No work for a theory of epistemic dispositions

Synthese 198 (4):3477-3498 (2021)
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Externalists about epistemic justification have long emphasized the connection between truth and justification, with this coupling finding explicit expression in process reliabilism. Process reliabilism, however, faces a number of severe difficulties, leading disenchanted process reliabilists to find a new theoretical home. The conceptual flag under which such epistemologists have preferred to gather is that of dispositions. Just as reliabilism is determined by the frequency of a particular outcome, making it possible to characterize justification in terms of a particular relationship to truth, dispositions are accompanied by concrete, worldly manifestations. By taking true beliefs as the result, not of certain processes but of particular dispositions, these epistemologists have attempted to respond to the numerous obstacles to reliabilism. Yet all this work has proceeded without regard to the wealth of contemporary work on the metaphysics of dispositions, making the new hope premature at best, ill-founded at worst. Combining contemporary dispositional accounts of justification with extant analyses of dispositions reveals that the latter is the case. The structural differences between epistemic justification and dispositions make it clear that not only should process reliabilism be abandoned, but the subsequent appeal to dispositions along with it.

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Wes Siscoe
University of Notre Dame


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