Alston's Anti-Justificationism as a Strategy to Resolve the Conflict Between Internalism and Externalism



After a justificationist period, William P. Alston has tried to eliminate justification from the epistemology of belief. He introduced a list of epistemic desiderata all of which contribute to the positive status of beliefs and none of which has an exclusive and decisive role so that it could be isolated as the property of being justified. Careful examination reveals, however, that this list includes fewer desiderata than advertised. Truth-conducive desiderata are most important for Alston, and these are five; during his discussion, however, Alston reduces these desiderata to only one, the reliability of process, which has an externalist character. Besides this desideratum, there is one other group of desiderata, all of which have an internalist character. What Alston has in fact done, then, through the presentation of his anti-justificationist list, is to separate externalist and internalist elements for the positive status of belief and to give an independent role to each. Since Alston regards the truth-conducive group as the most important, however, and since he has failed to show a real pluralism in this group, we may conclude that he continues to have a monistic approach to the evaluation of beliefs, which belies his alleged pluralism.