[Perpetually unfinished] The Jackian Theory of Epistemology, Stated and Defended

1: Introduction

The retreat to epistemic privacy, or “the Private,” is a necessary movement within any sound and valid epistemology. It is necessary because there is a certain categorical circularity that arises when warrants about public propositions come from other public propositions.[1] Because epistemic privacy resits such categorical circularity, any epistemology that claims to have anything warranted, must necessarily retreat to the Private, for there is no other option within the binary of the Private and Public. Now, what such a retreat brings doesn’t amount to too much until an anti-skeptical bent is given to it. In the face of attaining such an anti-skeptical character, skepticism is our first opponent. Because of the attained anti-skeptical character, epistemic privacy denotes three things: first, non-propositionality; second, non-inferentiality; and third, epistemic autonomy. Because those reasons and/or beliefs that get around skepticism must be non-propositional, non-inferential, and epistemically autonomous the architecture of Jackian epistemology is foundationalist.[2]

2: Non-Propositionality

Propositional reasons are reasons that p. Non-propositional reasons, on the contrary, are reasons that do not take propositional form and so are not reasons that p. For example, I know that logic is the case. My belief in logic is both true and justified. Now, my reasons for such are not propositional. Some have spoken of those reasons as coming from the light of Reason (and that’s Reason with a capital R). The point nonetheless is that these reasons that are behind and justify my belief in logic do not take propositional form, such as “p therefore logic is true.” Another example would be emotional intuitions. So, I know that I feel angry, but how do I propositionality explicate such an intuition? Obviously saying “I feel angry” is not actually the intuition itself, but rather just an attempt at propositionally mediating the intuition, and something can be “propositionally mediated” and non-propositional. Nonetheless, even when my intuition is propositionally mediated by the proposition “I feel angry,” this feeling of anger, i.e., the emotional intuition itself is not publicly demonstrated to the other. This other may have some idea of anger that has been presented to them by society or may have some idea of anger from their own experiences of what they understand to be anger. Even in light of all of this, I still have not given them my intuition. They may understand what I’m attempting to communicate to them by way of propositional mediation. Nonetheless, they still have not had my intuition, unless they have, in which we can just speak of this in the context of another subject who hasn’t. Now, assuming all existing subjects have had this intuition I am speaking of, then it is universally understood, yet never is it propositional in its non-mediated character. The concept of non-propositionality has been explained.

3: Non-Inferentiality

An inference goes from some amount of reasons to a conclusion. Thus, non-inferential beliefs are beliefs that one “comes upon” (or is rather “given”) not by way of drawing them as a conclusion. How it comes about does not matter as long as it does not come by way of inference. It could come by way of empirical intuitions being given to the mind or it could be God enlightening a conscious subject by way of giving them a divine intuition.[3] The concept of non-inferentiality has been explained.

4: Epistemic Autonomy

A reason and/or belief that is epistemically autonomous is a reason and/or belief that has all its justificatory and/or truth conducive content within itself. So, in the case of reasons for belief: reasons for belief that are epistemically autonomous have second-order justification, metajustification, and supply first-order justification for a belief. Now, the content of these epistemically autonomous reasons contains all the metajustification for themselves and all the justification for the beliefs they are reasons for. So, for example, divine intuitions do not contain their metajustification within themselves. The metajustification for divine intuitions comes from their divine status, i.e., that they came from God. Now, divine intuitions are not epistemically autonomous because of this fact. The concept of epistemic autonomy has been explained.

5: Metajustification and Metafoundations

To address epistemically autonomous reasons, let us understand their metafoundational character, for them having a metafoundational character gives our epistemology a metafoundationalist architecture. We have foundational beliefs that take a propositional form such as the belief in the inference rule that is modus ponens, yet the skeptic will ask us, “What provides justification for such beliefs?” If these beliefs provide first-order justification for inferences, propositions, etc. then the question of second-order or meta-justification has been raised: “What justifies that which justifies all of our other beliefs?” The answer to the skeptic is reasons for belief that are non-propositional, non-inferential, and epistemically autonomous are our metafoundations, i.e., they are what provide metajustification. But what causes us to believe in them, or rather what justifies these reasons for belief? Why is there not just an infinite regress of reasons for belief? One could argue that because these reasons are “epistemically autonomous,” i.e., because these reasons are “dependent on nothing beyond [themselves] for [their] justification” they have within themselves their own justification (BonJour, In Defense of Pure Reason, p. 146). I think this is not only the way to go because epistemic autonomy literally denotes that nothing more is needed for the justification of the reason other than itself but also that there is no need to worry about circularity, for there is no circularity. What we are not saying is that the reason justifies itself, for if we were then we would just be caught up in a vicious circle. Let us understand that the justification for these reasons is not necessarily given to us by the reason but rather with the reason or maybe even within the reason. The property that will designate this justified status will be genuineness. If one has a genuine reason for belief, then they are justified in their belief. We do not intuit the genuineness of an intuition by way of another intuition, for if we did then an infinite regress would occur, for what is the genuineness of that intuition that tells us of the genuineness of the intuition at hand? Instead, when an intuition is given to our mind, the genuineness is also given to our mind. But, does this not beg the question of the fallibility of this process? The answer to the question is not at all, for there is no process. The given is not the result of a process. There is no process of giving, no process of the present being given to us arriving, for it has already arrived. The given is given, and is always such. At no point in time is the given not given. What I have just said, I must admit, is just abstract theorization and is not as concrete as I would like it to be, but, nonetheless, even if giving is a process, it is not done by anything with fallible mechanisms, then again, this is all more metaphysical and much more a question of metaphysics, thus it will be sidelined to metaphysical reflection.

6: The Specter of Relativism

The biggest problem that faces us is relativism and a lack of honesty. For all of my philosophical investigation, an epistemic principle of honesty has been in the background, but with many others less noble ends such as winning debates and simplicity have been behind their thought process. I have no specific desired end point any longer, no bias to carry me. Simply, I will describe reality and that is all. But, what if I meet someone who describes reality dishonestly and such dishonesty leads to a contradiction between us? What do I then? It is very difficult to answer this question, but what we must realize is that the problem here is one of relativism. How do we overcome disagreements when two minds claim to have genuine intuitions about something and disagreement arises between the supposedly had intuitions?

6.1: Logic vs. Illogic

In this pre-logical realm we have found ourselves in, how are we to go about answering such a question?

6.2: Can Logic be Doubted?

Can logic be doubted? Well, a priori skepticism is on the rise… Evil demons are everywhere! Jokes aside, how does the evil demon hypothetical fare? Or what about the bumbling God hypothetical? What if an evil demon deceived me to see what is false as so clearly evident? Or what if a God constructed me to think in a way that only leads me to falsehoods? Or what if instead of God, I’m just wired to believe logic by way of evolution? Assuming any of these hypotheticals are true then logic has certainly been defeated, but we can understand that the truth of these hypotheticals depends on logic. For any of these hypotheticals to even be presented as a defeater, they must assume logic is the case. According to the notions of self-defeat lined out by James R. Beebe in his article “A Priori Skepticism,” logic would be self-defeating, but would the defeaters lined out by Beebe not also be self-defeating, therefore freeing logic from the accusation of being self-defeating, for the supposed self-defeating element within logic would be self-defeating. In regards to specifically the evolutionary argument, I just don’t think there is a lot of force behind the argument simply because it doesn’t seem that the vast majority of the population commonly thinks with logic in mind.

6.3: Can Logic be Revised?

If logic is “revisable” it is only revisable in the sense that we can “revise” how we propositionally mediate it. For example, I could propositionally mediate the law of identity in the form of “A is A,” and in the future, I could express it differently. In other words, I could “revise” how I express it by way of propositions, but can the intuition be revised? Obviously not. It is possible that you could have new intuitions or realize that one of your intuitions was wrong, but there is no revising them.

7: What is Knowledge?

Now that we have solved this whole issue of relativism and have demonstrated how the logical has primacy over the illogical, let us understand the very subject of epistemology: knowledge. What is knowledge? Very simple: justified true belief. There could be many critiques of this view or arguments for more colloquial or obscure understandings of knowledge that run contrary to ours, but let’s understand that this is all an issue of semantics, which is to say, there is no issue at all, for when it comes to a definition of knowledge, unless you make metaphysical presuppositions in regards to what can qualify as knowledge, the JTB, justified true belief, understanding of knowledge is the most basic and the most satisfying understanding.[6] What I mean by this is that what the skeptic is looking for is an answer. Such answer, at their most basic and simple level, come in the form of a belief, obviously, that is true, obviously, and justified, obviously. Now, belief could be propositional or non-propositional. For example, I could know I am in pain but not be able to express it propositionally. I am not understand what it means to be in pain, but that I know I’m having the percept of pain is the case. I just may not be able to describe it. A belief could be explicit or implicit in that it could be an attitude, for example, or a propositionally explicated position, as another example. Beliefs do somewhat require acceptance. For example, I could be in denial about something and thus not believe it even though it is almost self-evidently the case. So, now that we have put forward a simple and primitive understanding of a belief, let us look at the other components of knowledge… What is truth?

8: What is Truth?

The old and famous question with which the logicians were to be driven into a corner and brought to such a pass that they must either fall into a miserable circle or else confess their ignorance, hence the vanity of their entire art, is this: What is truth?

— Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, A58/B82

About a year ago, Erik and I thought of “the truth bind,” as we called it. The “truth bind” will from hereon be understood as such: “Now it could be held that the demand for a justification of a conception of truth is itself unreasonable, posing a task which could not possibly be fulfilled. Any such justification would necessarily be circular, since a specific notion of truth would already have to be employed in order to evaluate the argument’s validity” (Soffer, Husserl and the Question of Relativism, p. 14).

9: What Does it Mean to be Justified?

10: The Question of Certainty


[1]: The predicament that “the Public” (epistemic publicity) faces has been described by multiple names. Two of those names are the Agrippan trilemma and the Münchhausen trilemma.



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Evan Jack

Evan Jack

How sweet terror is, not a single line, or a ray of morning sunlight fails to contain the sweetness of anguish. - Georges Bataille