I have argued that the NEDP is a problem for nearly all versions of internalism. Consider Augustine*, who in his seventy-six years of life, experiences all of Augustine’s conscious states but has no unconscious internal states. With respect to their conscious life, there is no discernable difference. I appealed to the intuition that the justificational status of Augustine and Augustine*’s conscious beliefs is the same. It seems plausible to conclude that Augustine*’s unconscious, internal states are justificationally irrelevant to his conscious beliefs. This is one version of my global NEDP for internalism. (For earlier Certain Doubts discussion, see here.)
In his forthcoming book defending evidentialism, and in a forthcoming article in Acta Analytica (available on his website under “Research” and “Publications”, see here), Kevin McCain argues that my NEDP fails to show there is a problem for internalism. The force of his argument is in this quote:
First, on several plausible accounts of the nature of belief it is necessary to have certain dispositional states with respect to p in order to even occurrently believe that p. Since by stipulation Augustine* does not have any of these unaccessed internal mental states, he does not have beliefs according to these views of the nature of belief. Second, and perhaps more fundamentally, there is a further reason to think that Augustine* lacks beliefs. In order to have a belief that p, occurrent or otherwise, Augustine* must possess the concepts required to grasp the proposition p. Concept possession requires unaccessed mental states. It does not seem that one can possess the concept TREE, for example, without having some dispositional state that either represents this content or constitutes a grasping of an associated Fregean sense or at least grounds some sort of recognitional ability. However, Augustine* lacks such dispositional states. Without concepts Augustine* cannot grasp propositions and if he cannot grasp propositions, he cannot believe them. Thus, it seems that there are good grounds for thinking that Augustine* cannot have beliefs at all. But, if Augustine* cannot have beliefs, then it is impossible for him to have all of the same accessed mental states as Augustine. Therefore, AUGUSTINE fails to depict a metaphysically possible scenario. (from pp. 3-4 of the Acta Analytica article, linked above)
(I should note that McCain means by ‘occurrent’ what I used to mean by it: conscious.) These are certainly good points put forth by McCain, points that I need to reckon with. For my reply, I will suppose that McCain is correct. I will argue that there is still a new evil demon problem – what I call the nearly global new evil demon problem – that applies to nearly all versions of internalism. Some background will be necessary to present the problem. As I understand him, McCain thinks that for any person’s conscious state at a moment of time, that conscious state entails (in the broadly logical or metaphysical sense) the presence of certain unconscious internal states. (State S entails state T if and only if, in any possible world in which S is instantiated, T is also instantiated.) To facilitate discussion, let a person’s entailed unconscious internal states at a time refer to any unconscious internal state that is entailed by the person’s conscious internal states at that time. And let an unentailed unconscious internal state refer to any unconscious internal state that is not an entailed unconscious internal state.
I am now in a position to present my nearly global NEDP for most versions of internalism. Suppose Augustine* is in fact impossible. Consider, then, Augustine**, who is exactly like the original Augustine, but an evil demon has deleted all his unentailed unconscious internal states. Unlike Augustine*, Augustine** is more clearly possible; McCain’s argument that Augustine* is impossible does not show that Augustine** is impossible. Augustine** will have all of the same conscious internal states that Augustine has. Now, it seems that Augustine**’s conscious beliefs will have the same justificational status as Augustine’s. (Note this: you might be in the position of Augustine**!) Following the standard NEDP format, it seems to follow that the unentailed unconscious internal states, are justificationally irrelevant. And what is true about Augustine is true about you, me, and anybody else. It seems that, for any person S, we can formulate new evil demon scenarios according to which S has a twin, S**, who shares only the entailed unconscious mental states. It will seem that the justificational status of S and S**’s conscious beliefs are the same and that any unentailed unconscious mental states are justificationally irrelevant.
This nearly global NEDP will affect virtually all internalists. The entailed unconscious internal states are rather slim, and the sorts of unconscious internal states that moderate internalists are inclined to think are justificationally relevant are the unentailed ones. So, I conclude that even if McCain is right that my original case fails, this refined one does not.