The Role of Sensory Experience in Epistemic Justification: a Problem for Coherentism

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

The author argues that coherence views of justification, in spite of their crucial insight into the interpenetration of our beliefs, neglect a key constraint on justification: they are unable to accommodate the epistemic significance of experience. Epistemic justification is not just a function of our beliefs and their interrelations. Both, beliefs and experiences, are relevant to the justification of an empirical belief. Experience is not itself a form of belief or disposition to believe; it cannot be analyzed in doxastic terms. And, yet, nondoxastic experiences play a justificatory role, not merely a causal role. The positive epistemic status of a perceptual belief depends upon being appeared to in appropriate ways. It is important that, for an ordinary perceptual belief to be justified, one does not have to believe that one is appeared to in these ways. It is the experiences themselves, the ways of being appeared to, not our beliefs about them, that are required for justification.

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