Closure and Epistemic Modals†

Research paper by Justin Bledin, Tamar Lando

Indexed on: 20 Apr '17Published on: 17 Apr '17Published in: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research


According to a popular closure principle for epistemic justification, if one is justified in believing each of the premises in set Φ and one comes to believe that ψ on the basis of competently deducing ψ from Φ—while retaining justified beliefs in the premises—then one is justified in believing that ψ. This principle is prima facie compelling; it seems to capture the sense in which competent deduction is an epistemically secure means to extend belief. However, even the single-premise version of this closure principle is in conflict with certain seemingly good inferences involving the epistemic possibility modal ♢. According to other compelling principles concerning competent deduction and epistemic justification, one can competently infer ¬♢φ from ¬φ in deliberation even though there are cases in which one can justifiably believe ¬φ but would be unjustified in believing ¬♢φ. Thus, as we argue, philosophers must choose between unrestricted closure for justification and the validity of these other principles.