the core—in ways that aren’t resolved but inherited by more specific (extant) versions of it. The goal isn’t to answer the questions, but to articulate them, explain what turns on them, and invite a critical re-examination of the standard conception.

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Anna-Sara Malmgren
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences


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