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Regress and the Doctrine of Epistemic Original Sin

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Existing solutions to the epistemic regress problem, and the theories of justification built upon them, are inadequate, for they fail to diagnose the root source of the problem. The problem is rooted in our attachment to a pernicious dogma of modern epistemology: the idea that a judgement must be supported by some kind of reason or evidence to be justified. The epistemic analogue of the doctrine of original sin, this idea renders every judgement in need of redemption – guilty until shown to be innocent – distorting our understanding of reason at a very deep level, and preventing us from conceptualizing a satisfactory solution to the problem. If we opt for a more context–sensitive mechanism for assigning default epistemic status, however, we get a more plausible picture of justification, an epistemology more in tune with epistemic practice, and an elegant solution to the regress problem.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

Publication date: October 1, 1997


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