Explicationist Epistemology and Epistemic Pluralism

  • Erik J. OlssonEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Innovations in Philosophy book series (PIIP)


I discuss Carnap’s method of explication with special emphasis on its application to epistemology. I observe that explication has the advantage over conceptual analysis of not being vulnerable to the so-called paradox of analysis. Moreover, explicationist epistemology is intrinsically immune to the Gettier problem. I proceed to identify three senses in which the former is inherently pluralistic. For example, it allows for a plurality of legitimate and potentially interesting epistemological projects. Finally, I argue that while there are salient affinities with Alston’s theory of epistemic desiderata, beyond a far-reaching commitment to pluralism, there are also important differences. Above all, Carnap’s methodological outlook is reconstructive in ways in which Alston’s is not.


Explication Knowledge Justification Pluralism Epistemic desiderata 


  1. Alston, W.P. 1993. Epistemic Desiderata. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3): 527–551.Google Scholar
  2. Bach, K. 1985. A Rationale for Reliabilism. The Monist 68: 246–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baumann, P. 2009. Reliabilism—Modal, Probabilistic or Contextualist. Grazer Philosophische Studien 79: 77–89.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. BonJour, L. 1980. Externalist Theories of Empirical Knowledge. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 5: 53–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. ———. 1985. The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Carnap, R. 1950. Logical Foundations of Probability. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 1963. Replies and Systematic Expositions. In The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, ed. P. Schilpp, 859–1013. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.Google Scholar
  8. Conee, E., and R. Feldman. 1998. The Generality Problem for Reliabilism. Philosophical Studies 89: 1–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldman, A.I. 1979/1992. What Is Justified Belief? In Liaisons: Philosophy Meets the Cognitive and Social Sciences, 105–126. Cambridge/MA & London: MIT Press. First published as pp. 1–23 in Pappas, G.S. ed. Justification and Knowledge. Dordrecht: D. Reidel, 1979.Google Scholar
  10. ———. 1986. Epistemology and Cognition. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 1999. Knowledge in a Social World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Hendricks, V.F. 2006. Mainstream and Formal Epistemology. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Jönsson, M. 2013. A Reliabilism Built on Cognitive Convergence: An Empirically Grounded Solution to the Generality Problem. Episteme 10: 241–268.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kornblith, H. 2002. Knowledge and Its Place in Nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  15. Lehrer, K. 1990. Theory of Knowledge. Boulder: Westview.Google Scholar
  16. Moore, G.E. 1899/1970. The Nature of Judgement. In G E Moore: Essays in Retrospect, Muirhead Library of Philosophy, eds. A. Ambrose and M. Lazerowitz, 89–101. London: Routledge. First published in Mind, New Series Vol. 8, no. 30 (April, 1899): 176–193.Google Scholar
  17. Olsson, E.J. 2005. Against Coherence: Truth, Probability, and Justification. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2015. Gettier and the Method of Explication: A 60 Year Old Solution to a 50 Year Old Problem. Philosophical Studies 172: 57–72.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2016. A Naturalistic Approach to the Generality Problem. In Philosophers and Their Critics, eds. B.P. McLaughlin and H. Kornblith, 178–199. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar
  20. ———. 2017. Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2017 Edition), ed. Edward N. Zalta. URL = <>.
  21. Peels, R. 2010. Epistemic Desiderata and Epistemic Pluralism. Journal of Philosophical Research 35: 193–207.Google Scholar
  22. Quine, W.V.O. 1960. Word and Object. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Quine, W.V.O. 1969. Epistemology Naturalized. In Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, 60–90. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  24. Schilpp, P.A. 1963. The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.Google Scholar
  25. Strawson, P.F. 1963. Carnap’s Views on Constructed Systems Versus Natural Languages in Analytic Philosophy. In The Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap, ed. P. Schilpp, 503–518. LaSalle, IL: Open Court.Google Scholar
  26. Thagard, P. 2000. Coherence in Thought and Action. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  27. Weatherson, B. 2016, David Lewis. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Zalta, E.N. (ed.).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLund UniversityLundSweden

Personalised recommendations