, Volume 153, Issue 1, pp 29-41
Date: 24 Dec 2010

Frictional coherentism? A comment on chapter 10 of Ernest Sosa’s Reflective Knowledge

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Chapter 10 of Sosa’s important new book provides an exemplary presentation and discussion of a great dilemma for epistemologists—I’ll call it simply the Dilemma. Here is Sosa’s statement of it:

Consider the following proposition

  • KR: a potential knowledge source K can yield knowledge for S only if S knows that K is reliable.

  • If we affirm KR, we face the problem of vicious circularity. How can we attain the required knowledge that our epistemic sources are reliable? Must we not have that knowledge already before the sources can deliver it to us? How can we know perception to be reliable, for example, without basing our belief on our empirical knowledge derived ultimately from perception? And the same goes for memory and other sources.

    If we deny KR, that apparently enables us to bootstrap our way from the deliverances of a source on some occasion (or upon a series of them) to conclusions about the safety of its operation on that occasion (or about its general reliability). But this is clearl