Saturday, August 24, 2013

Philosophy from the Margins


To do philosophy from the margins is not to do merely marginal philosophy or to be concerned with merely marginal philosophical problems. It is not to promote the marginal as an end in itself or to be concerned with merely the margins, limits, or boundaries of philosophy.
      It is not to propose philosophical arguments that have merely marginal or questionable relevance and validity. It is not to behave unconventionally merely in order to explore the margins or test the limits of socially acceptable behavior.
      It is not merely to subscribe to the belief system of some marginalized social group. It is not merely to express disaffection or alienation from society. It is not to adopt some form of radical or extremist ideology.
      It is rather to stand outside the philosophical mainstream and to engage in philosophy from the standpoint of a person who has been marginalized. It is also to examine the implicit assumptions of mainstream philosophy, and to evaluate their rationality, justifiability, and validity.
      To do philosophy from the margins is to have been barred or excluded in one way or another from a conventional position of speakership within philosophy. It is to have been compelled to accept some marginalized status or form of postponed participation with regard to philosophical discourse.
      Must “philosophy from the margins” necessarily address the needs and concerns of those who have been marginalized? Is claiming to be marginalized something that is empty of meaning, by virtue of the fact that almost everyone can claim to have been marginalized in one way or another by someone else?
      Who exactly are the marginalized in our society? Who marginalizes whom? In what way do people marginalize those whom they do not want to recognize or engage in dialogue with?
      To do philosophy from the margins may be to recognize the diverse viewpoints of, and to examine the problems that are relevant to, those who have been marginalized, forgotten, displaced, or dispossessed by society. It may be to encourage social equity and to promote the eradication of distinctions between insiders and outsiders.
      Philosophy from the margins may also reveal the centrality of the marginal and the marginality of the central. It may question or destabilize the meanings of centrality and marginality, and it may allow their interdependence to be recognized.
      To do philosophy from the margins may be to record one’s thoughts in the margins of a philosophical text (or in the margins of a text that has philosophical implications). It may be to inscribe a text with one’s own philosophical thoughts and reflections. It may be to record one’s own observations on, or interpretation of, a text, and to become the author of a commentary on the text. It may be to identify whatever is noteworthy in a text and to engage in dialogue with that text.
      Doing philosophy from the margins may also mean recognizing the occurrence of epistemological thresholds, limits, breaks, and discontinuities. It may mean resisting the pressure to conform to traditional methods of reading, understanding, and problem solving.
       It may mean a concern with boundary objects, boundary concepts, boundary conditions, and boundary questions. It may mean an exploration of the horizons of being, time, space, consciousness, existence, and experience. It may also mean an investigation of the limits of thought, reason, emotion, discourse, and language.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Some Propositions Concerning Epistemic Ground, Warrant, and Justification


Despite the limitations of “S knows that p” epistemology, it may be worthwhile to examine some basic “S knows that p" propositions in order to try to clarify the relations between epistemic ground, justification, and warrant.  Such an examination may also help to delineate some of the controversies regarding the relations between epistemic ground, justification, and warrant. Thus, some basic “S believes that p” or "S knows that p" propositions are:

      1. Even if there is sufficient reason (or there are sufficient grounds) for S to believe that p, p may still be false. (Although it may be argued, to the contrary, that if there are sufficient grounds for S to believe that p, then p must be true.)
      2. If there is sufficient reason (or there are sufficient grounds) for S to believe that p, then S may be justified in believing that p. (Although it may be argued, to the contrary, that the justification for a belief cannot be provided solely by the grounds for that belief, and that a belief must not only have sufficient grounds, but also be true in order to be justified.)
      3. If S believes that p, but p is false, then S’s belief is unwarranted. (Although it may be argued, to the contrary, that warrant may be defined in such a way that all warranted beliefs do not necessarily have to be true. For example, Kent Bach (1996) explains that one way of defining warrant may be to say that warranted beliefs are those beliefs that, if true, are not accidentally true.1)     
      4. S’s believing p at a given time t may be justified on the basis of the evidence available to S at t, but that act of belief may turn out to be unwarranted if the evidence available to S at t is incomplete or contradicted by further evidence that may or may not have been available to S at t. (Although it may be argued, to the contrary, that S was not justified in believing p at t if that act of belief is later found to be unwarranted or to have been based on insufficient evidence that p.)
      5. If S has sufficient grounds for believing that p, then that belief may be justified.
      6. A sufficient reason or ground for a belief may constitute (or be taken as) a sufficient justification for that belief.
      7. The grounds for a belief may provide the justification for that belief. (Although in order for S herself to feel justified in believing p, S herself may have to judge the grounds for believing p to be sufficient.)
      8. S’s belief that p may, in fact, be fully or merely partially justified or warranted.
      9. If S’s belief that p is, in fact, fully justified or warranted, then that belief takes fully into account, and is fully supported by, the evidence that p (if an evidentialist theory of justification or warrant is proposed or accepted).
      10. The reasons or grounds for S’s believing that p at t may be logical, epistemic, moral, religious, and/or psychological.
      11. As shown by Edmund Gettier (1963), in cases where S believes that p, and S’s belief happens accidentally to be true and to be justified because of circumstances unknown to S, that belief, although true and justified, cannot properly be said to constitute knowledge that p.2
       12. If S believes that p, then that belief is warranted if (1) it is justified, (2) p actually holds, and (3) the justification for the belief cannot be questioned or refuted by the kinds of arguments provided by Gettier cases.3 However, it may be argued that there may always be exceptions to this set of conditions, involving warranted beliefs not covered by this theory or by some other similar theory of warrant.
      13. If S knows that p and also knows that q, then S knows that p (and that q). However, from S’s knowing that p and that q, it does not follow that S knows that p and q. That is to say, from S’s knowing that p and q hold independently, it does not follow that S knows that p and q hold conjointly (nor does it follow that p and q actually do hold conjointly).
      14. Prop. 13 may be stated negatively as: If S does not know that p and also does not know that q, then p knows neither that p nor that q.
      15. From S’s knowing that p, it does not follow that either S knows that p or S knows that q (because both consequents could hold). Nor does it follow that S knows that p or q (because from S's knowing that p, it does not follow that S knows that p or q hold disjunctively, nor does it follow that they actually do hold disjunctively).



FOOTNOTES

1Kent Bach, “Accidental Truth and Would-be Knowledge,” Philosophical Quarterly, 198 (1996), 183-190. Online at http://online.sfsu.edu/kbach/accidtruth.html.

2Edmund Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?” in Analysis, 23 (1963), 121-123. 

3Fred Dretske, “Gettier and Justified True Belief: Fifty Years On,” in The Philosophers Magazine (July 9, 2013), online at http://philosophypress.co.uk/?p=1171.


ADDITIONAL REFERENCES

Alston, William P. “The Deontological Conception of Epistemic Justification,” in Philosophical Perspectives, Vol. 2, Epistemology (1988), pp. 257-299.

Merricks, Trenton. “Warrant Entails Truth,” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 55 (1995): 841-855.

Merricks, Trenton. “More on Warrant’s Entailing Truth,” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 57 (1997), 627-631.

Ryan, Sharon. “Does Warrant Entail Truth?” in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. LVI, No. 1, March 1996, pp. 183-192.

Zagzebski, Linda. “The Inescapability of Gettier Problems,” in The Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 44, No. 174, (Jan., 1994), pp. 65-73.