Reliabilism and Contemporary Epistemology: Essays

Reliabilism and Contemporary Epistemology: Essays

Reliabilism and Contemporary Epistemology: Essays

Reliabilism and Contemporary Epistemology: Essays

Synopsis

This is a collection of very recent essays by the leading proponent of process reliabilism, explaining its relation to rival and/or neighboring theories including evidentialism, other forms of reliabilism, and virtue epistemology. It addresses other prominent themes in contemporary epistemology, such as the internalism/externalism debate, the epistemological upshots of experimental challenges to intuitional methodology, the source of epistemic value, and social epistemology. The Introduction addresses late-breaking responses to ongoing exchanges with friends, rivals, and critics of reliabilism.

Excerpt

Reliabilism is a prominent approach to core topics in epistemology, offering a spectrum of related analyses of knowledge, justification, and evidence. These epistemic goods are said to arise from the deployment of mental processes and methods, or the obtaining of suitable conditions, that are conducive to acquiring true belief and avoiding error in actual and/or modally relevant circumstances.

Some historical epistemologies might be viewed as precursors of reliabilism, but this introduction concerns the contemporary scene and its twentieth-century background. Ramsey (1931) was the first to offer a (brief) formulation of knowledge reliabilism, but it attracted little notice at the time. Forty years later, the times were more propitious, and a flurry of reliabilist approaches to knowledge burst onto the epistemological stage and gathered steam during ensuing decades (Armstrong, 1973; Dretske, 1971, 1981; Goldman, 1975, 1976, 1986; Nozick, 1981; Swain, 1981; Williamson, 2000). Reliabilism about justification—specifically, process reliabilism—was first formulated by Goldman (1979), followed by several permutations and refinements of this initial version (Goldman 1986, 1988, 1992; Alston, 1995; Comesana, 2002; Lyons, 2009). Justification reliabilism is probably more controversial than knowledge reliabilism (Kornblith, 2008) but arguably more challenging and significant. Justification reliabilism is the principal focus of the present volume, though knowledge reliabilism and evidence reliabilism also receive substantial attention (knowledge in essays 6 and 7, evidence in essays 7 and 11).

At its inception, process reliabilism was a heretical doctrine, out of sync with the reigning epistemologies of the twentieth century. For starters, it departed from the prevailing view that justification depends entirely on what is “directly accessible” to the mind. Reliability—i.e., conduciveness to truth—is clearly not directly accessible in this sense. Similarly, process reliabilism was controversial because of the role it assigns to psychological processes that . . .

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