Epistemic entitlement and the leaching problem

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Crispin Wright has explored and defended the proposal that we are rational in accepting certain ‘cornerstone’ propositions that play an epistemically foundational role on the basis of non-evidential warrants—entitlements—rather than on the basis of evidential justifications. One of the principal objections to this proposal, formulated by Wright himself, is the leaching problem. Put metaphorically, the problem is that it’s hard to see how a superstructure of justified belief and knowledge could have something less epistemically secure lying at its foundations. In this paper I discuss how to best formulate the objection behind the metaphor, and I argue that it remains a live worry despite Wright’s attempts to neutralize it. I also aim to clarify Wright’s conservatism in light of some conflicting remarks he has made about whether he takes acquiring (as opposed to claiming to possess) justification or knowledge to be subject to the conservative requirement that one must have antecedent warrant for accepting the relevant cornerstone propositions. A major theme of the paper is that these two issues are intimately linked—that formulating Wright’s conservatism in the most stable and motivated way leaves him without a response to the leaching problem considered in its strongest form.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date20 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 20 Jan 2016


  • entitlement
  • scepticism
  • leaching problem
  • alchemy problem
  • Crispin Wright

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