DOES SUPPOSITIONAL REASONING SOLVE THE BOOTSTRAPPING PROBLEM? (pages 351-363)

James VAN CLEVE

ABSTRACT: In a 2002 article Stewart Cohen advances the “bootstrapping problem” for what he calls “basic justification theories,” and in a 2010 followup he offers a solution to the problem, exploiting the idea that suppositional reasoning may be used with defeasible as well as with deductive inference rules. To curtail the form of bootstrapping permitted by basic justification theories, Cohen insists that subjects must know their perceptual faculties are reliable before perception can give them knowledge. But how is such knowledge of reliability to be acquired if not through perception itself? Cohen proposes that such knowledge may be acquired a priori through suppositional reasoning. I argue that his strategy runs afoul of a plausible view about how epistemic principles function; in brief, I argue that one must actually satisfy the antecedent of an epistemic principle, not merely suppose that one does, to acquire any justification by its means – even justification for a merely conditional proposition.

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