Goldman’s Reliability Account of Justified Belief

  • Hannes Leitgeb
Part of the Applied Logic Series book series (APLS, volume 30)


Goldman’s reliability account of justification is just one out of a variety of externalist accounts (including the “early” Goldman’s [65] approach which proposes a causal but still nonreliabilist theory of knowledge) . Moreover, there are several brands of reliability approaches to justification (e.g., Armstrong’s[9] reliable indicator approach, counterfactual theories like Nozick’s[115], etc.; for an overview see Goldman[69], pp.43–51, and Audi[12], pp.223–229). But Goldman’s process-reliability account seems to us to be the most favourable one as far as an externalist and low-level theory of justified inference is concerned. Goldman has suggested at least four different versions of his reliability theory of justified belief, and we shall sketch briefly all of these versions in the following sections; at the end of this chapter we will deal with the problems that have been argued to affect the different versions. The aim of this chapter is not the exegesis of Goldman’s account in itself but rather to highlight those facets of Goldman’s theories that are relevant for our own theory, and also to point out some of the differences between our own account and Goldman’s. For the same reason, our comments on Goldman’s theories are by no means intended to give a “complete” survey of his elaborate epistemological contributions to reliabilist justification.


Actual World True Belief General Belief Normal World Justify Belief 
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  1. On p.391, Goldman[69] admits: A fully satisfactory formulation of the process/methodGoogle Scholar
  2. distinction... has eluded me. I shall rely throughout on an informal grasp of this distinction.Google Scholar
  3. t Goldman also suggests a principle (P2) but only to abandon it instantly.Google Scholar
  4. IThis strongly reminds one of the defeasibility approaches to justification: see e.g. Pollock[125], chapter 7.Google Scholar
  5. § ‘ARI’ stands for absolute, resource-independent, where ‘absolute resource-independent’ is meant to contradict ‘resource-relative’; “A resource-independent criterion fixes an acceptable truth ratio without regard to the resources of the. . .cognitive system in question” (Goldman[69], p.104).Google Scholar
  6. I Curiously, Goldman first argues that state-transitions have to be replaced by the more “fine-grained” processes, but then the latter ones are only judged by (ARI) according to their outputs, i.e., according to which state-transition they lead to. Thus, Goldman’s preference for processes only seems to be necessary if the processes in question are not basic, since then it is indeed important which second-order processes have caused the first-order processes considered, and here more than just the input-output relation defined by a first-order process is asked for.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hannes Leitgeb
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of SalzburgAustria

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