Project: "Epistemic Basing
Advisor: Marshall Swain
A vital, but rarely
examined, necessary condition for a belief's
being justified is that it be based on the relevant reasons. A belief
based on a reason when the reason is the (or among the) reason(s) for
the belief is held. As William Alston has noted there is no adequate
illuminating explanation of the basing relation in the literature. In
dissertation, my aim is to provide this sort of explanation.
My own theory of the basing relation, the causal-doxastic theory, is designed to succeed where other theories of the basing relation have failed. According to it, a belief is based on a reason either when the reason causes the belief in the appropriate fashion or there is no such causal relation, but one has a meta-belief to the effect that the reason is a good reason to hold the belief, and that meta-belief has the appropriate causal history. I argue that the causal-doxastic theory avoids the problems plaguing other theories discussed in the literature.
An adequate theory of the basing relation is relevant to many current debates in epistemology. For example, the basing relation, on my view, sometimes requires a limited degree of introspective access to the basing of one's beliefs, hence a limited accessibility internalism is shown to be true sans appeal to a conception of justification which ties this notion to epistemic responsibility or to meeting intellectual obligations. Second, inferences are simply a kind of basing relation, so a conclusive account of the basing relation also provides an adequate theory of inference. Finally, an account of the basing relation is useful for understanding and defending many different theories of justification. For example, an adequate theory of the basing relation will help to explain how basic beliefs get justified and why they are not incorrigible.