by Michael HuemerABSTRACT: When one recalls that P, how is one justified in believing that P? The three most natural answers to this question are found inadequate: a memory belief is not justified by a belief in the reliability of memory; a memory experience does not provide a new, foundational justification for a belief; and memory does not merely preserve the same justification a belief had when first adopted. Instead, the justification of a memory belief is a product of both the initial justification for adopting it and the justification for retaining it provided by seeming memories. This view captures our intuitions about justification in several cases, while none of the alternative views can.
The sun is about 93 million miles away from the earth. How do I know that? Well, I learned it once. I don't know when or how I learned it, but I did, and I now remember it. I couldn't tell you how the distance to the sun was calculated either, but it's something that scientists have discovered. How do I know that scientists have discovered it? Well, I don't know how I learned that either, but I remember it too.
Even granting the reliability of scientists and other experts, this does not sound like a very impressive justification. Yet arguably, most of our knowledge is like that. A few more examples: there is a 3-hour time difference between Los Angeles and New York; Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States during the Civil War; the word "tree" refers in English to a certain kind of plant; the square on the hypoteneuse of a right triangle equals the sum of the squares on the other two sides; wood is a poor conductor of heat and electricity; China is in Asia. I don't know how I learned any of those facts, but however I learned them, I kept them in memory since then (doubtless I gained numerous confirmations of them since the first time I learned them, and I can't specifically remember any of those occasions either), and I have no serious doubt about any one of them.
What justifies me in believing that the sun is 93 million miles from the earth? The fact that I don't remember my original reason for adopting that belief suggests that whatever that reason was, it can not be considered a reason I now have for my belief.(1)
In general, when S remembers that P, what kind of justification does S have for believing P? Three possible answers to this question naturally come to mind:
Click on "read more" below to continue reading.