Journal of Philosophical Research

Volume 33, 2008

Alan R. Rhoda
Pages 215-234

Fumerton’s Principle of Inferential Justification, Skepticism, and the Nature of Inference

I argue that Richard Fumerton’s controversial “Principle of Inferential Justification” (PIJ) can be satisfactorily defended against several charges that have been leveled against it, namely, that it leads to skepticism, that it confuses different levels of justification, and that it involves a fallacy of “misconditionalization.” The basis of my defense of PIJ is a distinction between two theories of the nature of inference—an internalist conception (IC), according to which inferring requires that the reasoner have a conscious perspective on the evidential relation between premises and conclusion, and an externalist conception (EC), which does not require any such perspective. Given IC, the above charges against PIJ fail, and PIJ emerges as a plausible thesis. Given EC, however, the above charges stick, and PIJ is untenable. An internalist position on inferential justification is tenable, therefore, if and only if it is held in conjunction with an internalist conception of inference.