Radical Internalism

This paper is a reply to Amia Srinivasan’s “Radical Externalism”. I share Srinivasan’s radical worldview. But I do not agree that externalism about epistemic justification is the better approach in light of the radical worldview that we share. First, I note that Srinivasan mischaracterizes the disputants: she describes intuitions about cases as “the” internalist intuitions and “the” externalist intuitions, when in fact there are a multitude of internalist and externalist views, not all of which entail the verdicts that Srinivasan ascribes to them. Along the way, I also point out a problem with one of Srinivasan’s cases, and I say a little about what I think drives internalist intuitions in classic philosophical cases. I then argue that, although Srinivasan’s three cases do lend intuitive support to the specific version of externalism that she favors, these cases are somewhat simple in focusing only on single axes of social oppression, while examples that involve complex and intersecting ideological forces intuitively support internalism again. I close by offering a rival characterization of the fundamental dispute between internalists and externalists in epistemology, and arguing that this makes internalism the preferable approach for those with a radical worldview. In brief: I hold that the spirit of the dispute between internalists and externalists is about what sort of attitude to take toward the people we evaluate, and what to reward. And I think that the internalist answers to these questions look appealing when we think about the systematic and pernicious epistemic distortion that ideological social forces leave in their wake. The appropriate response to epistemic oppression — as with all other forms of oppression — is to galvanize, mobilize, and resist. Internalism can explain this, and can show us how.

This paper is not quite ready for the internet. But if you’d like to see the latest draft, shoot me an email, and I’ll send it to you.