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

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eISSN: 0556-8641