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The Truth Norm Account of Justification



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Greenberg, Alexander David  ORCID logo


This thesis is about the relationship between a belief being justified and it being true. It defends a version of the view that the fundamental point of having a justified belief is to have a true one. The particular version of that view it defends is the claim that belief is subject to a truth norm – i.e. a norm or standard that says that one should believe something if and only if it’s true. It claims that belief being subject to such a truth norm can explain which beliefs count as justified and which do not.

After introducing the idea of a truth norm (Ch. 1), the argument of my thesis involves two main stages.

Part One of the thesis (Chs. 2-3) contains the first stage, in which I argue that my way of arguing for a truth norm, on the basis of its explanatory role in epistemology, is much more likely to be successful than a more popular way of arguing for a truth norm, on the basis of its explanatory role in the philosophy of mind.

Part Two (Chs. 4-7) contains the second stage, in which I argue that the truth norm can indeed explain justification in the way I’ve outlined. I do this by answering four criticisms that have been made of the claim that belief is subject to a truth norm. These criticisms claim that a truth norm should be rejected because, in turn, a truth norm cannot guide belief formation (Ch. 4), because a truth norm prescribes believing all the truths (Ch. 5), because a truth norm never prescribes suspending judgement (Ch. 6), and because a truth norm in some cases prescribes making problematic trade-offs of having one false belief for the sake of having many true beliefs (Ch. 7). I argue that all of these criticisms fail. But it is through answering these criticisms that we can see the contours of a defensible explanation of justification in terms of the truth norm.





Crane, Tim
Ahmed, Arif


Belief, Truth, Norms on Belief, Epistemic Justification, Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC award no: BGP DOCT 2011 AH/J500094/1)