January 29, 2007

"Internalising" McDowell

In my post, "Selling Out" McDowell, I addressed the main methodological objection to my claim that McDowell is a J-internalist. In this post, I will attempt to address what I take to be the primary theoretical objection to this proposal.

But first, what textual evidence do I have for holding that McDowell is a J-internalist? Two of the more suggestive passages are as follows:
I agree…that we lose the point of invoking the space of reasons if we allow someone to possess a justification even if it is outside his reflective reach. [McDowell 1998b, p. 418]
[O]ne’s epistemic standing on some question cannot intelligibly be constituted, even in part, by matters blankly external to how it is with one subjectively. For how could such matters be other than beyond one’s ken? And how could matters beyond one’s ken make any difference to one’s epistemic standing? ([McDowell 1998a] p. 390)
I interpret the locution ‘how it is with one subjectively’, as an umbrella term for the sorts of things that are typically taken to be internally available to one, such as one’s thoughts, beliefs etc. By McDowell’s lights the circle delineating what is subjectively available to one exhausts that which may serve as a justifier for one’s beliefs. 

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January 5, 2007

To Gettier or Not to Gettier

I recently constructed a Gettier case (described below), designed to show that Justification-reliabilism is insufficient as a reply to Gettier. (For a full discussion of the application of this Gettier case, check out my blog post 'Un-discriminating Reliabilism'.) However, some have questioned whether the Gettier case I constructed is really a Gettier case at all (see comments in aforementioned link). Specifically, one reader felt that the subject described actually does have knowledge. I would like to get other folks intuitions on this question. Do you think the following represents a genuine Gettier case:

Suppose S has strong perceptual evidence for, and comes to believe, the proposition:
(a) There is a red cube in the box on the table.
Now, it so happens that there is in fact a red cube in the box on the table, though the cube is being obscured from S’s visual field by some sort of barrier. Furthermore, the box is rigged up to a computer which projects a visual hologram of a red cube in the box. However, the computer is programmed to only project the hologram of the red cube in the box when there is a real red cube in the box. Moreover, S lacks any of this background information, and forms her belief that (a) purely on the basis of the hologram of the red cube. All of the following seem true in the above case:
(i) (a) is true

(ii) S believes (a) is true

(iii) S’s belief that (a) is justified (i.e., formed via a reliable process)
Ex hypothesi, (iii) is true since the computer is programmed to only project the hologram of a red cube when there is an actual red cube present (one may build in whatever stipulations one likes, such as that the computer is eternal and infallible in its operation etc.). Thus, S’s belief that there is a red cube in the box is reliable (and, according to justification-reliabilism, therefore justified) since the process by which the belief was formed would, given the computer’s programming, tend to produce true beliefs. However, I believe this represents a bona fide Gettier case since, though S has a justified (i.e., reliably formed) true belief, we wouldn’t say that she has knowledge.

It may also be interesting to get a non-philosopher's intuition on this question, so you may consider trying it out on a roommate or friend and letting me know what you come up with. Cheers.

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