Rejecting Fallibilism

Faculty Sponsor

Philip Woodward


Arts and Sciences



ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 4-23-2016


Fallibilism, the thesis that no belief can be known for certain, has become a popular view in epistemology. The certainty of our perceptions, inductions, faculties of reason, and even self-knowledge are regularly challenged. On this view, most of epistemology then deals with knowledge that is probably fallible. However, knowledge of our own primitive feelings may avert the likely fallibility of other sources of knowledge. In this paper I argue that primitive feelings are an infallible source of knowledge even in the face of the strongest fallibilist challenges, by exploring what kinds of things that, if believed, must be true. I address the matter first by determining what kinds of things that, if they are true, we must be justified in believing if and when we believe them. Next I determine what can be believed only if true. Then I show that primitive feeling fulfills both of these. Finally, since primitive feelings do fulfill these requirements, I show that if the feelings are believed then necessarily they are also known for certain. Then I address challenges that pose issues for self-knowledge and explain how they do not create real problems for primitive feelings even if they do for other kinds of self-knowledge. Through this process, I refine into a tightly understandable category what constitutes these sorts of feelings that, if believable, are also infallibly knowable. From there we can come to know for certain some things about the world we exist in.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Nichole Smith entered Valpo with an interest in philosophy that inevitably led to picking up a major in it. In the process, she took a class in epistemology, which forced her to rework her understanding of knowledge. The question of self-knowledge was touched upon, but piqued her interest, especially as an avenue for infallible knowledge--the same kind of knowledge she hoped for in her math major coming in.

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