Considering creatures by the name of Hard Cases, we are to assume that their perceptual beliefs are involuntary in the "hard way" where they do not retain intellectual authority over what they believe.

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Philosophy 302 – Final Term Paper

Prompt:  Considering creatures by the name of Hard Cases, we are to assume that their perceptual beliefs are involuntary in the “hard way” where they do not retain intellectual authority over what they believe.  When we see a red table and lack an appropriate defeater, we are justified in believing that the table is red.  Then the Hard Cases see a red table, they have the same perceptual experience we do and also lack an appropriate defeater.  So they too are justified in believing that the table is red.  Their beliefs are involuntary in the “hard way,” however, so, according to deontological accounts of justification, they are not justified.  Seemingly, deontological accounts of justification are mistaken.

        The deontological objection would have to reply to this seeming fallacy and establish grounds for having epistemic justified belief, that is, having a justified belief based on the body of evidence shown.  It can be shown, however, that this very principle may be applied to a metaphysical transcendental examination of the evidence that is presented to properly assess how the Hard Cases are not truly justified in believing anything.  In short, the Hard Cases can be shown to not be considering the full scope of evidence about the world that we see and cannot be considered as having justified true beliefs.

        Note:  The discussion shall include notes on Strawson and Searle, for it is their view that I think of when examining this particular case.  There will be reference to computing devices as resembling Hard Cases for both clearly have no particular method to achieve intellectual control and have no way of being held accountable for what they “think.”  They are then not justified in believing what they do and the deontological principle is preserved.

The case as presented:

  1. The Hard Cases are justified in believing that p and their belief that p is of the “hard involuntary” nature.
  2. If deontological theory is true, no “hard involuntary” beliefs are justified.
  1. Deontological theory is based on epistemic justification where we honor epistemic duties.
  2. When we honor epistemic duties, we have implied epistemic duties that we ought to (and can) complete.
  3. Since we have epistemic duties, all of the beliefs that we make after performing these duties have a voluntary nature; that is, we may accept or reject the end analysis because we have a choice to do so.
  4. If it is the case that all of the beliefs that we make have a voluntary nature, there are no “hard involuntary” beliefs, just “soft involuntary beliefs” that are subject to a modified voluntary nature.
  5. No hard involuntary beliefs are justified.
  1. The deontological theory is false.

The issue that we are examining pertains to the internalist deontologist and his objector.  Internalism is a stance in which we are justified in believing a proposition; the factors that make our belief justified are internal ones that are accessible to us through reflection.  The deontologist says that epistemic justification is properly analyzed in terms of deontic concepts: duty, responsibility, or refraining from what is not one’s duty.  The deontologist will also admit to using reflection to contemplate one’s duty.  The following triad can define deontic concepts: right, wrong, and obligation.  In this regard, this is a close semblance between ethics and epistemology.  In the deontologist’s scheme with regard to any proposition of interest to us, our goal is to believe it if and only if it is true.  Although this goal is present, it is the end goal.  The primary goal is to follow the epistemic duty to believe according to the evidence that we have at hand.  In other words, when dealing with a proposition p, we have to deal with our duty in concern with that proposition.  Again, there is a concept presented that bears close semblance to ethics, specifically, epistemic duties.  For a deontologist, a justified belief is defined by the following:

S is justified in believing p if and only if S believes that p and it is not S’s duty to refrain from believing p.

Such a justified belief can be characterized from statement presented as follows:

The table is red.

For the deontologist, a problem arises with this statement:  the acknowledgement of the color of the table is admitting to a perception.  The objector to deontology would first say that admitting to a perception is admitting to involuntary beliefs.  The reason behind this is that one sees something and remembers it, but their recollection of this event isn’t one that can be discerned when recalling it.  Perception and recollection of memory are cases that inherently are not really subject to justification in the deontological sense because there isn’t any inherent duty in believing perceptions and memory.  In other words, one does not have a duty to refrain from perceptions since the deontologist relies on experience to make this claim.  The way that a deontologist finagles his way out of this problem is to assign epistemic duty to perceptions and memory in order to classify them with our other voluntary beliefs.  A deontologist would say that perception and memory fall under the category of a priori epistemic principles.  Since perception and memory are characterized by a priori epistemic principles, there is no reason to not follow these principles.  According to deontologists, an act is right if and only if it is not obligatory not to do it.  With this definition, we can see that perception and memory are given new definitions as follows:

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Perception  if it perceptually seems to S as if p and S has no reason to believe otherwise, then S has no duty to refrain from believing that p.

Memory  If S recalls that p and S has no reason to believe otherwise, then S has no duty to refrain from believing that p.

And as a result, a deontologist can make the comfortable claims:

  • The table seems to be red.  This is justified through perception and experience
  • I seem to see a red table and I have no evidence to the contrary, then I’m justified in ...

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