Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Evidence and Armchair Access

According to the principle of armchair access:

AA: If p is included in my evidence it is possible to know from the armchair (i.e., on the basis of reflection or introspection) that p is part of my evidence.

Objection: AA leads to a kind of sceptical result. AA leads to the result I know from the armchair that I have no non-inferential knowledge of contingent propositions about the external world.


(1) My evidence is limited to propositions I can know-armchair belong to my evidence. [Assumption of armchair access]
(2) If p is part of my evidence (a) p is the case [ET].
(3) If I non-inferentially know that p, p is part of my evidence [NIK].
(4) If my evidence includes the proposition that I have hands, I have hands and I know-armchair that I have hands [(1), (2), (3)].
(4) But, it's absurd to think I know-armchair that I have hands.
(5) If my evidence cannot include the proposition that I have hands, either I'm handless or I cannot know non-inferentially that I have hands [(2), (3)].
(6) My evidence cannot include the proposition that I have hands [(2), (3), (4)].
(7) Either I'm handless or I cannot know non-inferentially that I have hands [(5), (6)]
(8) If I have hands, I cannot know non-inferentially that I do [(7)].
(9) Thus, whether I have hands or not, I cannot know non-inferentially that I do [(8) and factivity of 'knows'].

This doesn't rule out having knowledge of the external world. It only rules out having such knowledge without inferring it from propositions about matters known to you via introspection or reflection. That rules out a lot, I think. Now, the move from (1) to (4) might seem dodgy since it is mediated by an assumption about evidence (i.e., that evidence consists of truths) and knowledge (non-inferential knowledge suffices for a proposition's inclusion in your evidence). But, I don't see that these assumptions could be responsible for generating any untoward sceptical consequences. When NIK does, in effect, is say that the acquisition of evidence is cheap. ET is, so far as I can see, supported by solid linguistic evidence and I can't see how we are better positioned to respond to sceptical arguments by saying that our evidence is just the same even if everything we believe is mistaken and everything we seem to experience an illusion. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, it's late but I thought I should jot this down before I forget it. Let's hope there are no glaring mistakes.

2 comments:

Andrew Cullison said...

Hey Clayton,

Feldman has a paper where he discusses two kinds of foundationalism...

1. Classical Foundationalism
Basic beliefs are things like "It seems to me that there is a chair"

2. Modest Foundationalism (I forget what he calls it)
Basic beliefs are things like "There is a chair"

He argues that foundationalists ought to favor Modest Foundationalism.

Here's a link to the paper...http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/120710678/abstract?CRETRY=1&SRETRY=0

(I'll spare you the argument for this in this post)

If someone were to go this route, they would reject premise (3)

Here's one way a proponent of Modest Foundationalism could go. According to this view you could have non-inferential knowledge about the external world, but it may not be part of your evidence. Your evidence would be the internal seeming/perceptual state - you get a justified basic belief about the external world that's based on the seeming/perceptual state - but that belief won't be part of your evidence.

That's all a little quick - I hope it makes sense.

Clayton said...

Hey Andrew,

I figured that MF is now more popular than CF, so the conclusion that we don't have non-inferential knowledge of contingent propositions about the external world is one that has some punch. I suppose that someone who adopts MF _could_ say that the evidence is the seeming/appearance state. Two questions. First, why _must_ they describe our evidence this way. Second, isn't it odd to think that the culprit that generates the sceptical conclusion is the liberal view that nothing more than non-inferential knowledge of p's truth could be needed for p's inclusion in your evidence?