skepticismjusification

skepticismjusification - Handout Skepticism about...

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Handout: Skepticism about Justification So far we have looked at arguments for skepticism about knowledge. Even if those arguments succeed, they do not show we have no justified beliefs. Even a brain in a vat may be justified in believing what it believes. The brain in a vat lacks knowledge because its beliefs are false, and one cannot know something false. But, you can be justified in holding a false belief. That is why the brain in a vat can be justified in believing what it believes. Let us consider a seemingly powerful argument that we do not even have any justified beliefs. If I have a justified belief, there must be some further belief that makes it justified. But, for the original belief to be justified, the belief that justifies it must itself be justified. For example, suppose I believe that my car is about to come to a halt. That belief is justified by my belief that the car has run out of gas. In turn, my belief that the car has run out of gas is justified by my belief that the gas meter reads empty, and so on. This gives rise to a justification chain of beliefs. The belief that P is justified by the belief that Q. The belief that Q is justified by the belief that R. The belief that R is justified by the belief that S etc. There seem to be just three possibilities. (1) My belief is justified by a chain that is infinite. (2) It is justified by one that goes in a circle. (3) Finally the chain of justification comes to an end with a belief that is not further justified. But, argues the skeptic, an infinite chain of beliefs cannot justify, and circular justification is no justification at all. Moreover, if my beliefs are supported by unjustified beliefs they are not themselves justified. So, I have no justified beliefs. One response to this argument is to allow infinite chains of justified beliefs to justify. That does not look promising. Another more promising alternative is to allow that a circular justification can, after all, justify. This leads to what is called a coherence theory of justification.
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