Acta Analytica

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 145-161

First online:

Basic Knowledge and Easy Understanding

  • Kelly BeckerAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy MSC 03 2140, 1 University of New Mexico Email author 

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Reliabilism is a theory that countenances basic knowledge, that is, knowledge from a reliable source, without requiring that the agent knows the source is reliable. Critics (especially Cohen 2002) have argued that such theories generate all-too-easy, intuitively implausible cases of higher-order knowledge based on inference from basic knowledge. For present purposes, the criticism might be recast as claiming that reliabilism implausibly generates cases of understanding from brute, basic knowledge. I argue that the easy knowledge (or easy understanding) criticism rests on an implicit mischaracterization of the notion of a reliable process. Properly understood, reliable processes do not permit the transition from basic knowledge to understanding based on inference.


Basic knowledge Easy knowledge Epistemic closure Higher-order knowledge Reliabilism