John Dombrowski ACF Abstract FY11

"Bonjour’s Solution to the Sellars Problem"

Ohio Northern University Undergraduate Conference

John Dombrowski

This paper explores Laurence Bonjour’s solution to the dilemma that the Sellars Problem presents for internalist foundationalist accounts of epistemic justification.  The dilemma arises because internalist foundationalism maintains that the believer must be aware of the reason that supports their basic belief.  This required awareness presents a dilemma because either the awareness is a separate judgment in need of further justification and therefore the belief that it supports cannot be basic or the awareness is not a judgment and fails to provide a sufficient reason to support the basic belief because it lacks the required content.  Bonjour attempts to solve the dilemma by demonstrating that the supporting reason for basic beliefs about sensory experience do not require a separate judgment for the believer to be aware of them and that this awareness, even though it is not a judgment, is still efficacious with respect to playing a justifying role for basic beliefs.  After presenting Bonjour’s solution to the dilemma, I consider a case against his solution offered by Michael Bergmann.  Bergmann attempts to show that Bonjour ultimately does not escape the need for a separate judgment in his account of epistemic justification and thereby does not adequately solve the Sellars Problem.  Last, I offer a response to Bergmann that slightly modifies Bonjour’s position that undermines Bergmann’s argument against Bonjour’s solution.  I do this by showing that the separate judgment that Bergmann claims Bonjour needs for justification is actually found in the judgment of the belief itself and thereby is not a separate judgment or in need of justification.


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