Knowledge-First Theories of Justification

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Knowledge-first theories of justification give knowledge priority when it comes to explaining when and why someone has justification for an attitude or an action. The emphasis of this entry is on knowledge-first theories of justification for belief. As it turns out there are a number of ways of giving knowledge priority when theorizing about justification, and in what follows I offer an opinionated survey of more than a dozen existing options that have emerged in the last two decades since the publication of Timothy Williamson’s Knowledge and Its Limits. I first trace several of the general theoretical motivations that have been offered for putting knowledge first in the theory of justification. I then go on to examine existing knowledge-first theories of justification and their standing objections. These objections are largely, but not exclusively, concerned with the extensional adequacy of knowledge-first theories of justification. There are doubtless more ways of giving knowledge priority in the theory of justification than I cover here, but the resulting survey will be instructive as it highlights potential shortcomings that would-be knowledge-first theorists of justification may wish either to avoid or else to be prepared with a suitable error theory.
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