Philosophical Papers

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Responsibility and Reliability

M Williams


‘Responsibilist\' approaches to epistemology link knowledge and justification with
epistemically responsible belief management, where responsible management is
understood to involve an essential element of guidance by recognized epistemic norms. By
contrast, reliabilist approaches stress the de facto reliability of cognitive processes,
rendering epistemic self-consciousness as inessential. I argue that, although an adequate
understanding of human knowledge must make room for both responsibility and
reliability, philosophers have had a hard time putting them together, largely owing to a
tendency, on the part of responsibilists, to adopt an overly demanding, hyperintellectualized
conception of what epistemic responsibility demands. I trace this tendency
towards hyper-intellectualism to a wish to meet scepticism head on, a wish that enforces
adherence to a particular model of the structure of epistemic justification. I argue that a
more humanly reasonable conception of epistemic justification suggests an alternative
model. With this model in hand, we can both deflect sceptical problems and combine
responsibility with reliability in a satisfying way.

Philosophical Papers Vol. 37 (1) 2008: pp. 1-26
AJOL African Journals Online