Although it is widely recognized that perceptual experience confers justification on the beliefs it gives rise to, it is unclear how its epistemic value should be properly characterized. Liberals hold, and conservatives deny, that the justification conditions of perceptual beliefs merely involve experiences with the same content. The recent debate on this question has, however, seen further fragmentations of the positions involved with the disputants seeking to identify intermediate positions between liberalism and conservatism. In this paper, I suggest a framework to account for the differences and similarities of the positions within the liberalism/conservatism debate. More importantly, I suggest that, instead of focusing on one particular species of conservatism, we should recognize varieties of conservatism. My conclusion is that no theory of justification need be conservative or liberal tout court. Whether a theory of justification is liberal or conservative depends on which dimension of evaluation is taken to be salient. The implications of this finding for the liberalism/conservatism debate are then investigated.
Epistemologists have differed in their assessments of what it is in virtue of which skeptical hypotheses succeed in raising doubts. It is widely thought that skeptical hypotheses must satisfy some sort of possibility constraint and that only putative knowledge of contingent and a posteriori propositions is vulnerable to skeptical challenge. These putative constraints have been disputed by a number of epistemologists advocating what we may call “the non-standard view.” My main concern in this paper is to challenge this view by identifying a general recipe by means of which its proponents generate skeptical scenarios. I will argue that many of the skeptical arguments that are founded on these scenarios undermine at most second-order knowledge and that to that extent the non-standard view’s rejection of the standard constraints on skeptical hypotheses is problematic. It will be argued that, pace the non-standard view, only in their error-inducing capacities can skeptical hypotheses challenge first-order knowledge. I will also dispute the non-standard view’s claim that its skeptical arguments bring to light a neglected form of radical skepticism, namely, “a priori skepticism.” I conclude by contending that the non-standard view’s account of how skeptical hypotheses can raise legitimate doubt actually rides piggyback on the standard ways of challenging the possibility of knowledge.
Epistemic akrasia refers to the possibility of forming an attitude that fails to conform to one’s best judgment. In this paper, I will be concerned with the question whether epistemic akrasia is rational and I will argue that it is not. Addressing this question, in turn, raises the question of the epistemic significance of higher-order evidence. After examining some of the views on this subject, I will present an argument to show why higher-order evidence is relevant to the epistemic status of the pertinent first-order beliefs. This helps to show why a standard argument for the rationality of epistemic akrasia does not work. Finally, I shall try to show how considerations involving Davidson’s theory of radical interpretation bear on the question of the rationality of epistemic akrasia.
In a series of papers, Crispin Wright has proposed a number of arguments to show that what makes one’s perceptual experience confer justification on the beliefs it gives rise to includes having independent, non-evidential warrant (entitlement) to believe the kind of presuppositions (or ‘cornerstones’) that the skeptic highlights. It has been objected that such arguments at most show that entitlement has a pragmatic character. While sympathizing with this objection, I will argue in this paper that the kind of considerations that Wright adduces in support of the entitlement thesis can nevertheless bear on the epistemic status of cornerstone beliefs, though not in the way envisaged by Wright himself. To show this, I shall make use of the thesis of pragmatic encroachment arguing that, in addition to its practical stakes, the epistemic stakes of a belief are also relevant to its epistemic status. The consequences of the claim will then be explored for the question of the epistemic status of cornerstone beliefs which seem to show that, pace Wright, such beliefs can, after all, be evidentially warranted.