Bootstrapping in General

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2010, 81(3): 525–48

Bootstrapping poses a more general challenge than commonly thought. Versions of the problem afflict even strongly internalist theories of knowledge. Even if one must know a source to be reliable to gain knowledge from it, bootstrapping is still a threat. I consider potential solutions internalists might try, and defend the one I think most plausible: that bootstrapping involves an abuse of inductive reasoning akin to generalizing from a small or biased sample. Finally, I argue that this solution is equally available to the reliabilist. The moral is that the issues raised by bootstrapping are orthogonal to questions about internalism and basic knowledge. They have more to do with the nature of good inductive reasoning.