Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Justification and the Truth-Connection (CUP) is now in print

I just received some advanced copies of my first book, Justification and the Truth-Connection (Cambridge University Press). You can pick up a copy here or wait until the end of the month and grab a copy here. The book is about the internalism/externalism debate in epistemology. Why did we need another book on this topic? Well, it seemed to me that none of the standard arguments for the standard views were decisive. I'm not alone in thinking this. Lots of people think that the debate has reached a kind of stalemate. I look at three ways of trying to advance the discussion and end up defending an unorthodox externalist view. To justifiably believe some proposition, you have to believe for reasons that show that you are right about that proposition. Here are some of the highlights.

* In the first chapter, I survey the standard arguments for the standard views and explain why these arguments don't settle the issue.

* There's been considerable discussion of the value of knowledge, but little discussion of the value of justification. In the second chapter, I offer an account of the value of justification and explain why none of the value-driven arguments for internalism or for externalism are decisive.

* In the third chapter I offer an account of the ontology of epistemic reasons. If the account offered here is sound, it shows that the only way to defend the internalist supervenience thesis (i.e., that all of the facts about justification strongly supervene upon a subject's non-factive mental states) is to embrace external world skepticism.

* In the third chapter, I also defend the view that the reasons for which we believe and act are the facts that we have in mind, not mental states or facts about those states. In the course of defending this view, I evaluate Davidson's arguments for psychologism about motivating reasons. Even if his arguments are sound, they don't support psychologism about motivating reasons. They don't show that reasons are causes but that reasons explanations are causal explanations. You can consistently maintain that reasons explanations are causal explanations without identifying reasons with causes. Instead, you can identify reasons with explanantia.

* Having argued that justifying or normative reasons are facts, I argue in the fourth chapter that justification ascriptions are factive. That is to say, the justification of a belief depends (in part) upon whether that belief fits the facts. This is because belief is governed by a norm that enjoins us to exclude beliefs that would pass of spurious reasons as if they were genuine from practical and theoretical deliberation.

* In the fourth chapter, I explain why my view doesn't commit you to any sort of disjunctivist view. McDowell has tried to show that the account of reasons I've defended does commit you to a disjunctivist account of experience. I explain why he's mistaken.

* In the fourth chapter, I discuss arguments from error that are intended to show that the reasons for which we act or believe aren't the facts we have in mind. These arguments don't support the view that motivating reasons are propositions or mental states. The mistake in the argument is in thinking that we believe or act for reasons in the bad case. To act or believe for a reason, I argue, is to respond to a reason that applies to you and that's not something that happens when you're in the bad case.

* In the fifth and sixth chapter, I defend the view that truth, not knowledge, is the norm of assertion and of practical reason. It's there that I show that the truth norm can account for the data typically offered in support of the knowledge norm (e.g., lottery cases, Moorean absurdities). It's there that I show that knowledge norms generate too many epistemic obligations.

* In the sixth chapter, I argue that we need a factive conception of epistemic justification to make sense of our moral intuitions. This might be the most important part of the book. It's because we're rational creatures that we're under the epistemic and moral obligations that we are. They apply to us categorically. I assume that these obligations don't pit us against ourselves, compelling us to believe that our duty is to do one thing and then compelling us to do something else instead. If this is right, then justified beliefs have to serve as the justified basis for action. And if this is right, only a factive account of justified belief will do. Any non-factive account will either deny that the demands of practical and theoretical reason are unified or will undermine any objectivist account of obligation on which facts about obligation are determined independently from our opinions about them.

* In the seventh chapter, I offer my positive account of justification. To justifiably believe something is to believe for reasons that show that you are right. Normative reasons are facts. They determine what we should feel, think, and do. Beliefs are supposed to provide us with reasons so that we can feel what we should feel, think what we should think, and do what we should do. The justification of a belief depends upon whether the belief in question can do what it's supposed to do, and so it has to be held for reasons that put you in a position to see what reasons apply to you.


Gabriele Contessa said...

Congratulations, Clayton! Can't wait to read it!

Justin Caouette said...

Clayton, a few of us graduate students at the University of Calgary ( some profs as well) are beginning to read your book this week in our epistemology reading group. I was hoping to bug you from time to time if clarificatory questions arise. Would that be ok, and if so, what forum would you like me to use to ask said questions?

Thanks in advance.


Clayton Littlejohn said...

Hi Justin,

Thanks for the note. Send me an email at about the book. I'm honored that you and your group are taking a look at it and would love to chat about it.

My best,