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I favor internal epistemic justification over external ones. These are my brief thoughts, not a rigorous argument, on why we should strive for internalist epistemic justification whenever possible. Now, while we may reduce many ‘externalist justifications by reliability’ to internalism, some may not be reducible. But it is non-reducible for a reason – external forms of justification emerge from human limitations or metaphysical constraints. 

Response to Criticism of Internalism:

The author of the Stanford Encyclopedia on internalism and externalism debate criticizes internalism for its inadequacy in handling spontaneous events. However, if Brain in Vats is excused for falsely believing about their world due to metaphysical constraints, spontaneous actions should be excused for metaphysical constraints of time and cognition. The characterization that no external justification must have a role in internalism is unfair when external factors are introduced due to metaphysical impossibility. In other words, ‘ought’ must imply ‘can’ for epistemic justification.

Ideal Worlds:

In principle, all justification must be internal. But the discussion in a non-ideal world only seems to give trouble against the internalist. Therefore, we may compare ideal worlds, one for internalists and another for externalists, to see their implications. In the ideal internalist world, there are no metaphysical constraints of time or resources. People are free to examine procedures or beliefs for millennia. They do not need to take the professor’s word for mathematical proof; they have time to prove it themselves without inconveniencing anyone. Similarly, in the ideal externalist world, there are no metaphysical constraints against the externalist views. People can only form true belief by reliable procedures. 

Value of Epistemic Work:

Reflecting on these brief examples, I hunch that the externalist world has lost something important, but the internalist world has not. The more we tilt towards externalism, the more we seem to lose autonomy and humanity, including satisfaction of understanding, the fulfillment of curiosity, and the sense of intellectual achievement. The externalist justification we observe in the world is a compromise, and internalism trumps wherever it is possible to be an internalist. What separates us from non-persons is that we get things correct for the right reasons. As Johnson-King claims in “Radical Internalism,” epistemic work seems to have value independent of its results. The ideal externalist world lacks epistemic work and loses something about being a rational agent. 

Concluding Thought:

The necessity to compromise with externalism in a non-ideal world does not necessarily diminish the goal of striving towards an internalist ideal where possible.


*Disclaimer: This article is a creative interpretation and synthesis work, drawing inspiration from multiple sources. While efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the interpretation or information presented, readers are encouraged to consult the source material for a comprehensive understanding.

**I reserve the right to edit this page at my convenience.