Epistemic Closure Violation and Doxastic Modellability: Infallibilism and Fallibilism through the Eyes of Doubt


Generally, an epistemic fallibilist considers it reasonable to claim, “I know that P, but I may be wrong.” An epistemic infallibilist, on the other hand, would consider this claim absurd. I argue initially that infallibilism presents more advantages in its assertion of the claim’s absurdity than fallibilism does in making the claim. One, infallibilism is not faulted with the propensity for violations of epistemic closure that beleaguers some fallibilist accounts, due in part to the latter’s problematic shunting of fallible epistemic standards across inferential chains. Two, infallibilism is more easily modelled doxastically than fallibilism, as the former’s understanding of certainty is more tractable than the latter’s idea of what counts as a viable standard of fallibility. A rectification of these fallibilist issues may then be called upon to motivate gradualist variants of fallibilism. For epistemic gradualism, the problematic modellability and shunting of standards is curtailed via an awareness that the standard for knowledge is just one out of many along a gradient that includes, at one extreme, the infallibilist standard of certainty. Specifically, first, gradualism, along with infallibilism, can be modelled doxastically through elucidating upon an obtaining relation between doubt and knowledge; next, the problem with violating closure, although not generally applicable to infallibilism, can be answered by gradualism with a reasonable denial of closure altogether that makes precise which epistemic standard is relevant for which part of an inferential chain; lastly, these modelling resources can be appropriated, by both gradualism and infallibilism, to successfully address a doxastically pertinent form of closure violation called rational self-doubt.

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