SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Epistemic Internalism and Testimonial Justification
(Epistemology, English)

According to epistemic internalists, facts about justification supervene upon one's internal reasons for believing certain propositions. Epistemic externalists, on the other hand, deny this. More specifically, externalists think that the supervenience base of justification isn't exhausted by one's internal reasons for believing certain propositions. In the last decade, the internalism-externalism debate has made its mark on the epistemology of testimony. The proponent of internalism about the epistemology of testimony claims that a hearer's testimonial justification for believing that p supervenes upon his internal reasons for thinking that the speaker's testimony that p is true. Recently, however, several objections have been raised against this view.
In this paper, I present a novel argument providing intuitive support for internalism about the epistemology of testimony. The argument is analogous to Lehrer and Cohen's (1983) New Evil Demon Scenario, but instead of focusing on perceptual beliefs, it focuses on testimonial beliefs. It presents a scenario involving a pair of epistemic agents who share the same internal reasons, but who differ with respect to external conditions like reliability and truth. Moreover, the agents appear to be equally justified in believing the same propositions. And the best explanation for why this should be so is that the facts about testimonial justification supervene upon one's internal reasons, or so I will argue.
I also defend the argument against three objections offered by Wright (2016a; 2016b) in a couple of recent papers. According to the first objection, justification is the same as Plantinga-warrant, and since the agents in my argument differ with respect to Plantinga- warrant, they also differ with respect to justification. My response is that this objection begs the question against the internalist by assuming (without argument) that justification is an externalist condition -- namely, that it is Plantinga-warrant. According to the second objection, responding in the manner above by denying that justification is Plantinga-warrant devalues justification insofar as it detaches it from knowledge. My response is that the objection fails since (i) the internalist still can say that justification is closely attached to knowledge insofar as it is a necessary condition of it, and (ii) that justification can be valuable as a means to satisfying some other (epistemic) property.
According to the third objection, internalism about testimonial justification isn't able to account for our intuitions about certain cases involving circular testimony. My response is that the cases under consideration are underdescribed, and when the necessary details are in place they actually provide intuitive support for internalism. The upshot of my discussion is that external conditions do make an epistemic difference when it comes to our testimonial beliefs, but that they cannot make any difference with respect to their justificatory status -- i.e., they are justificationally irrelevant.

Chair: Victoria Lavorerio
Time: 17:40-18:10, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.004

Jonathan Egeland Harouny 
(Stockholm University, Sweden)

I did my B.A. and M.A. in philosophy at the University of Bergen. Now I work as an Early Stage Researcher (i.e., PhD student) at Stockholm University. My work is primarily in epistemology, where I focus on topics having to do with rationality and justification.

Testability and Meaning deco