Internalism and Externalism

I have a question about the epistemic internalism and externalism debate. After the first round of the debate in the 1980s, several philosophers began claiming to be internalists about justification but externalists about knowledge. Although this became a somewhat common view, it doesn’t seem that the articles which first expressed the view became that well-known for doing so. Can anyone tell me when such a view was first or most prominently expressed and by whom? Thanks.


Internalism and Externalism — 6 Comments

  1. James,

    I don’t know the answer to your question, but I do know that by the mid-80s Robert Audi was advocating such a view. Many of the papers in which he did so are collected in his THE STRUCTURE OF REASON (CUP, 1993). I can’t claim, though, that I know these to be the first expression of that view, though I would guess that they were a prominent early expression of the view. (It might be worth asking Audi himself who, besides him, was advocating the view then.)


  2. Sandy,

    Thanks for the tip. Like many people, I’ve always thought of Audi as a central exemplar of the view. However, perhaps also like many people, I don’t automatically think of a locus classicus in which the view was first expressed. I’ll take a fresh look at Audi’s collection.


  3. Hi, James,

    This is in response to the “most prominently expressed” part of your question.

    Richard Foley is a prime example of an internalist about justification (“epistemic rationality”) who’s also an externalist about knowledge. The most sophisticated expression of his internalism is in his 1993 book, _Working Without a Net_. For his externalism, see his “Knowledge Is Accurate and Comprehensive Enough True Belief”, in Jon Kvanvig’s 1996 collection on Plantinga, and also his 2001 book, _Intellectual Trust…_, chapters 1 and 2. There’s also a very provocative 2002 talk at the Rutgers conference where (if memory serves) Foley joins Crispin Sartwell in claiming that knowledge is just true belief. (A version of that talk may have been published in PPR. I don’t know if it was.)

  4. Hi James,
    I don’t know what the most prominent expression of this was in the literature, but I came to first see it most clearly in Richard Feldman’s response to Alvin Plantinga. Plantinga uses ‘warrant’ as what turns true belief into knowledge. In the Kvanvig volume (devoted to Plantinga’s work, 1996) on pp. 199-200, Feldman writes the following:

    “Early in his book Plantinga says, “I propose to begin my study of contemporary views of warrant by examining some internalist theories of warrant…” (1993a, p. 5). According to Plantinga, “The basic thrust of internalism in epistemology… is that the properties that confer warrant upon a belief are properties to which the believer has some sort of special epistemic access” (1993a, p. 6). As examples of internalist theories, he cites… Chisholm… BonJour… Conee and me… At the end of his survey of the current debate, Plantinga concludes that “Internalism, therefore, is quite insufficient; for an account of warrant we must look elsewhere” (1993a, p. 183).

    In my view, approximately no recent nonskeptical epistemologists have been internalists about warrant. In particular, the contemporary philosophers Plantinga takes as characteristic internalists have not been internalists about warrant. They have been internalists about something else – justification – but not warrant. There’s good reason for this, since internalism about warrant is plainly unacceptable, given any plausible account of what internalism is and given what Plantinga means by “warrant.” Plantinga’s rejection of internalism thus rests partly on a misinterpretation which, I believe, stems in part from his attitude toward the Gettier problem…

    The general point I want to make about all the philosophers whose views I’m about to discuss is this: while they defend internalist accounts of epistemic justification, they say that what’s needed for knowledge is justified true belief plus something else. That something else is what’s needed to deal with Gettier cases. And, in every case, that something else is something external. So, all these philosophers may well be internalist about justification, but none is internalist about warrant, where warrant is whatever must be added to true belief to get knowledge…”

    And since warrant is just what’s needed to turn true belief into knowledge, it follows that Feldman is stating clearly that he thinks that most internalists are internalists about justification and externalists about knowledge.

  5. Yes, Andrew, but that’s the reading of James’ question that I thought we were supposed to avoid, the one to which that passage in Feldman might provide the answer. Since Gettier, there has been no internalist about knowledge, that is, no one who has a right to think that an internal condition on true belief will give us knowledge. I’m sure James wouldn’t disagree. So, maybe his question should be recast as follows: Who’s a prominent internalist about justification and a non-justificationist about knowledge? That’s what I took him to be asking.

    I hope this helps.

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