, Volume 190, Issue 1, pp 171–185 | Cite as

Proper bootstrapping

  • Igor DouvenEmail author
  • Christoph Kelp
Open Access


According to a much discussed argument, reliabilism is defective for making knowledge too easy to come by. In a recent paper, Weisberg aims to show that this argument relies on a type of reasoning that is rejectable on independent grounds. We argue that the blanket rejection that Weisberg recommends of this type of reasoning is both unwarranted and unwelcome. Drawing on an older discussion in the philosophy of science, we show that placing some relatively modest restrictions on the said type of reasoning suffices to block the anti-reliabilist argument.


Confirmation theory Bootstrapping Easy knowledge 



Thanks are due to Jonathan Adler, Christopher von Bülow, and the participants at a meeting of the European Epistemology Network in Brussels for very helpful comments on ancestors of this paper.

Open Access

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author(s) and the source are credited.


  1. Bergmann M. (2004) Epistemic circularity: Malignant and benign. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69: 709–727CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Christensen D. (1983) Glymour on evidential relevance. Philosophy of Science 50: 471–481CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Christensen D. (1997) What is relative confirmation?. Noûs 31: 370–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cohen S. (2002) Basic knowledge and the problem of easy knowledge. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65: 309–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Douven I. (2002) A new solution to the paradoxes of rational acceptability. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53: 391–410CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Douven I. (2007) A pragmatic dissolution of Harman’s paradox. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74: 326–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Douven I. (2011) Relativism and confirmation theory. In: Hales S. (Ed.) The Blackwell companion to relativism. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 242–265Google Scholar
  8. Douven I., Meijs W. (2006) Bootstrap confirmation made quantitative. Synthese 149: 97–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Douven I., Williamson T. (2006) Generalizing the lottery paradox. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 57: 755–779CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dretske F. (1970) Epistemic operators. Journal of Philosophy 67: 1007–1023CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Earman J., Glymour C. (1988) What revisions does bootstrap testing need?. Philosophy of Science 55: 260–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Earman J., Salmon W. (1992) The confirmation of scientific hypotheses. In: Salmon M. (Ed.) Introduction to the philosophy of science. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, pp 42–103Google Scholar
  13. Edidin A. (1983) Bootstrapping without bootstraps. In: Earman J. (Ed.) Testing scientific theories. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, pp 43–54Google Scholar
  14. Giere R. (1984) Understanding scientific reasoning (2nd ed.). Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  15. Glymour C. (1980a) Theory and evidence. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  16. Glymour C. (1980b) Bootstraps and probabilities. Journal of Philosophy 67: 691–699Google Scholar
  17. Hempel C. G. (1943) A purely syntactical definition of confirmation. Journal of Symbolic Logic 8: 122–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hempel C. G. (1945) Studies in the logic of confirmation (I). Mind 54: 1–26CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Quine, W. V. O. (1951). Two dogmas of empiricism. Philosophical Review, 60, 20–43. (Reprinted in his From a logical point of view (pp. 20–46). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; the page reference is to the reprint).Google Scholar
  20. Van Cleve J. (2003) Is knowledge easy or impossible? Externalism as the only answer to the skeptic. In: Luper S. (Ed.) The skeptics. Ashgate, Aldershot, pp 45–59Google Scholar
  21. van Fraassen B. C. (1983) Theory comparison and relevant evidence. In: Earman J. (Ed.) Testing scientific theories. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, MN, pp 27–42Google Scholar
  22. Vogel J. (2000) Reliabilism leveled. Journal of Philosophy 97: 602–623CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Vogel J. (2008) Epistemic bootstrapping. Journal of Philosophy 105: 518–539Google Scholar
  24. Weisberg, J. (2009). Bootstrapping in general. prizewinning essay Young Epistemologist’s Prize 2009. (Available at:
  25. Zalabardo J. (2005) Externalism, skepticism, and the problem of easy knowledge. Philosophical Review 114: 33–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2012

Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of GroningenGroningenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Institute of PhilosophyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

Personalised recommendations