Susana Siegel And Dogmatism

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Susana Siegel made a convincing case how cognitive penetration (CP) may be problematic for dogmatism. Still, I feel that CP has some shortcomings. First, it is plausible that CP is out of our control – in Siegel’s terms, all cases of CP may be analogous with being “zapped”1. Second, it seems that one must be aware of CP in order for it to be problematic. If a subject has such awareness, however, CP becomes a sneaky defeater and fits the mold of dogmatism. Before proceeding, I will define dogmatism and explicate Siegel’s challenge. In the end I hope to highlight a few potential holes that, if expanded, could deflate the challenge of CP.
Dogmatism says that if a subject S has a perceptual experience with content P, then S has prima facie justification for believing P. Furthermore, S’s belief in P is immediate and does not depend on any further justified propositions. Cognitive penetration (CP) suggests that beliefs, desires, moods, expectations, etc. can influence the content of perceptual processes and/or experiences.
Siegel insists that CP threatens dogmatism. She uses a simple example to illustrate the problem2. Jill unjustifiably believes that Jack is angry. Upon seeing Jack, Jill’s unjustified belief makes her perceive him as angry. Any ordinary, non-penetrated person would not perceive Jack as angry.
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First, it is not at all clear that we are responsible for these mental states/attributes. Trends in philosophy of mind, neuroscience, and physics have recently encouraged various versions of determinism. If certain versions of determinism turn out to be true, and we cannot be held responsible for any of our mental states, then all cases of CP would be analogous to being zapped. If all cases of CP are analogous to being zapped, then the subsequent epistemic elevation should not be a problem. I recognize the difficulty in relying on determinism as a main objection to Siegel – but it is certainly feasible and worth some

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