Neoclassical Reliabilism

David Henderson and Terence Horgan

in The Epistemological Spectrum

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608546
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729584 | DOI:
Neoclassical Reliabilism

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This chapter focuses on scenarios that point in the direction of a reliabilist account of being objectively justified in believing. A concern for some form of epistemic safety is found to be central to the concept of justification. However, the chapter does not purport to give a final account of the relevant sort of safety. What does emerge is a plausible, refined, version of what is now classical reliabilist thinking. The refinements turn on two ideas. The first is a distinction between global reliability and (merely) local reliability. Local reliability is reliability relative to the specific, spatiotemporally local, environment that the cognitive agent happens to occupy when the belief is formed. Global reliability is reliability relative to the class of actual and potential local environments within the cognitive agent's global environment. The second idea is that of “suitable modulational control.” Cognitive agents like humans deploy various belief-forming processes in ways that are holistically integrated within the agent's overall cognitive architecture. Information afforded my some processes may then condition, enhance, trigger, restrain, or suppress the working of other cognitive processes. Such modulational control can enhance the reliability of one's cognitive processes. On the refined reliabilist account developed here, termed neoclassical reliabilism, in order to be objectively justified in holding a belief, one must have formed that belief by way of processes that are globally reliable under what we call suitable “modulational control.” While neoclassical reliabilism will be criticized in subsequent chapters, it provides a charitable version of much reliabilist epistemology.

Keywords: epistemic justification; reliabilism; reliability; safety; modulational control

Chapter.  17939 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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