Ralph’s interesting post and penetrating discussion raised to my mind the central question of the relationship between access internalism and various principles about the connection between first-order and higher-order justification. The simplest are, where ‘p’ is a proposition and ‘J’ is the justification operator which can be read “it is justified that” (with the understanding that it is the same person with the same total epistemic condition between antecedent and consequent), these:
1. Jp entails JJp
2. JJp entails Jp.
Here I have no special interest in 2, and don’t think anyone, even access internalists, ought to endorse it. Perhaps a defeasible connection should be endorsed (if JJP and no external defeaters with respect to JP, then JP), but the unqualified principle strikes me as obviously false (for the same reasons that infallibilism in general is false). But principle 1 is more plausible to me (when the kind of justification is the kind figuring in an account of the nature of knowledge, i.e., when ungettiered and combined with true belief yields knowledge), and the relationship between it and access internalism is the topic here. In short, access internalists, I wish to maintain, move quickly to operationalizing principle 1, in a way that leads to problems for their view that do not threaten principle 1 itself. More below the fold…
An access internalist rendering of principle 1 says: if you are justified in believing p, then if you reflect on the question of whether you are justified in believing p, it will be really obvious to you that you are. This rendering has all of the faults of conditional analyses of anything, being threatened by Shope’s conditional fallacy. For example, some people, when they reflect, can’t get past their own inability to come to a conclusion on the basis of reflection. Others mistrust their reflective capacities, and so doubt what seems to be the right conclusion. And others still reflect in such a way that additional evidence is created by reflection that didn’t exist prior to the reflection. In all these ways, an access internalist construal of principle 1 has difficulties to solve.
Note, however, that principle 1 doesn’t require access internalism. In fact, access internalism is merely what you get when you are attracted to principle 1 and try to operationalize the principle. You imagine being justified in believing a claim. And you want to know what is true at the metalevel. So, instead of asking whether the information involved in the total perspective of the individual in question involves information sufficient to justify the claim that Jp, one resorts to operationalizing: imagine reflecting in such a way that total epistemic condition is preserved, and see what results one can defend. But such a move to reflection is precisely the distinction between being justified and being able to justify a given claim, and is a typical operational move to replace a concept with its operational consequences. My thought here is that evaluating access internalism should be one research project, and evaluating principle 1 a different one. I endorse the idea that undermining principle 1 will also undermine access internalism, but not vice-versa.