Can reliabilism explain how conscious reflection justifies beliefs?

Devitt, Susannah K. (2014) Can reliabilism explain how conscious reflection justifies beliefs? In 18th Annual Meeting of the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, 16-19 July 2014, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Qld. (Unpublished)


This research addresses the justificatory role of conscious reflection within a naturalized, reliabilist epistemology. Reliabilism is the view that implicit, mechanistic (System 1) processes can justify beliefs, e.g. perceptual beliefs formed after a history of consistent exposure to normal lighting conditions are justified in a given context with normal lighting. A popular variant of reliabilism is virtue epistemology where the cognitive circumstances and abilities of an agent play a justificatory role, e.g. the cooperation of the prefrontal cortex and primary visual cortex of the individual perceiving the Müller-Lyer illusion partly justify the belief that the lines are equi-length. While virtue epistemology is a well-endorsed reliabilism for implicit beliefs, its application to explicit, consciously reflective (System 2) processes is more controversial. Critics ask: How can iterations of dumb reliabilist processes produce higher order justification? To respond to this concern, I draw on another agent-centred, normative and reliabilist epistemology—Bayesian epistemology. A Bayesian virtue epistemology argues that reflective hypothesis-testing generated by (largely) implicit Bayesian mechanisms offers higher order reliabilist justification for beliefs. Iterative Bayesian mechanisms (e.g. hierarchically nested probabilistic models) explain the development of higher order beliefs about abstract concepts such as causation, natural laws and theoretical entities traditionally explained by recourse to vague concepts such as ‘the a priori’, ‘intuition’ or ‘the intellect’. A hybrid Bayesian virtue epistemology offers an iterative reliabilist framework to explain how conscious reflection justifies beliefs. However, I acknowledge limitations on Bayesian accounts of justification such as confirmational holism, commutativity, and the frame problem.

Impact and interest:

Citation counts are sourced monthly from Scopus and Web of Science® citation databases.

These databases contain citations from different subsets of available publications and different time periods and thus the citation count from each is usually different. Some works are not in either database and no count is displayed. Scopus includes citations from articles published in 1996 onwards, and Web of Science® generally from 1980 onwards.

Citations counts from the Google Scholar™ indexing service can be viewed at the linked Google Scholar™ search.

Full-text downloads:

4 since deposited on 11 Sep 2016
4 in the past twelve months

Full-text downloads displays the total number of times this work’s files (e.g., a PDF) have been downloaded from QUT ePrints as well as the number of downloads in the previous 365 days. The count includes downloads for all files if a work has more than one.

ID Code: 98757
Item Type: Conference Item (Poster)
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: reflection, virtue epistemology, bayesian epistemology, reliabilism
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > PHILOSOPHY (220300) > Epistemology (220304)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGIOUS STUDIES (220000) > PHILOSOPHY (220300) > Philosophy of Cognition (220312)
Divisions: Current > Institutes > Institute for Future Environments
Current > Schools > School of Information Systems
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: 2014 Susannah Kate Devitt
Deposited On: 11 Sep 2016 23:12
Last Modified: 11 Sep 2016 23:12

Export: EndNote | Dublin Core | BibTeX

Repository Staff Only: item control page