Roger White "What's so Bad about Bootstrapping?"

October 25, 2012

September 26, 2012

Roger White, Professor of Philosophy at MIT.

Sitting alone I examine a long series of unlabelled color cards. The first appears red to me and I judge that it is red, the next one appears green to me and I judge that it is green, the next one appears blue to me and I judge that is blue… I conclude that each card I’ve examined appears to me to be the very color that it really is, and hence that my color vision must be highly reliable! Most of us find it absurd to suppose that I’ve really gained any evidence for the reliability of my color vision by this procedure (this is what epistemologists call ‘bootstrapping’). Yet many well motivated theories of knowledge and justification appear to have the consequence that reasoning of this sort is sometimes legitimate. This paper tries to get clear on just where such reasoning goes wrong and what implications this has for theories of evidence and justified belief.

Roger White is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at MIT. He joined MIT's faculty in 2006, having taught for six years at New York University. He received his PhD from MIT in 2000. White's work covers a variety of issues in epistemology and the philosophy of science. These include perceptual justification, skepticism, induction, applications of probability to reasoning, and the role of explanatory considerations in theory assessment.

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