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Swampman: a dilemma for proper functionalism

  • Jeffrey TollyEmail author
S.I.: Knowledge and Justification, New Perspectives


Proper functionalism claims that a belief has epistemic warrant only if it’s formed according to the subject’s truth-aimed cognitive design plan. The most popular putative counter-examples to proper functionalism all involve agents who form beliefs in seemingly warrant-enabling ways that don’t appear to proceed according to any sort of design. The Swampman case is arguably the most famous scenario of this sort. However, some proper functionalists accept that subjects like Swampman have warrant, opting instead to adopt a non-standard account of design. But critics of proper functionalism hold that this strategy comes at a high cost: the design-plan condition now seems explanatorily superfluous. James Taylor construes cases like Swampman as posing a dilemma for the proper functionalist: either deny warrant in these cases and concede that proper functionalism doesn’t capture our intuitions, or affirm warrant and undermine the explanatory power of the design-plan condition. Proper functionalists have replied to both horns of this dilemma. Recently, Kenny Boyce and Andrew Moon have argued that warrant-affirming intuitions on cases like Swampman are motivated by a principle that has a clear counter-example. Also, Alvin Plantinga presents a set of cases that supposedly cause problems for any analysis of warrant that lacks a design-plan condition. In this essay, I present a counter-argument to Boyce and Moon’s argument, and show that a more robust reliability condition can accommodate Plantinga’s problem cases. I conclude that we’re left with no good reason to doubt that cases like Swampman raise a troubling dilemma for the proper functionalist.


Warrant Knowledge Proper functionalism Reliabilism Generality-problem 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Notre DameNotre DameUSA

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