TWO REGRESS PROBLEMS: EPISTEMIC REGRESS AND JUSTIFICATORY REGRESS
This is the problem that prevented Socrates from coming up with a definition of knowledge in the Theaetetus.
FOUR POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS TO THE REGRESS PROBLEMS
(1) infinite chains
(2) circular chains
(3) finite, non-circular chains that terminate in beliefs that are not knowledge (or are not justified)
(4) foundationalism: finite, non-circular chains that terminate in beliefs that are knowledge (or are justified)
ABOUT EMPIRICAL KNOWLEDGE:
A CHISHOLMIAN ACCOUNT
I. What is Chisholm's Account an Account of?
The complexity of Chisholm's account: It is an account of justification for thinking that I know that p, not directly of justification for believing that p.
II. What is Chisholm's Method?
Top-Down or Bottom-Up?
III. How Does Chisholm Propose to Solve the Regress Problem?
TALBOTT'S SUGGESTIONS FOR UNDERSTANDING CHISHOLM'S TERMINOLOGY
[See handout #2 for more details]
(a) evident: Proposition P is evident to S =df. It is rational for S to be certain that P.
(b) beyond reasonable doubt: Proposition P is beyond reasonable doubt to S =df It is reasonable for S to be almost certain of P.
(c) reasonable: Proposition P is reasonable for S =df It is rational for S to be highly confident that P.
(d) acceptable: Proposition P is acceptable for S =df It is rational for S to be more confident of P of P than of –P.
(e) some presumption in favor of: There is some presumption in favor of hypothesis h for S =df It is rational for S to be more confident of h than of any competing hypothesis. (-h is not typically a competing hypothesis.)
Self-Presenting States Of Affairs:
D2.1 h is self-presenting for S at t =df (1) h is true at t; and (2) necessarily, if h is true at t, then h is evident for S at t.
Contrast perceives with takes (believe that one perceives). We will speak of apparent perception. (cf. 170)
Contrast remembers with thinking one remembers. We will speak of apparent memory. (cf. 171)
Suppose that rational agents believe with certainty all and only what it is rational for them to be certain of; believe all and only what it is rational for them to believe; etc.
The last thing we need is to know which states are self-presenting. Following Chisholm's suggestion, let us say that all apparent perceptions, apparent memories, and other conscious mental states are strongly self-presenting. (cf. 166)
Which of the following states (or propositions) is self-presenting:
(1) I am thinking.
(2) I exist. (Explain why this is indirectly rather than directly evident.)
(3) 2+2 = 4.
(4) I seem to see a wall.
Chisholm’s Account of Perceptual Knowledge
(a) Apparent Perception. I have an apparent perception of X à It is evident to me that I am having an apparent perception of X. [Apparent perception is a self-presenting state.]
I am having an apparent perception of (I seem to see) a wall. [This is evident to me.]
(b) Apparent Memory of Apparent Perception. I have an apparent memory of an apparent perception of X à It is evident to me that I am having an apparent memory of an apparent perception of X. [Apparent memory is a self-presenting state.]
I am having an apparent memory of having an apparent perception of a wall similar to my current apparent perception. (I seem to remember seeming to see a wall similar to my current perception.)
[This is evident to me.]
1. The first inferential step:
(a) Perception. It is evident to me that I am having an apparent perception of X and I have no grounds to doubt my perception à It is reasonable for me to believe I am having a veridical perception of X. (cf. 169)
I am truly seeing a wall. [This is reasonable for me to believe.]
(b) Memory. It is evident to me that I am having an apparent memory of an apparent perception of X and I have no grounds to doubt my memory à It is beyond reasonable doubt for me to believe I am having a veridical memory of an apparent perception of X. (cf. (E) and (F) on p. 171) [Note on "grounds for doubt". See page 173.]
I have a memory of having an apparent perception of a wall like apparent perception I am now having. [This is beyond reasonable doubt for me.]
2. The second inferential step:
(a) Memory of a perception: It is beyond reasonable doubt for me to believe I am having a veridical memory of an apparent perception of X and I have no grounds to doubt that the perception was real à It is acceptable for me to believe that I am having a veridical memory of a veridical perception of X. (cf. (D) on p. 171)
I am having a memory of my perceiving a wall very much like this one. [This is acceptable for me.]
3. Confirmation of general hypotheses
(a) Confirmation. Rational memory beliefs and rational perceptual beliefs can tend to confirm hypotheses. Roughly, evidence e tends to confirm an hypothesis h for S =df If e is S's total evidence, h as some presumption in its favor for S. (cf. D4.1 on p. 169)
(b) Let e be all the those propositions that are acceptable for S. If e tends to confirm h, then h has some presumption in its favor for S. (cf.(G) on p. 172)
My memory and perceptual evidence make acceptable for me such statements as ‘I’m perceiving the same wall that I perceived last Thursday.” Those statements in turn tend to confirm generalizations (e.g., Walls last a long time; walls support ceilings; etc.) [Those generalizations have some presumption in their favor for me.]
(a) A is a set of concurrent propositions =df A is a set of two or more propositions each of which is such that the conjunction all the others tend to confirm it and is logically independent of it. (cf. D4.4 on p. 172)
(b) There is a set of concurring propositions each of which has some presumption in its favor for S à Every member of the set is beyond reasonable doubt for S. (cf. (H) on p. 172)
For example, my general beliefs about walls tend to confirm my belief that I am seeing the same wall I saw last Thursday. My belief that I am seeing the same wall I saw last Thursday (in combination with my other beliefs about walls) tends to confirm my belief that walls last a long time. [This set of concurring propositions is beyond reasonable doubt for me.]
5. How Perceptual Knowledge Becomes Evident
S believes without grounds for doubt that s/he perceives X (e.g., X might be "There is a dog barking") and the proposition X is a member of a set of concurrent propositions that are beyond reasonable doubt for S à It is evident for S that s/he perceives X. (cf. (1) on p. 173).
Thus, my belief that I am perceiving a wall goes from being reasonable for me (at the end of step 1), to being beyond reasonable doubt for me (at the end of step 4), to being evident for me (at the end of step 5).
This is an example of a proposition that is indirectly evident.
BONJOUR'S FEATURE-Φ ARGUMENT
AGAINST BASIC EMPIRICAL BELIEFS
Basic Empirical Belief = A belief that is empirically justified, but does not depend for its justification on any other empirical belief.
Let B be a basic empirical belief. Let Φ be the property in virtue of which B qualifies as a basic empirical belief.
The Feature-Φ Argument is a reductio ad absurdum of the hypothesis that there are basic empirical beliefs. From the hypothesis that there is a basic empirical belief B, it deduces the conclusion that B is not a basic empirical belief. BonJour believes that if the reductio is successful, it shows that there can be no basic empirical beliefs.
Actually, the argument also depends on another assumption:
THE META-JUSTIFICATORY REQUIREMENT
The Meta-Justificatory Requirement: The feature (Φ) in virtue of which a belief (B) qualifies as basic must also constitute a good reason for thinking B is true—that is, the premises of the following meta-justificatory argument must at least be justified:
THE FORM OF A META-JUSTIFICATORY ARGUMENT
(i) Belief B has feature Φ.
(ii) Beliefs having feature Φ are highly likely to be true.
Therefore, B is highly likely to be true.
[NOTE THIS IS NOT THE FEATURE-Φ ARGUMENT. IT SIMPLY SPECIFIES ONE OF THE ASSUMPTIONS OF THE FEATURE-Φ ARGUMENT: THAT BEING JUSTIFIED IN BELIEVING B DEPENDS ON BEING JUSTIFIED IN BEING ABLE TO MAKE A META-JUSTIFICATORY ARGUMENT OF THIS KIND.]
SUMMARY OF THE FEATURE-Φ ARGUMENT
(1) There is a basic empirical belief B.
(2) The Meta-Justificatory Requirement for Basic Beliefs.
(3) Both premises (i) and (ii) of the Meta-Justificatory Argument could not be justified a priori. One must be justified at least, in part, empirically.
(3) B depends for its justification on the justification of both premises (i) and (ii).
CONCLUSION: Therefore, B depends for its justification on the justification of at least one other empirically justified premise. So B is not basic after all. This contradicts the assumption that B is a basic belief.
APPLICATION OF THE FEATURE-Φ ARGUMENT TO CHISHOLM
What is the feature ϕ of basic beliefs for Chisholm?
(1) Let W be the statement that I am having an apparent perception of a wall. It is a basic empirical belief.
(2) The Metajustificatory Argument:
(1) I have a belief W that is a belief about an apparent perception of a wall.
(ii) Beliefs about apparent perceptions are are likely to be true.
Therefore, W is likely to be true.
BonJour believes that either (i) or (ii) or both must be an empirical proposition.
CONCLUSION: W is not a basic empirical belief, because it depends for its justification on at least one other empirical belief.
If Chisholm were to attempt a metajustificatory argument, how would it go?
It would begin with the definition of a self-presenting state. How could he justify that premise. Chisholm could easily claim that the definition was justified a priori, not empirically. It also follows logically that beliefs about self-presenting states are likely to be true (indeed, they are certain to be true, with one qualification that I set aside here.) This is BonJour’s (ii).
However, at some point in the argument, Chisholm would have to identify which beliefs are beliefs about self-presenting states—for example, apparent perceptions, apparent memories, etc. This is BonJour’s (i). How could he justify the premise identifying those states as self-presenting? It would seem that the justification could not be a priori. But if the justification is empirical, then BonJour’s conclusion follows—the beliefs about self-presenting states would not be basic.
How would (or should) Chisholm reply?
BONJOUR'S SELLARSIAN ARGUMENT AGAINST GIVENISM
The Given = some sort of immediate apprehension of some sort of state of affairs (e.g., of a mental state).
To state the problem, we need to introduce a distinction:
Foundational beliefs = basic beliefs = beliefs whose justification does not depend on other beliefs.
Foundational states = the Given = the states that justify basic or foundational beliefs. By definition, foundational states cannot be beliefs.
EITHER: (1) Immediate apprehensions are cognitive. In this case, they will be capable of providing justification for other empirical beliefs, and in need of it themselves;
OR: (2) Immediate apprehensions are not cognitive. In this case, they will not need justification, but will also not be capable of providing justification to any other beliefs.
In either case, Givenism does not solve the regress problem for Foundationalism.
Here is another version of the same problem:
THE BOUNDARY PROBLEM
Epistemic justification seems to have a causal element and a logical (or quasi-logical) element. The boundary problem for empirical foundationalism is the problem of explaining how there could be justificatory relations between foundational beliefs and the Given (i.e., the foundational states that support foundational beliefs but are not themselves beliefs). How could justificatory relations cross the boundary between non-beliefs and beliefs.
There is no problem in understanding how there could be causal relations between non-beliefs and beliefs. (Give an example.) The puzzle is how there could be logical (or quasi-logical) relations between non-beliefs and non-beliefs.
The Foundationalist must provide a solution to the Boundary Problem.
Interesting fact: When BonJour wrote the selection we read, he opposed empirical foundationalism and defended empirical coherentism. He later became an empirical foundationalist.
(1) How did the later BonJour respond to the feature-ϕ argument? Basic beliefs don’t require a meta-justification. They don’t require any argument at all to be justified. That is what makes them basic.
(2) How did the later BonJour resolve the Boundary Problem and respond to the Givenist’s Dilemma? He argued that sensory experience has non-propositional content—that is, a kind of content that is different from the kind of content that beliefs have.