, Volume 73, Issue 1, pp 43–85 | Cite as

Justification, sociality, and autonomy

  • Frederick F. Schmitt


Theories of epistemically justified belief have long assumed individualism. In its extreme, or Lockean, form individualism rules out justified belief on testimony by insisting that a subject is justified in believing a proposition only if he or she possesses first-hand justification for it. The skeptical consequences of extreme individualism have led many to adopt a milder version, attributable to Hume, on which a subject is justified in believing a proposition only if he or she is justified in believing that there is testimony in favor of the proposition deriving from a reliable source. I argue that this Humean individualism also leads to skepticism in a wide range of cases; it makes it impossible for a layperson to be justified on expert testimony. In addition, I argue that the apparent motivation for the Humean view, an insistence on intellectual autonomy in justification, does not succeed in motivating it. I then explore the contours of a collectivist view of justification on testimony, with special attention to the place of a subject's intellectual autonomy in such justification. I try to bring empirical results of the psychology of persuasion to bear on the epistemological issues.


Empirical Result Reliable Source Justify Belief Humean Individualism Form Individualism 
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Copyright information

© D. Reidel Publishing Company 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  • Frederick F. Schmitt
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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