Nonbasic Epistemology: Must the Epistemology of a Nonbasic Domain Track its Metaphysics?

34 Pages Posted: 11 Nov 2020 Last revised: 6 Jan 2021

See all articles by Mark Greenberg

Mark Greenberg

UCLA School of Law and Department of Philosophy

Date Written: November 1, 2020


The paper introduces a topic, which it labels loosely nonbasic epistemology. Somewhat more precisely, the topic concerns whether, and if so, under what conditions, the epistemology of a nonbasic domain must track its metaphysics. The explication of this central notion of tracking is an important part of the project. Some domains are nonbasic in the sense that the facts of those domains obtain in virtue of more basic facts. My topic concerns the relation between how the facts of nonbasic domains are (metaphysically) determined and how we can ascertain these facts. More specifically, I focus on a cluster of questions concerning whether and under what conditions we need to infer the facts of a domain from the more basic determining facts. There are some relatively clear instances of non-inferential access to the facts of a domain. One’s access to one’s own mental states and perception of the external world are good examples. In these cases, tracking is unnecessary: because of our non-inferential access to the target facts, we don’t have to infer the target facts from the more basic facts that determine them. But there are difficult questions about other domains. In this paper, after clarifying the issues, I take the legal domain as a case study.

Keywords: epistemology, metaphysics, nonbasic domains, legal interpretation, reliability, justification, knowledge of the law, legal knowledge, reliable legal beliefs, epistemology of law, metaphysics of law, knowledge by inference, non-inferential knowledge, perception

Suggested Citation

Greenberg, Mark, Nonbasic Epistemology: Must the Epistemology of a Nonbasic Domain Track its Metaphysics? (November 1, 2020). UCLA School of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 20-33, Available at SSRN:

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