Can Anything Justify Anything?

I’m off to a philosophy of religion conference at Wheaton tomorrow. Keith and I are in the same session; maybe we’ll try to figure out what a contextualist view of hell would look like…

In the meantime, I thought I’d post an argument that Ernie LePore used in a graduate seminar on Quine to see if he should switch from being a philosopher of language to being an epistemologist! Ernie maintained that anything can justify anything. I think he meant that anything can justify anything else, since that’s all the argument has a prayer of establishing. So here’s the argument:

Take any p and any q, and suppose S believes both p and q. Then either can justify the other, needing only the suppose that one of the beliefs is justified and that there are present linking beliefs that are also justified. So if you justifiably believe p and justifiably belief that if p is true then q is true as well, and believe q on the basis of competently inferring the second from the first, then p justifies q for you. Since these claims are arbitrarily chosen, we get the result that anything can justify anything else.

Do you like this argument?


Comments

Can Anything Justify Anything? — 5 Comments

  1. I don’t know if I’m missing something here, but isn’t the result we get rather that any justified belief can justify any other belief, given that there is a (proper) justificatory link (of beliefs) between them? And that’s fairly uncontroversial, isn’t it?

  2. This appears to be closely relatedy to similar issues concerning a tuatology that I’ve always found to be curious: (if a, then b) or (if b, then a).

  3. I thought few accepted this:

    So if you justifiably believe p and justifiably belief that if p is true then q is true as well, and believe q on the basis of competently inferring the second from the first, then p justifies q for you.

    Suppose that were I to consider q, I’d appreciate that q didn’t have much of a chance of being true. Shouldn’t I should suspend judgment about what lends support to q or at the very least not endorse q?

  4. It is possible to have strong evidence for p and strong evidence against q even when we have a justified belief linking p and q. In that case, it is not clear that the belief that q can be justified simply because the belief that p and the linking belief are both justified.

  5. The argument depends upon this assumption: for arbitrary P and Q, it is possible to be justified in believing “if P, then Q.” If justification is truth-conducive, I don’t see how this assumption can be true. What, for example, could justify one in believing that “if all men are mortal, then some men are not mortal”?

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