CAN PERCEPTUAL EXPERIENCES JUSTIFY BELIEFS?
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The question whether perceptual experiences justify perceptual beliefs is ambiguous. One problem is the well familiar skeptical one. How can perceptual experiences justify beliefs if those experiences may systematically deceive us? Our experiences might be just as they are and yet the world might be radically different. But there is also another problem about the justification of perceptual beliefs which arises independently of the above skeptical worry. This other problem has to do with our understanding of the very notion of justification. It seems natural to think that justification can exist only in so far as what is justified is inferentially linked to the justifier. The question, then, is whether perceptual experiences can serve as an inferential basis for perceptual beliefs. The content of experiences does not seem to be the same sort of content that is possessed by beliefs. So the nature of the relation between experiences and beliefs is far from obvious. In this paper I survey various attempts of justifying the view that there is an inferential relation between experiences and beliefs so that the latter can be justified by the former and I argue that none of those attempts is satisfactory. I also suggest that the problem which those attempts address may be illusory. Even though it seems true that experiences and beliefs possess different kinds of contents, there may be no logical gap between those contents that needs to be bridged by some philosophical reflection.
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