2022 Sanders Lecture: Trenton Merricks
“Arguments and Closure”
Thursday, October 13, 2022
Consider the Musk Argument:
1M. Elon Musk is one of the richest people in the world.
2M. If Elon Musk is one of the richest people in the world, then he did not die of a heart attack thirty seconds ago.
3M. Elon Musk did not die of a heart attack thirty seconds ago.
I know that the Musk Argument is valid. It can seem that I am justified in believing its premises. And it can seem that I am not justified in believing its conclusion. So it can seem that my “epistemic situation” with regard to the Musk Argument is a counterexample to the view that justification is closed under known entailment. So it can seem that the Musk Argument—along with other, more familiar arguments—threatens closure.
But I will argue that the Musk Argument is not a real threat to closure, and will argue for this without relying upon contextualism or contrastivism or other standard ways to block this sort of threat to closure. More precisely, I will argue that arguments relevantly like the Musk Argument are not a real threat to:
Closure Principle One: Suppose that you believe a claim because it is the conclusion of an argument, you know that that argument’s premises entail its conclusion, and you are justified in believing (or know) that that argument’s premises are all true. Then you are justified in believing (or know) that claim.
I will also argue for some other claims. Along the way we will encounter—and respond to—a serious threat to the philosophical practice of giving arguments to justify conclusions.
Trenton Merricks is Commonwealth Professor of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. He specializes in metaphysics. He also works in philosophy of religion, epistemology, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language.
The Foundation funds two lectures, the Sanders Lecture given at a divisional meeting of the APA by a distinguished scholar on any topic of their choosing, and a lecture on the Philosophy of Religion at the Center for the Philosophy of Religion at Rutgers University. Learn more HERE.