I’m teaching special topics course in epistemology this year. We’re going through Michael Bergmann’s new book Justification Without Awareness. I thought it would be fun to post quick summaries of the chapters here, and critically discuss them along the way. Here’s a quick summary of chapter one.
In this chapter, Bergmann develops and defends a dilemma against internalism. Similar in spirit to Sellar’s dilemma against foundationalism.
He defines internalism as any view about epistemic justification that incorporates the following awareness requirement.
The Awareness Requirement
S’s belief is justified only if (i) there is something, X, that contributes to the justification of B and (ii) S is aware (or potentially aware) of X. (Bergmann, 2006:11)
We get a discussion of BonJour’s reliable clairvoyant. Bergmann considers this to be the main motivation for externalism, and this fact will be important for the dilemma he raises. I won’t go into the details of the reliable clairvoyant case here. For those of you unfamiliar with this case – here’s a nice summary.
Bergmann argues that the moral of the story to draw from BonJour’s cases is that a person can’t be justified in believing a proposition, when the circumstances are such that from that persons perspective, their belief isn’t any different from a stray hunch or arbitrary assumption. Bergmann extracts what he calls The Subject’s Perspective Objection (SPO)
The Subject’s Perspective Objection (SPO)
If the subject holding the belief isn’t aware of what the belief has going for it, then she isn’t aware of how its status is any different from a stray hunch or an arbitrary conviction. From that we may conclude that from her perspective it is an accident that her belief is true. And that implies that it isn’t justified.(Bergmann, 2006, 12)
Bergmann then distinguishes between two kinds of awareness, strong and weak.
Awareness that involves conceiving of the justification contributor that is the object of awareness as being in some way relevant to the justification or the truth of the belief.
Awareness of the justification contributor, but no awareness of the justification contributor as being in some way relevant to the justification or the truth of the belief.
He then argues that any version of internalism that has a strong awareness requirement leads to a vicious regress that leads to radical skepticism and that any version of internalism that only requires weak awareness suffers from the same problem that externalists are alleged to face when we think about BonJour’s Clairvoyant.
Since BonJour’s clairvoyant case is the main motivation for internalism, weak awareness internalism loses the main motivation for internalism. Either way you go, says Bergmann, we should not accept internalism.
Bergmann presents the argument more formally as follows:
A Dilemma for Internalism
I. An essential feature of internalism is that it makes a subject’s actual or potential awareness of some justification contributor a necessary condition for the justification of any belief held by that subject.
II. The awareness required by internalism is either strong awareness or weak awareness.
III. If the awareness required by internalism is strong awareness, then internalism has vicious regress problems leading to radical skepticism.
IV. If the awareness required by internalism is weak awareness, then internalism is vulnerable to the SPO, in which case internalism loses its main motivation for imposing the awareness requirement.
V. If internalism either leads to radical skepticism or loses its main motivation for imposing the awareness requirement, then we should not endorse internalism.
I won’t go any further into the nitty-gritty details of chapter 1 here. This should give you a general idea of what Bergmann is up to in the first chapter.
In chapter 2, Bergmann discusses how four different internalists have (or could have) responded to this dilemma. Two grab the strong awareness horn of the dilemma and hope that somehow this will not result in a vicious regress. The other two grab the weak awareness horn and hope that their view will not be vulnerable to the SPO.
I’ll discuss other potential responses to this dilemma in that post. I may also discuss more carefully some of Bergmann’s motivations for these premises if it’s not already clear enough where he’s coming from.