An Expanded Conception of Epistemically Relevant Cognitive Processes: the Role of Morphological Content

David Henderson and Terence Horgan

in The Epistemological Spectrum

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199608546
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191729584 | DOI:
An Expanded Conception of Epistemically Relevant Cognitive Processes: the Role of Morphological Content

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Emerging results in cognitive science have far-reaching consequences concerning the cognitive processes that make for doxastic justification. Epistemologists commonly suppose that epistemological tasks can be, and are, managed by cognitive processes in which all the information bearing on a stretch of belief fixation is occurrently represented in the course of these processes. Recent work in cognitive science associated with “the frame problem” indicates that this common assumption is misguided (as are several tempting, weakened versions of it). It is argued that an epistemologically crucial aspect of effective belief-formation involves cognitive processing that accommodates a wide range of information in an implicit way—without the information being explicitly represented in the course of processing, either consciously or unconsciously. What emerges is a view of objectively justificatory human belief-fixing processes according to which much of the epistemic action, much of what contributes to one's systematic successes, lies below the readily accessible “surface” of one's cognition. This calls for an epistemology with two legitimate, and complementary, foci. One is the traditional focus on psychological factors that are conscious during belief formation, and/or are readily psychologically accessible after the fact. And the other focus is the full set of epistemologically relevant psychological factors, many of which may be only partially, piecemeal-fashion, accessible after the fact of belief-formation. Thus, one arrives at what is termed iceberg epistemology.

Keywords: epistemic justification; reliabilism; modulational control; naturalized epistemology; morphological content; evidence; iceberg epistemology; frame problem; connectionism

Chapter.  22703 words. 

Subjects: Metaphysics

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