In the “Hot Topics” post, a new topic of discussion has begun, and it may be useful to call attention to it in a separate post so that it doesn’t get lost in the other one. It is about the basing relation, and it began with Jim’s comment:
Here’s an example: one promising way to draw an internalism/externalism contrast is to say: X is eligible to be an INTERNAL justifier of your belief iff X is the sort of thing upon which you could BASE that belief. This preserves some of the familiar contrasts: e.g., intuitively, the reliability of your belief is not a candidate basis. But it may end up diverging in some ways from the more familiar definitions of internalism. Still, I think it’d be a fruitful contrast—if only we had some informative, independent story about what can count as a basis…
Ram followed up with 2 proposals:
(1) S’s belief that p is based on X iff S can know, by reflection alone, that S’s belief that p is caused by X. (So, for S’s belief that p to be based on X, it has to at least be caused by X. But not just any old cause can be the basis — it has to be a cause that S can recognize as such by reflection alone.)
(2) S’s belief that p is based on X only if S believes — or is at least inclined to believe — that X is a good reason for believing that p. (If S is not even inclined to believe that X is a good reason for believing that p, then, X might cause S to believe that p, but X is not a reason upon which S’s belief is based.)
(1) and (2) both strike me as promising.
To which Jim and I each raised concerns:
Both proposals do have some appeal. But a worry re (2): I’m inclined to think subjects can have based beliefs even if they lack epistemic concepts and epistemic beliefs. They can respond to reasons without yet being able to think about reasons as reasons. If that intuition is worth respecting, then (2) needs to be weakened somehow.
A similar worry re (1): I think subjects can respond to reasons without yet having the concept of a cause. It’s not clear to me, for instance, that Homer’s Greeks had either the concept of a cause or the concept of a reason. But I think they had based beliefs. You have a “can” in your formulation of (1), so that might be able to accommodate this. But a lot will depend on how that “can” gets articulated.
More pressure on that “can”: what if the subjects has background evidence, or mere beliefs, that interfere with their knowing that X caused them to believe P. E.g., they may be skeptics about causation, and so refrain from forming any beliefs to the effect that this caused that. Or, if they do form any such beliefs, the beliefs may fail to count as knowledge due to the incoherence with their skeptical commitments. Yet I’d have thought they could still form based beliefs. Maybe we should say, they’re at least _in a position_ to know by reflection alone that X caused their belief, if only they abandoned their skeptical beliefs. As I said, though, this puts more pressure on how exactly to spell out the “can” in your formulation of (1).
Ram, maybe you can explain idea (1) a bit more. My initial reaction is to think it is not promising. If causation exists, I don’t see how it could ever come to be known by reflection alone what the relata of a given causal relation are. Inferential basing, I assume, would be a good test case, but coming to believe something by inferring it from something else you believe doesn’t strike me as a case where you know, by reflection alone, that the second causes the first. If you reflect, that may be the conclusion you come to, but I don’t see how you could know it by reflection alone. Think of common causes, mere correlations, overdetermination, pseudo-overdetermination, pre-emption, double pre-emption, and all the other landmines that exist whenever we try to ascertain what causes what. I don’t see how reflection alone puts us in a position to know that, e.g., there was no common cause, Freudian or otherwise, at work (nor am I sure that such a common cause would undermine proper basing…). (Note that closure opponents have some wiggle room here that the rest of us don’t…)
We haven’t had much discussion of the basing relation here, so these comments may provide a useful starting point for one.