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Epistemic Justification Paperback – 21 Jun 2001


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Readers of Swinburne's rewarding book will get a glimpse from the inside of how a sophisticated doxastic foundationalist understands epistemic justification ... careful and meticulous exposition. (The Philosophical Quarterly)

About the Author

Richard Swinburne is Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion at Oriel College, Oxford

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I proceed to set out the different theories of what it is for a belief to be 'justified' and to show how they differ from each other. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Would make a superb textbook 10 Nov. 2004
By Maxwell Goss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In Epistemic Justification, Richard Swinburne defends his version of epistemic internalism while also trying to account for the intuitions motivating externalist theories. This approach allows him to be at once original and irenic. He notes at the outset that our concepts of knowledge and justification are ambiguous: a belief may count as "justified" in one sense but not in another. Consequently, he argues, competing theories of knowledge should not be viewed as mutually exclusive, but as compatible accounts of "different kinds of justification." Nevertheless, while a variety of theories capture some sense in which a belief may be justified, only his version of doxastic foundationalism expresses the most important sort of justification, namely, justification in terms of what Swinburne calls "rightly basic" beliefs.

One of the strengths of the book is its breadth. Chapter 2 investigates the important but seldom-discussed link between epistemology and philosophy of mind. Chapters 3 and 4 discuss the foundations and applications of probability theory. The book's appendix discusses the problem of old evidence, and several endnotes treat issues such as the generality objection to reliabilism, subjective and objective Bayesianism, and naturalized epistemology. Swinburne does an admirable job of situating his theory within the larger epistemological picture, and indeed within the larger philosophical picture. Another strength of the book is its thoroughness and meticulous attention to detail. The whole book displays Swinburne's penchant for making distinctions, for instance, in the first chapter's taxonomy of the varieties of internalism and externalism. He exploits these distinctions to great effect, especially in chapters 6, 7, and 8, where he argues for his theory.

One weakness of the book is its uncritical reliance on ordinary language and on various "principles of rationality." Swinburne says little in defense of these, and consequently will convince few readers who do not share his intuitions. Also, I wish that Swinburne had discussed Alvin Plantinga's views at greater length. After all, Swinburne and Plantinga are the towering figures of analytic philosophy of religion, representing drastically different approaches to belief in God. Though Swinburne does discuss some of Plantinga's views here (chapter 5) and elsewhere (cf. Religious Studies 37), this book seems incomplete without a sustained treatment of reformed epistemology. In fact, it is disappointing that the book does not say more about the epistemology of religion in general, since this area of expertise sets Swinburne apart from many others writing on epistemology today (particularly internalists).

This book surveys contemporary epistemology, presents a clear, thorough account of justification, and serves as a useful guide to the epistemological views of Britain's leading natural theologian. Because of its thoroughness, depth, and originality, it would serve as an excellent textbook or as an introduction to epistemology for the educated general reader.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Probability 18 Oct. 2010
By Discerning Reader - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Richard Swinburne tries to offer a theory of justification that ties together all views on justification (internal and external). In the end, his argument hinges on probability.

This book is aimed at the layman, but proves to be a heavy read. Nevertheless, it is well worth the read. Swinburne shows there are common elements in all theories of justification thus legitimizing all of them to varying extents.
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