Internalism in epistemology

Internalism is the view that what justifies our beliefs are things that are accessible to us. On one interpretation, this means that only mental states or things in our mind can justify things.

I have a belief P. Why is it justified? One might say it’s justified because there is evidence that supports P being true, call this piece of evidence Q. However, the internalist claims that this is not enough. Q must be one of P’s beliefs or attitude or some other mental state. In other words, it’s not enough for Q to merely exist out in the world; it must be brought inside the thinker or agent in order to justify P.

For example, a detective is not justified in suspecting someone unless he has evidence within his subjective viewpoint. He couldn’t say “I don’t myself have any evidence against this person, but such evidence exists. Therefore, I am justified in suspecting this person.”

However, this raises the question of what to do with the relation between P and Q. It’s true that Q supports P, but this itself is just a fact (call it R). Must it to be known by the agent who believes P. Must the support connection betwen P and Q also be brought into the agent’s subjective viewpoint? Must the agent not only believe P and Q, but P, Q, and R?

I think the answer should be yes, and the internalist’s own argument can be employed to show thsi. If it was not enough for Q to be merely out in the world for P to be justified, than why is it enough for another component of P’s justification — R —  to be out in the world but not within the agent’s subjective viewpoint.

If required, this would generate a regress. We would need evidence for R (call it S and then we would need access to the support connection between R and S, call it T. And so on.


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