I mentioned in passing in the Kornblith post that there were two distinct puzzles about bootstrapping, but I let the point slide fairly quickly. This post is a short clarification of the two puzzles, and then a request for further info. I meant to post this before the Kornblith post, but I seem to have got muddled about when I hit ‘Draft’ and when I hit ‘Publish’.
Here’s a quick version of the bootstrapping problem. I don’t know that my colour vision is reliable, but I do know that my introspection of what colours I appear to be seeing is reliable. I look at something which happens to be red, as it turns out, a copy of Stefano Predelli’s Contexts, and reason as follows.
(1a) That appears to be red (by introspection).
(2a) That is red (by colour vision).
(3a) So appearances match reality on this occasion.
I repeat this with a bunch of other things, ending with a copy of Parts of Classes.
(1z) That appears to be purple (by introspection).
(2z) That is purple (by colour vision).
(3z) So appearances match reality on this occasion.
I then infer from (3a) through (3z), (4)
(4) My colour vision has worked perfectly the last 26 times I’ve used it.
And from that I conclude (5).
(5) My colour vision is generally reliable.
And that’s a bizarre thing to be able to conclude in this way. At both the Rutgers Epistemology Conference back in May, and the Arché Scepticism Conference back in June, there were a lot of people noting that the step from (4) to (5) is problematic in a number of ways. There may well be general inductive rules that block this particular inference. (At the Rutgers conference Jonathan Weisberg presented what is, I think, the best worked out version of such a blocking rule.) But there were also, at each conference, a number of people arguing that even if the step from (4) to (5) could be blocked, it still seems bad that various views (such as reliabilism, or some kinds of dogmatism about perception) can get to (4). (Stewart Cohen, for instance, made this point at the Arché conference.)
Now here’s a question I have for the audience. I’m a little behind in my reading, and a long way behind on my reading on what’s in print. So does anyone know where the points I mentioned in the previous paragraph are made in print? I’m really just looking for something that distinguishes arguments from the unknowability of (5) to an epistemological conclusion from arguments from the unknowability of (4) to an epistemological conclusion. (Of course, I don’t mean (4) and (5) are unknowable in general, just that they are unknowable on this occasion.) A quick scan of what’s in print didn’t reveal much, but I suspect I’m missing a lot.
Posted by Brian Weatherson in Uncategorized