The Internalism/Externalism Divide
The internalism/externalism distinction arises out of concerns for a proper explication of the concept of epistemic justification. On the one side of the debate there are those epistemologists (internalists) who require the justifying factors of a belief to be cognitively accessible to the agent. Accordingly, something can be regarded as a justifier, that is, confer justification on a belief only if it is reflectively accessible to the subject. Externalism, by contrast, denies that any accessibility relation is required. As long as some sort of (causal/nomological) relation holds between the belief state and the circumstances that make it true, the belief is justified. The division is not, of course, as clear-cut as it appears to be. Different interpretations of the cognitive accessibility requirement would, accordingly, result in different strengths of internalism or externalism. Thus if one thought of the justifying factors (evidence) in a way that required of the cognizer to be actually aware of them, then that would be an example of a strong form of internalism, a version that recognizes as justifiers only those putative grounds that are within the cognizer’s perspective on the world. Weaker versions would, however, emerge by loosening the accessibility requirement.
KeywordsJustify Belief Justificatory Status Epistemic Justification Accessibility Constraint Content Externalism
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