REIDBETWEENEXTERNALISMANDINTERNALISMJHP5.doc

Summarizing what i have been arguing are reids views

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summarizing what I have been arguing are Reid’s views on belief, evidence, PES, weakness, and the grounds of belief, and claim that these views are not contradictory and hence that the two strands are compatible. 18 Ernest Sosa, Knowledge in Perspective (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991); Idem, A Virtue Epistemology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007): 104-5. 24
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Beliefs have grounds. Those grounds are either just or not. Just grounds of beliefs are evidence for that belief. Such beliefs have PES. The relation between sensations and what these signify (viz. qualities of mind external objects) is contingent and belief in the qualities signified is due to our constitution. If these beliefs are to have PES, they require the satisfaction of condition [ii], which is an external condition. There are different kinds of evidence: evidence of the senses, of memory, of consciousness, of testimony, of axioms, of reasoning. This is denied by the sceptics who allow for only one kind of evidence, the evidence of reasoning. The only condition for a belief’s having PES they acknowledge is [i], i.e. when the subject can back up his beliefs with reasons. A subject’s belief that p is non-weak (has PES), when it is based on evidence of any of the kinds just mentioned, i.e. when at least one of the conditions [v], [vi], [vii], [viii], [ix], or [x] is satisfied. Some of these conditions are internal, that is to say: [v] sometimes is, [vi] and [vii] always are, and [viii], [ix], and [x] are internal to varying degrees. Some other conditions are sometimes external: [v] for visual sensations, and to some degree, [viii]. How do external condition [ii] and the conditions [v]-[x] relate when it comes to the PES of a belief? We may attribute to Reid the view that a belief has PES when and only when (a) condition [ii] is satisfied, and (b) at least one of the conditions [v]-[x] is satisfied. This view is internally consistent, and has the further merits that it is non sceptical and that it can be combined with a developmental perspective according to which, when things go well, humans develop from children that believe without evidence or consciousness thereof, to adults whose beliefs are well-grounded, i.e. based on evidence—evidence we are often consciously aware of. The two strands, as has been implied in the previous sections, do different jobs in Reid’s overall views, and they have different motivations. The externalist strand wards off sceptical attacks and safeguards the possibility of having beliefs with PES. The internalist strand wards off gratuitous belief (believing at a whim) and urges the grown up rational person to keep his intellectual household in order. Trust in one’s basic intellectual 25
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powers is paired with the urge to base belief on evidence. This, in broad strokes, is what Reid’s views amount to.
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  • Fall '19
  • Test, Belief, Internalism and externalism, Thomas Reid

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