I’m reviewing this book for Notre Dame Philosophical Review, so I will use this forum to raise some issues that occur in the discussion that I won’t bring up in a relatively short review. Here’s one such issue, one between Feldman and Sosa on the problem of the speckled hen.
Sosa’s original argument distinguished between aspects of one’s visual field and what one notices, so that there could be a hen in one’s visual field with 48 speckles and yet one not notice this aspect. Feldman makes a further distinction, between peripheral and focal noticing. His example concerns the red light on his telephone, which he comes to be aware of focally while at the same time becoming aware that he has been peripherally aware of the light being on for some time. Feldman says that focal awareness produces phenomenal concepts and only phenomenal concepts play a role in justifying beliefs. So, Feldman holds, one might peripherally notice the 48 speckles, but not acquire that phenomenal concept.
Sosa responds (p. 289) by supposing someone to have the phenomenal concept of 48 speckles on the basis of seeing the hen, but who is terrible at discriminating this aspect from 47 speckles or 49 speckles. Sosa holds that such a case is possible, and that the person would not be justified in believing that the hen has 48 speckles.
The issues that arise here for me are these. Is Sosa’s supposition a case of unjustified belief? Does Feldman’s view imply that it’s justified? And, is the case a possible one?
In response to the third question, I see no reason to think the case isn’t possible. If it is possible, it won’t count as a case of knowledge on either Sosa’s view (since reliability is absent) or on Feldman’s view (since there is a defeater of whatever justification is present). Moreover, I see no clear and obvious answer to whether the belief is justified, so I’m inclined to treat the case as one to be decided by theoretical considerations alone. If that’s right, then the problem of the speckled hen may not be debilitating for Fumerton after all.