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6 juin 2023

Justification and gradability 

Recently some epistemologists have approached the question whether epistemic justification comes in degrees from a linguistic perspective. Drawing insights from linguistic analyses of gradable adjectives, they investigate whether epistemic occurrences of ‘justified’ are gradable and if yes what type of gradability they involve. These authors conclude that the adjective passes standard tests for gradability, but they classify it as belonging to different categories: as either an absolute or a relative gradable adjective. The aim of this paper is to further clarify the question of what kind of gradability is instantiated by epistemic uses of ‘justified’, and to investigate the consequences that this may have on epistemological theorizing. In particular, we challenge the alleged evidence provided by Siscoe (2021: 517–59) for the relative gradability of ‘justified’ and we provide positive arguments for the claim that ‘justified’ is a specific kind of absolute gradable adjective (a totally closed scale absolute with default minimal reading). We consider some important philosophical implications of these results. We also argue that the scale type of ‘justified’ is ordinal, and we consider which other properties typically associated to justification possess a similar type of scale. We argue that several popular contemporary models of graded justification, such as probabilistic and reliabilist accounts and various kinds of Lockean views, do not fit well with our results about the gradability of ‘justified’. Linguistic data rather favour normalcy and plausibility accounts of graded justification.

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