Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation


How Justification Works Public Deposited
  • Essential to our self-conception as rational human animals is that we are the makers and takers of reasons—we believe and act based on evidence. The project of determining exactly what this means for us is one of the central projects of philosophical epistemology. One dimension of this project that has been largely neglected, however, is how justification is supposed to play the specifically normative role that it’s claimed to play. The project of this dissertation is to examine the specifically normative role of internalistic justification and to provide a positive theory for its nature and function. When epistemologists claim that justification is normative, what they mean is that it is epistemically better, all things considered, to possess justification than to lack it. According to what I call the Standard Picture of Epistemic Normativity, the epistemic normativity of justification is to be explained in terms of justification’s instrumental ability to bring about true beliefs. However, the Standard Picture, as I show, is fatally flawed and therefore cannot explain the epistemic value of justification. The question of how justification can play its properly normative role thus remains unanswered. This dissertation proceeds in four parts. In the first part, I lay out, explicate, and analyze the target concept of the dissertation: justification. In the second part, I show how the Standard Picture has been claimed to be able to explain the epistemic normativity of justification and how it has failed to do so. In the third part, I lay out a number of adequacy conditions on a theory of the epistemic normativity of justification—conditions any plausible theory would need to satisfy in order to satisfy its explanatory task. In the fourth part I present a two-part positive theory of the epistemic normativity of justification. This theory relies on philosophical tools developed by Kant, Husserl, and Heidegger and presents a picture of justification as grounded not in an instrumental ability to bring about true beliefs, but in the intrinsically valuable role it plays in our self-consciously social lives.
Date Issued
  • 2015
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Commencement Year
Last Modified
  • 2019-11-16
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Rights Statement