Is Internal Justification Warranted?

I'd like to share a short essay I'm writing for my philosophy class that deals with internal justification and knowledge. This ties in very well with my blog and discussions about personal religious experience/revelation and faith.

Main Ideas:
  • Subjective claims are not sufficient to establish knowledge.
  • Subjective claims are not able to be evaluated by others, are not reproducible, and thus are not reliable for factual claims about reality.
  • Reflection is not sufficient for belief - claims about reality should be demonstrable and empirically observable.
  • Religious claims and faiths are logically incompatible and can not all be correct.

Internalism is the view that what determines whether a belief is justified or warranted for a person are factors or states in some sense internal to that person. Internalism may be very problematic if we are going to glean knowledge simply from what is internal to us (not external). Cases of supernatural personal experiences, alleged encounters with extraterrestrials, and a variety of similar claims that are not reproducible, externally verifiable, or demonstrable present a major challenge to true knowledge about objective reality. Internalism may only tell us what a person believes, but does not establish true value for claims. Internalism, without external verification, may only ever be arguments for subjective reality and is not a sufficient and reliable method for obtaining true knowledge; epistemic justification and internal reflection are not enough to establish knowledge about reality.

A person may claim that he/she may have had directly recognizable cognition and experience to justify a belief and deeply reflect on perceptions, feelings, emotions, but this does not mean that a belief is true knowledge. A person named Jane may have retreated to a cave and meditated for a month claiming that she saw visions of Jesus, thus verifying that Jesus spoke to her and that Jesus exists. According to deontologism, Jane is permitted to believe this proposition, not blameworthy in believing this, and is also not obligated to cease belief. No matter how much Jane believes that her visions were representative of a divine supernatural origin and no matter how much Jane reflected on her duties, this does not mean that her claims are true.
Suppose that Jane is not culpably ignorant about her claims, she doesn't have an ambiguous or difficult duty to wrestle with, and she is not incurably corrupt. Matthias Steup claims that one can always recognize by direct internal reflection whether a given belief is or is not in accord with one's epistemic duty and whether or not one is or is justified in holding it, but this is not the case with Jane's experience. Although Jane may have fulfilled her epistemic duties, internally reflected, and may gain a great deal of happiness, meaning, and purpose from this belief in the supernatural, this does not suggest that the belief is true knowledge.

Empiricists like myself ought to be bothered by the idea of internal reflection and epistemic justification being suitable guidelines for knowledge. Objective evidence ought to be important for claims of knowledge rather than subjective knowledge and reflection that internalism advocates. We can still embrace epistemic duties, but this may not stand alone or with internal reflection as a basis for knowledge. Regarding claims of knowledge that are about objective reality, we can not accept subjective reflection as good evidence. If subjective reflection and epistemic justification were allowed for one claim, we must allow this for any claim from a person who can internally reflect and feels that he/she has good epistemic justification including but not limited to ESP, belief in ghosts, religious claims by serious theologians of different faiths (even though various claims are incompatible and contradictory). Claims about objective reality, especially extraordinary claims, must be subjected to empirical testing.

Suppose, using the idea of internalism, that a Muslim, a Roman Catholic, and a Mormon are self-professed true believers who have studied their respective religions for twenty years and profess that their beliefs are true. They all have used internal reflection to establish justification for their faith and are epistemically justified in believing their faith claims and personal experiences. If we were to allow internalism, we would have to say that they are all justified in their beliefs, but this can not be true because the claims of Muslims, Mormons, and Roman Catholics are not compatible. Muslims don't believe that Jesus was divine while Roman Catholics believe that Jesus was divine. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith acquired golden plates from an angel while Muslims and Roman Catholics don't believe this. How can all individuals be justified in their claims when all of them logically can't be correct? According to the principle of contradiction, contradictory statements can't both be true. Jesus can not be both divine and not divine, he either is divine or he is not divine.