, Volume 164, Issue 2, pp 185–200 | Cite as

The virtues of epistemic conservatism

  • Kevin McCain


Although several important methodologies implicitly assume the truth of epistemic conservatism, the view that holding a belief confers some measure of justification on the belief, recent criticisms have led some to conclude that epistemic conservatism is an implausible view. That conclusion is mistaken. In this article, I propose a new formulation of epistemic conservatism that is not susceptible to the criticisms leveled at earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism. In addition to withstanding these criticisms, this formulation of epistemic conservatism has several benefits. First, this formulation has the benefits of earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, that is to say it makes sense of our intuitions about justification in regard to both memory beliefs and beliefs for which we have forgotten our evidence. Second, it provides a good way of responding to the skeptic’s challenge concerning the possibility of possessing knowledge of the external world posed by the Alternative Hypotheses argument. Third, it provides responses to both forms of a new skeptical problem plaguing basic knowledge structure theories, the Problem of Easy Knowledge formulated by Stewart Cohen. I argue that given the many benefits of this formulation of epistemic conservatism and the fact that it is not vulnerable to the criticisms that undermine earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, this formulation of epistemic conservatism is a plausible view to maintain.


Epistemology Epistemic conservation Justified belief Easy knowledge 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Missouri-ColumbiaColumbiaUSA

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