When we think of justifications for beliefs we naturally tend to think of them as being supplied by considerations that we accept.
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Whether, and if so how, experiences justify perceptual judgements is harder to make out. If I see that there is a robin in my garden it simply strikes me that there is. This is of course in response to what I see but I do not seem to rely on a reason in the form of some prior considerations that justifies thinking that a robin is there. It is no surprise that some theorists, notably Davidson, think it is a mistake to suppose that experiences have a rational role.
Those who, like Gupta, adopt a philosophically traditional conception of experience try to work out how experiences can contribute to our being entitled to various beliefs about the world. Any plausible explanation will have to accommodate the fact that experiences never contribute to the justification of beliefs in the absence of some picture of the world -- what Gupta calls a view.
This presents a problem if a we are justified in holding judgements arising out of experience only if we are entitled to hold to the relevant portion of our existing view, and yet b our entitlement to that portion of the view is problematic.
It is a chief merit of this work that the problem is recognised and addressed in a systematic way that deserves serious evaluation. Nonetheless, the story as a whole still leaves it unclear what it is about experiences that enables them to contribute to the justification of beliefs. It is as if Gupta is saying to us, 'Granted that experiences have a rational role, here is a picture of how they interact with views to yield entitlements to belief and judgement'.
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Yet he does not in my view make it transparent to us how experiences can have such a role. Davidson's scepticism on this score arises from the thought that while experiences conceived as states intrinsically devoid of thought-content have a causal role in relation to beliefs, they are just not the sort of thing that can contribute to the justification of beliefs.
Davidson's arguments to this effect may be wanting as Gupta thinks, pp. Yet, faced with Gupta's theory, Davidsonian theorists are unlikely to say, 'So that is how experiences can contribute to justification'.
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Their problem, after all, was not about the floating status of views but about the very idea that justification can derive from experiences. Some epistemologists who address these matters invoke epistemic principles along the lines that if one has an experience just as if an F is present then one is justified in believing that an F is present in the absence of reasons not to take the experience at face value. Such a view suggests that a response to puzzlement about how experiences have a justificatory role might be, 'There is a plausible-looking epistemic principle linking experiences with beliefs along the foregoing lines and informing our epistemic appraisal of perceptual beliefs'.
This approach is unsatisfying since it takes us little beyond a statement of the position that experiences have a justificatory role. If one were sceptical about this, one would be just as sceptical about whether there is such an epistemic principle. Gupta introduces an important refinement on the role of experiences: we are to think of experiences as giving us only conditional justifications of beliefs.
But while the theory that incorporates this refinement interestingly addresses the problem of the floating status of initial views, it does not serve to make it transparent how experiences can rationally modify existing views.
(PDF) Empiricism and Experience - Anil Gupta | Derek Brown - inmudvetibling.tk
In John McDowell's thinking, justification is clearly tied to reasons and reasons are conceived as propositionally constituted; a sub-class of experiences -- seeings-that, hearings-that, and so forth -- being factive, are held to furnish us with worldly facts. If the fact that p is taken in through such an experience then it can serve as a reason for believing other things. And since we can be apprised of the fact that we see that p, that fact itself, retained in memory, can serve as a reason that rationally sustains a continuing belief that p.
This has the advantage of fairly directly reflecting commonsense thinking, but is liable to seem unsatisfying if unaccompanied by some story that illuminates how perceivings-that can play the epistemic role that they do and that explains our epistemic access to facts as to what we perceive to be so.
It is, even so, an interesting competitor to Gupta's perspective. It is fuelled at least in part by the conviction that traditional thinking about experience places us at an epistemic distance from the world by making it impossible to make out how experiences can put us in cognitive contact with objects and facts.
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Related subjects: Philosophy In philosophy generally, empiricism is a theory of knowledge emphasizing the role of experience. In the philosophy of science, empiricism is a theory of knowledge which emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to experience, especially as formed through deliberate experimental arrangements. It is a fundamental requirement of scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation.
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