In the previous post on Justification Without Awareness – I laid out Bergmann’s dilemma for the internalist. The next two chapters explore ways to avoid the dilemma. In this chapter, Bergmann critically discusses two philosophers’ views that grab the weak awareness horn and two philosophers’ views that grab the strong awareness horn.
Bergmann says that Fumerton would avoid the dilemma by grabbing the weak awareness horn of the dilemma. When you’re justified in believing something you must be aware of the justifiers, but you need not be aware (in any way) of the fact that those justifiers are relevant to the justification or truth of the belief.
Fumerton’s acquaintence theory is supposed to be an example of this kind of awareness requirement. You can be acquainted with a fact about how things appear to you, and so be justified in believing that you are being appeared to a certain way. But you need not be aware of any further facts about why being acquainted with some fact about appearances is a good reason to have some belief about an appearance.
Bergmann’s main objection: This is still vulnerable to the SPO. From the subject’s perspective beliefs based on these acquaintences have no more going for them than stray hunches or arbitrary assumptions.
Infallibilism (formerly titled “Timothy McGrew”)
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I won’t spend too much time on this one. According to Bergmann, it may be possible to defend against the dilemma by endorsing infallibilism.
Infallibilism = df.) S is justified in believing P only if S could not believe P and P be false.
Bergmann tries to construe infallibilism as a view that one might try to use to mount a weak awareness internalism response
Not only does Bergmann rightly note that Infallibilism seems committed to a radical kind of skepticism, he also notes that as stated infallibilism isn’t clearly internalist. Once you tack on a weak awareness requirement you end up with a view that Bergmann says will run into SPO problems.
In the previous version of this post, Infallibilism was incorrectly attributed to Timothy McGrew. Timothy McGrew doesn’t actually endorse infallibilism. He endorses incorrigibilism for foundational beliefs only (as you can see from the comments below). In this chapter, it looks (at first glance) like Infallibilism is being attributed to Timothy McGrew. That is not accurate. My apologies to Timothy McGrew for this misrepresentation.
BonJour takes the strong awareness horn. To be justified you must be aware of the justifiers and you must be aware of the fact that those justifiers are in someway related to the justification or truth of the belief. Consider the following proposition and description of an experience.
(P1) There is a dark green triangular shape within my visual field.
(E1) It appears that there is a dark green triangular shape within my visual field.
According to BonJour at least two things justify you in believing (P1) – the visual experience E1 and the awareness of the descriptive fit between E1 and P1. You understand that E1s content is P1 (or something like that). That looks like it requires a justified belief in the following:
(P2) P1 descriptively fits E1
BonJour’s response seems to be that no additional belief or evidence is required to be justified in believing (P2).
This quote from Bergmann sums it up nicely. “BonJour admits that his belief that P1 is justified only if he makes a further judgments that P2. Moreover, he seems to admit that this judgment needs to be justified thought not by something independent of the awareness of the contents of E1 and P1. But he gives us no clear statement of what is required for the justification of the judgment that P2. And we are left without an explanation of how the regress is avoided.” Bergmann goes on to try and explain why the regress can’t be avoided. He identifies what looks like a third belief that needs to be justified.
Fales also embraces the strong awareness horn, but he thinks that we are potentially strongly aware of every belief in the infinite regress – so it’s not a vicious regress.
His solution invokes a technical notion that Fale’s calls transparency.
T: A proposition P is transparent to S iff (i) S grasps P’s content infallibly and with full clarity – thereby knowing what would count as a truth-maker for it – and (ii) S sees clearly and infallibly that that truth-maker exists.
Justification Thesis: If P is transparent to S, then S is justified in believing P.
(FP) Necessarily, if some proposition P is transparent to S, then it is transparent to S that P is
transparent to S (or at least it would be on reflection).
Here’s the laymen’s terms version. Instead of the technical notion of transparency insert freaking mind-numbingly obvious. If a proposition is freakingly mind-numbingly obvious to you, then you’re justified in believing it. Furthermore, it would be freaking mind-numbingly obvious to you that the proposition is freaking mind-numbingly obvious (upon reflection at least).
So, Fales thinks that you’ll alway be justified in that further step in the regress (at least upon reflection). He even cites some examples where it seems that a regress of justified beliefs is unproblematic.
Conjunction: P, P&P, P&P&P
Truth Iteration: P, P is true, P is true is true, P is true is true is true
In both of the above cases, Fales seems to think that we have a case where there is a infinite regress of potentially justified beliefs. The strong awareness internalist (who utilizes the notion of potential awareness) can say that the regress of justified beliefs required is infinite, but not vicious.
Bergmann’s main response: Iterations of transparency are relevantly dissimilar to iterations of conjunction or truth. Iterations of conjunction involve no new information. Iterations of truth are trivial additions. In the case of iterating transparency (or mind-numbing obviousness) we’re adding new content and we’re not tacking on trivially true predicates. (He also raises serious doubts about the truth of FP)
And now for some responses…
I’ve got several candidate responses on behalf of the strong awareness internalist, but I’ll limit myself to one. Someone like BonJour could resist and say that the justification chain does not go on infinitely, but rather in something like a circle. Rather than flesh out how BonJour could do this, let me offer another theory of justification that would do something like this, just to show that there are versions of strong awareness internalism that entail that a premise in Bergmann’s argument is false.
Suppose it seems to you that P. Suppose you believe P because it seems to that P and you believe that seemings are good reasons. You now need a justification for the belief that seemings are good reasons. How about the fact that it seems to you that seemings are good reasons. What’s your justification for that? Another seeming and the fact that it seems to you that seemings are good reasons. This doesn’t look like we’re on an infinite regress, but more like we’re stuck in a circle.
Now you may think that Bergmann can easily revise his argument and add that epistemic circularity is bad, however, most epistemologists are starting to suspect that epistemic circularity of some form or another is going to infect any plausible, non-skeptical theory of justification – including Bergmann. If you fast forward to chapter 7, it looks like he’s going to note that his own theory permits some kind of circularity.
So, if the strong awareness internalist has a theory where the belief chain goes in some kind of circle and they can maintain that this is one of the permissible forms of circularity, then the strong awareness internalist will be able to resist Bergmann’s main dilemma.