Epistemic Justification

Epistemic Justification

Epistemic Justification

Epistemic Justification

Synopsis

'Readers of Swinburne's rewarding book will get a glimpse from the inside of how a sophisticated doxastic foundationalist understands epistemic justification... careful and meticulous exposition.' -The Philosophical QuarterlyRichard Swinburne offers an original treatment of a question at the heart of epistemology: what makes a belief a rational one, or one which the believer is justified in holding? He maps the many different accounts of epistemic justification, and distinguishes the different kinds of justification that they identify. He argues that while most kinds of justification are worth having, only one kind --internalist justification -- can guide a believer's actions. And he shows how probability theory can illuminate the role of empirical evidence in the justification of belief.

Excerpt

This book is intended to serve as a guide to the different accounts of epistemic justification (that is the justification of belief) and knowledge current in the philosophical literature, as well as primarily to provide an answer to the somewhat neglected but all-important question of which kinds of epistemic justification are worth having. I distinguish (as most writers do not) between synchronic justification (justification at a time) and diachronic justification (synchronic justification based on adequate investigation). I argue that most kinds of justification that have been advocated are worth having because beliefs justified in most of these various ways are probably true, although only justification of an 'internalist' kind can be of any use to a person in deciding how to act. the probability calculus is useful in elucidating what makes beliefs probably true, but it requires every proposition to have an intrinsic probability (an a priori probability independent of empirical evidence) before it can be used to elucidate the force of empirical evidence in increasing or decreasing that probability. I claim that every proposition does indeed have an intrinsic probability.

As philosophical discussion of these issues can get very complicated (in my view quite unnecessarily complicated), I have relegated all discussions of the finer points of current theories and of objections to my own views, as well as all very technical points involving the probability calculus, to an Appendix and a series of Additional Notes. This will, I hope, enable the main text to be readily comprehensible by the average undergraduate taking a course on epistemology, while providing in the notes and appendix the fuller discussion of the issues rightly required by more expert readers.

A few of the ideas contained here were originally put forward in somewhat different and less satisfactory ways in parts of my An Introduction to Confirmation Theory (Methuen, 1973) and in the first two chapters of my Faith and Reason (Clarendon Press, 1981). I have used in the present book also in a substantial way material from three more recent publications: Simplicity as Evidence of Truth (Marquette University Press, 1997—my Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University), 'Predictivism' (in Trames, 1 (1997), 99-108), and 'Many Kinds of Rational Theistic Belief' (in G. Brüntrup and R. K. Tacelli (eds.), The Rationality of Theism (Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999)). I am grateful to the publishers of these items

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