Radical epistemology, structural explanations, and epistemic weaponry

Richard G Pettigrew*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
78 Downloads (Pure)


When is a belief justified? There are three families of arguments we typically use to support different accounts of justification: (1) arguments from our intuitive responses to vignettes that involve the concept; (2) arguments from the theoretical role we would like the concept to play in epistemology; and (3) arguments from the practical, moral, and political uses to which we wish to put the concept. I focus particularly on the third sort (3), and specifically on arguments of this sort offered by Clayton Littlejohn in Justification and the Truth-Connection (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2012) and Amia Srinivasan in ‘Radical Externalism’ (Philos Rev 129(3): 395–431, 2018) in favour of externalism. I counter Srinivasan’s argument in two ways: (a) first, I show that the internalist’s concept of justification might figure just as easily in the sorts of structural explanation Srinivasan thinks our political goals require us to give; and (b) I argue that the internalist’s concept is needed for a particular political task, namely, to help us build more effective defences against what I call epistemic weapons. I conclude that we should adopt an Alstonian pluralism about the concept of justification.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289–304
Number of pages16
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
Early online date25 May 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I would like to thank the following people for helping me to think through these questions: Clayton Littlejohn, Amia Srinivasan, Dan Greco, Liam Kofi Bright, Catrin Campbell-Moore, James Ladyman, Zoe Johnson King, and Josh Habgood-Coote. I would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Justification
  • Internalism
  • Externalism
  • Gaslighting
  • Conceptual engineering
  • Belief


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