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PhilosophyPart of Humanities

Justification - Reliabilism

You’ve endorsed a version of reliabilism.

According to reliabilists like Alvin Goldman, all beliefs are justified by the exercise of certain reliable abilities that we possess. To see one example of the appeal of this view, consider your beliefs about the passage of time.

You can immediately tell that less than thirty seconds have passed since you read the last two sentences. Do you need evidence to be justified in holding this belief? Not obviously - it seems that you just have a reliable ability to tell—within limits, of course—roughly how much time has passed. According to reliabilists, foundational beliefs are justified by the exercise of such reliable abilities.

Against this view, we might wonder how the mere fact that a belief is produced by a reliable ability can justify you in holding it. Don’t you have to be able to tell that you are reliable? But if so, then it looks like you need justification for thinking that you’re reliable - and now you’re back on a regress.


For a more complete guide to this topic, you might consult the following entries from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“Foundationalist Theories of Epistemic Justification”, by Richard Fumerton (
“Coherentist Theories of Epistemic Justification”, by Erik Olsson (
Also recommended are the following entries from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
“Foundationalism”, by Ted Poston (
“Coherentism in Epistemology”, by Peter Murphy (
“Infinitism in Epistemology”, by Peter Klein and John Turri (
At Southampton, we run various modules that address these and similar issues, including Knowledge and Mind, Epistemology, Scepticism, and The Ethics of Belief. Many of our staff undertake research in this and related areas of epistemology, such as Dr. Kurt Sylvan, Dr. Genia Schönbaumsfeld, and Dr. Conor McHugh.
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