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equilibrium on a set of principles and convictions that includes some quite daffy inferential rule. Indeed, one suspects that by allowing people's philosophical convictions to play a role in filtering their inferential principles, one is inviting such daffy principles, since many people are deeply attached to outlandish philosophical views. The expert reflective equilibrium move fares no better. For unless experts are picked out in a question-begging way (e.g., those people whose inferential practices are in fact justified) it seems entirely possible for the expert community, under the influence of ideology, recreational chemistry, or evil demons, to end up endorsing some quite nutty set of rules."
4.4 A Neo-Goodmanian Project
At this point, if the friend of reflective equilibrium is as impressed by these arguments as I think he should be, he might head off to his study to work on some new bells and whistles-some further variations on the reflective equilibrium theme that will do better at capturing our concept of justification. Despite a string of failures, he might be encouraged to pursue this project by a line of thought that runs something like the following. I'll call it the neo-Goodmanian line.
It can hardly be denied that we do something to assess whether or not an inferential practice is justified. Our decisions on these matters are certainly not made at random. Moreover, if there is some established procedure that we invoke in assessing justification, then it must surely be possible to describe this procedure. When we have succeeded at this we will have an account of what it is for an inferential practice to be justified. For, as Goodman has urged, to be justified just is to pass the tests we invoke in assessing an inferential practice. Our procedures for assessing an inferential practice are constitutive of justification. Granted, neither Coodman's narrow reflective equilibrium story nor the more elaborate stories told by others has succeeded in capturing the procedure we actually use in assessing justification. But that just shows we must work harder. The rewards promise to repay our efforts, since once we have succeeded in describing our assessment procedure, we will have taken a giant step forward in epistemology. We will have explained what it is for a cognitive process to be justified. In so doing we will have at least begun to resolve the problem posed by cognitive diversity. For once we have a clear specification of what justification amounts to, we can go on to ask whether our own cognitive processes are justified or whether, perhaps, those of some other culture come closer to the mark.
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There is no doubt that this neo-Goodmanian line can be very appealing. I was myself under its sway for some years. However, I am now persuaded that the research program it proposes for epistemology is a thoroughly wrongheaded one. In the remainder of this chapter, I will try to say why. My case against the neo-Goodmanian project divides into two parts. First I shall raise some objections that are targeted more or less specifically on the details of the neo-Goodmanian program. Central to each of these objections is the fact that the neoGoodmanian is helping himself to a healthy serving of empirical assumptions about the conceptual structures underlying our commonsense judgments of cognitive assessment, and each of these assumptions stands in some serious risk of turning out to be false. If one or more of them is false, then the project loses much of its initial attractiveness. In the following selection, I will set out a brief catalog of these dubious assumptions. The second part of my critique is much more general, and I'll be after much bigger game. What I propose to argue is that for most people, neither the neo-Goodmanian program nor any alternative program that proposes to analyze or explicate our presystematic notions of epistemic evaluation will be of any help at all in deciding whether and how their own cognitive processes or those of others might be improved. But here I am getting ahead of myself. Let me get back to the neo-Goodmanian and his dubious empirical presuppositions.
4.5 Some Questionable Presuppositions of the Neo-Goodmanian Project
Let me begin with a fairly obvious point. The neo-Goodmanian, as I have portrayed him, retains his allegiance to the idea of reflective equilibrium. We last saw him heading back to his study to seek a more adequate elaboration of this notion. But nothing the neo-Goodmanian has said encourages us to expect that reflective equilibrium or anything much like it plays a role in our procedure for assessing the justification of a cognitive process. So even if it is granted that we have good reason to work hard at characterizing our justification-assessing procedure, we may find that the notion of reflective equilibrium is simply a nonstarter. Confronted with this objection, I think the only move open to the neo-Goodmanian is to grant the point and concede that in trying to patch the notion of reflective equilibrium he is simply playing a hunch. Perhaps it will turn out that something like reflective equilibrium plays a central role in our assessments of justification. But until we have an accurat characterization of the assessment process, there can be no guarantees.