Reliabilism, bootstrapping, and epistemic circularity

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Pretheoretically we hold that we cannot gain justification or knowledge through an epistemically circular reasoning process. Epistemically circular reasoning occurs when a subject forms the belief that p on the basis of an argument A, where at least one of the premises of A already presupposes the truth of p. It has often been argued that process reliabilism does not rule out that this kind of reasoning leads to justification or knowledge (cf. the so-called bootstrapping-problem or the easy-knowledge-problem). For some philosophers, this is a reason to reject reliabilism. Those who try to defend reliabilism have two basic options: (I) accept that reliabilism does not rule out circular reasoning (or bootstrapping), but argue that this kind of reasoning is not as epistemically “bad” as it seems, or (II) hold on to the view that circular reasoning (or bootstrapping) is epistemically “bad”, but deny that reliabilism really allows this kind of reasoning. Option (I) has been spelled out in several ways, all of which have found to be problematic. Option (II) has not been discussed very widely. Vogel (J Philos 97:602–623, 2000) considers and quickly dismisses it on the basis of three reasons. Weisberg (Philos Phenomenol Res 81:525–548, 2010) has shown in detail that one of these reasons is unconvincing. In this paper I argue that the other two reasons are unconvincing as well and that therefore option (II) might in fact be a more promising starting point to defend reliabilism than option (I).

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ISO 690BRIESEN, Jochen, 2013. Reliabilism, bootstrapping, and epistemic circularity. In: Synthese. 2013, 190(18), pp. 4361-4372. ISSN 0039-7857. eISSN 1573-0964. Available under: doi: 10.1007/s11229-013-0272-6
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@article{Briesen2013Relia-26624,
  year={2013},
  doi={10.1007/s11229-013-0272-6},
  title={Reliabilism, bootstrapping, and epistemic circularity},
  number={18},
  volume={190},
  issn={0039-7857},
  journal={Synthese},
  pages={4361--4372},
  author={Briesen, Jochen}
}
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