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Essays in Philosophy

Volume 2, Issue 1, January 2001

The Internalism/Externalism Debate in Epistemology

Duncan Pritchard
Pages 1-17

The Opacity of Knowledge

Here is a common ‘intuition’ that you’ll often find expressed regarding the epistemological externalism/internalism distinction. It is the thought that epistemological internalism, whatever its other faults, at least leaves the possession of knowledge a transparent matter; whereas epistemological externalism, whatever its other merits, at least makes the possession of knowledge opaque. It is the status of this view of the externalism/internalism contrast that I wish to evaluate in this paper. In particular, I argue that on the most credible interpretation of this ‘transparency’ thesis it is in fact inconsistent with even a minimal version of epistemological internalism. I conclude that knowledge is opaque on any plausible construal of knowledge, and consider some implications that this result has for the contemporary epistemological debate.