Knowledge without justification

Date of Completion

January 2003


Philosophy|Psychology, Cognitive




This dissertation argues that there can be unjustified perceptual and testimonial knowledge. By “justification,” I mean an internalist conception according to which a belief's justification is some relation that the belief bears to another belief. ^ The first chapter characterizes the theory of proper functions that underlies my epistemic theory. ^ The second chapter discusses the reasons for thinking that there is unjustified knowledge. My argument proceeds indirectly by first critiquing the two major theories that require all knowledge to be justified: coherentism and infinitism. I argue that these theories fail, because they cannot explain the essential connection between the system of justified beliefs and experience. ^ The third chapter analyzes foundationalism, which I characterize as any theory that takes empirical knowledge to rest upon basic beliefs, each of which is based entirely upon experience. After a discursion on why strong foundationalism's insistence upon the incorrigibility of basic beliefs is unrealistic, I examine a modest variety of foundationalism whose basic beliefs are revisable. Although the fallibilism of modest foundationalism is an improvement over strong foundationalism, I provide some examples to show that many empirical pieces of knowledge based upon experience also are based upon background beliefs. If I am correct in this assessment, all varieties of foundationalism are flawed. ^ I next try to provide a theory of noninferential perceptual and testimonial knowledge, of knowledge without justification. Chapters Four and Six focus upon unjustified perceptual knowledge and upon the role that sensation plays in helping us cope with the world through subdoxastic mechanisms. This discussion assumes the correctness of faculty psychology, which I outline in Chapter Four. ^ Chapter Five defends a teleosemantic theory of concepts against holistic conceptual theories that are antagonistic to faculty psychology. ^ The final chapter provides an account of unjustified testimonial knowledge that in important respects parallels my account of unjustified perceptual knowledge. I conclude that understanding the world through perception and understanding the world through testimony are not as different as they sometimes are portrayed. ^