The Gradation Puzzle of Intellectual Assurance

Analysis 81 (3):488-496 (2021)
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The Cartesian thesis that some justifications are infallible faces a gradation puzzle. On the one hand, infallible justification tolerates absolutely no possibility for error. On the other hand, infallible justifications can vary in evidential force: e.g. two persons can both be infallible regarding their pains while the one with stronger pain is nevertheless more justified. However, if a type of justification is gradable in strength, why can it always be absolute? This paper explores the potential of this gradation challenge by rejecting Fumerton's recent ‘semantic decision' solution. On Fumerton's suggestion, the putative gradation of infallible justifications is essentially semantic. It concerns only how we use the relevant term but not how well we perceive the truth. Regardless of its intuitive appeal, Fumerton's solution does not cover all the related situations. There is an irreducibly epistemic sense in which infallible justifications vary in degrees.

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Xiaoxing Zhang
Université Paris-Sorbonne (PhD)


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