From justification to criticism: a non-justificational concept of criticism

Bartley could have offered an ideal form of non-justificational epistemology for formulation of his philosophy of pancritical rationalism. If he had done so, the question of how a rational belief may be evaluated as true could have received a correct answer and Bartley could have based his pancritical rationalism on a non-justificational theory of knowledge. However, Bartley did not follow this ideal path.

Instead, Bartley focused on the idea of the separation of justification and criticism, leading him to a non-justificational conception of criticism:

The classical account of criticism, which pervades almost all philosophical literature, from the Greeks to the present day, is a justificationist theory of criticism. According to this account, the way to examine and criticize an idea is to see whether and how it may be justified.

(1984b: 222)

Bartley seeks to replace a justificational concept of criticism with a non-justificational one due to the infinite regress involved with justification, but not with criticism. Hence, the transition from justification to criticism leads Bartley to a tenable non-justificational concept of criticism in which a position or a belief that cannot be justified may be criticized. Thus, Bartley discovers a new epistemological foundation for his theory of pancritical rationalism.

Bartley (1984a: 115) asks what it means to talk of the fusion of justification and criticism and replies that one answer is that to

criticize a view is to see whether it can be logically derived from - i.e. “justified by” - the rational criterion or authority. On an empiricist view, such as Hume’s, for instance, the strongest criticism of any particular theory was that it could not be justified or established properly - in his case by an appeal to sense experience.

Bartley’s idea of the separation of justification and criticism is used to show that the meaning of ‘critical’ itself in the philosophy of critical rationalism would suffer infinite regress if defined by the justificationist concept of criticism. Hence, rescuing critical rationalism from justificationism requires a non-justificational conception of criticism.

In the following quotation, Bartley (1984b: 223) proposes the separation of justification and criticism to show how epistemology contributes to a non-justificational concept of criticism necessary in the philosophy of critical rationalism for prevention of infinite regress:

If one could continue to ask: "How do you know?”, that line of questioning would never end: it would engender an infinite regress. Thus it is supposed that one must stop with an authority - or dogma, or presupposition - which acts as justifies. Since this justifier cannot itself be justified, and since the only way to criticize something is to attempt to justify it, these justifiers cannot be criticized. Dogmas, it is concluded, are necessary’. The logical structure of argumentation itself appeared to vouch for, even to require, dogmatism.

What I did in The Retreat to Commitment was to show that no authorities or justifiers in this sense were needed in criticism. I separated the notions of justification and criticism (for the first time explicitly) and showed that criticism can be carried out successfully and satisfactorily without engendering any infinite regress, and hence without requiring any resort to justification whatever... That is, when I declare that all statements are criticizable, I mean that it is not necessary, in criticism, in order to avoid infinite regress, to declare a dogma that cannot be criticized (since it is unjustifiable)... I mean that there is not some point in every argument which is exempted from criticism ...

By means of separating justification and criticism, Bartley discovers an inno-vational way of replacing the idea of irrational faith in reason in Popper’s epistemology with a rational faith. In the context of such a separation, Bartley’s critique of the justified tme belief account of knowledge and its outcome for pancritical rationalism are understandable. Like Popper. Bartley criticizes the justificationist account of knowledge, arguing that dogmatic epistemology is untenable because neither sense experience nor intellectual intuition are infallible premises for justification of a conclusion of deductive inference. Like Popper, Bartley knows that sceptic epistemology also originates from justificationism. By accepting the justified true belief account of knowledge and arguing that fallible premises cannot justify a conclusion, the sceptic rejects objective knowledge. However, unlike Popper, Bartley’s intention is to show that the sceptic denial of objective knowledge is baseless upon rejection of the idea of knowledge as justified true belief. Hence, the critical rationalist should not establish his own critique of panrationalism (uncritical rationalism) upon the basis of the sceptic’s justificational critique of dogmatism.

In validation of Popper’s critique of the justificationist theory of science, Bartley admits that scientific knowledge is created through conjecture and refutation. However, he employs the conception of non-justificational criticism in order to expand the theory of science to the philosophy of critical rationalism. Bartley (1964: 23) argues: “The main originality of Popper's position lies in the fact that it is the first non justificational philosophy of criticism in the history of philosophy”. As argued earlier. Bartley's concept of the separation of justification and criticism is a major epistemological contribution to the idea of critical rationalism. Let us now investigate how Bartley applies this separation to criticize Popper's critical rationalism in terms of irrational faith in reason.

 
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