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causal theories in epistemology

carl ginet

Subject Philosophy » Epistemology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631192589.1993.x


What makes a belief justified and what makes a true belief knowledge? It is natural to think that whether a belief deserves one of these appraisals depends on what caused the subject to have the belief. In recent decades a number of epistemologists have pursued this plausible idea with a variety of specific proposals. Let us look first at some proposed causal criteria for knowledge and then at one for justification. Some causal theories of knowledge have it that a true belief that p is knowledge just in case it has the right sort of causal connection to the fact that p. Such a criterion can be applied only to cases where the fact that p is a sort that can enter into causal relations; this seems to exclude mathematical and other necessary facts and perhaps any fact expressed by a universal generalization; and proponents of this sort of criterion have usually supposed that it is limited to perceptual knowledge of particular facts about the subject's environment. For example, A rmstrong (1973, ch. 12) proposed that a belief of the form ‘This (perceived) object is F’ is (non-inferential) knowledge if and only if the belief is a completely reliable sign that the perceived object is F; that is, the fact that the object is F contributed to causing the belief and its doing so depended on properties of the believer such that the laws of nature dictate that, for any subject x ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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