When it comes to perceptual justification, there are three main foundationalist theories: internalist reliabilism (Steup 2004), phenomenal conservatism (Huemer 2007), and dogmatism (Pryor 2000). In this paper, I will be concerned with James Pryor’s dogmatism. Whether or not the problem I raise for Pryor’s view generalizes to the other two theories is a topic for another paper. This paper will be broken down into two main sections. In section one, I will show that James Pryor’s dogmatism entails that there is an infinite number of potential perceptual modalities. Then, in section two, I will explain why I take that entailment to be problematic.
1. Many Modalities
According to James Pryor, dogmatism is the thesis that, “. . . whenever you have an experience as of p, you thereby have immediate prima facie justification for believing p” (Pryor 2000). An entailment of Pryor’s view is that even if the belief in the reliability of a perceptual modality is discredited by strong evidence of unreliability, that modality still functions as a source of justification. Pryor’s articulation guarantees this result by virtue of using the word, “whenever”. So, for example, if I had strong evidence indicating that my gas gauge is unreliable, when I see that the gauge is on full according to dogmatism, I have some, albeit very weak, reason to believe that my gas tank is full. Perceptual modalities can be said to necessarily function as justifiers for perceptual beliefs. Giving necessary and sufficient conditions for a modality to qualify as perceptual is probably impossible. Suffice it to say that a perceptual modality is typically seen as a way in which we directly form and justify beliefs about the external world.
A problem for Pryor is that he cannot give a principled account of which perceptual modalities are justifiers and which ones are not. There are many possible, and prima facie suspect, sources of experience, such as sensus divinitatis, remote viewing, and mind-reading. The issue for Pryor is that he is committed to all of these alleged sources of experience being perceptual modalities, and by virtue of that, also being sources of justification. Since perceptual experiences as of P is broad enough to include experiences of God’s will, what’s happening 500 miles away, and what’s on a stranger’s mind, Pryor must admit all of them within the scope of his theory. So, if S has the experience of a bear attacking a deer in the woods, 500 miles away from S’s location, by virtue of S having remote-viewing-like perceptual experiences, then S is prima facie justified in believing that such an event is occurring 500 miles away. Furthermore, the problem is not merely that Pryor must allow many more possible sources of perceptual justification. Rather, he must allow an infinite number of them. For any perceptual faculty F, there could be a faculty F* that produces conjunctive beliefs that include the contents of F’s outputs as well as an arbitrary, false proposition. For such a faculty F*, there could then be a faculty F** which produces conjunctive beliefs with the contents of F* as well as some other arbitrary and false proposition. Such a pattern can be iterated to infinity. The problem, then, is that Pryor is committed to an infinite number of potential sources of justification, many of which seem epistemically suspect.
Pryor cannot appeal to defeaters to cut down on the potential sources of perceptual justification. According to Pryor’s view, defeaters for perceptual beliefs merely undercut their justification; there can be no way to completely destroy the justification of perceptual beliefs, so anything that qualifies as a perceptual modality necessarily qualifies as a justifier. So, Pryor’s view entails that there is an infinite number of possible justifiers for perceptual beliefs, despite how epistemically suspect those alleged justifiers and their outputs are. Even if Pryor could provide overwhelmingly strong defeaters for the perceptual beliefs produced by, say, remote-viewing, such a perceptual modality would still provide some, albeit undermined, justification, as in the gas gauge example. Furthermore, he cannot appeal to any background beliefs about the correct theory of perception for the purposes of individuating potential perceptual justifiers, because such beliefs would merely constitute undermining defeaters, so we would still be in the realm of the gas gauge example. The appeal to background beliefs only works for theories which take perceptual justification to require antecedently justified beliefs about our perceptual modalities. For instance, a coherentist can appeal to our current scientific theories about perception and cognition to individuate our perceptual modalities such that we can determine what counts as a perceptual modality prior to evaluating any particular perceptual beliefs. The coherentist can completely undermine the status of any particular perceptual modality as a justifier. Pryor cannot completely undermine the status of any particular perceptual modality as a justifier because any evidence she brings against the justifier-status of a modality will, at best, undermine rather than defeat the justificatory force of that modality. So, Pryor cannot individuate perceptual modalities by utilizing defeaters, since defeaters can never disqualify a possible perceptual modality from being a justifier, despite how epistemically suspect that modality and its outputs are.
2. Epistemically Suspect
But why consider the entailment that there is an infinite number of possible perceptual modalities to be problematic? In the previous section I alluded to some of the possible modalities being epistemically suspect. By epistemically suspect, I mean that there is good reason to at least suspend judgment about the status of that alleged modality as a justifier. It seems to be the case that we have good reason to at least suspend judgment about the status of remote-viewing as a justifier. There is no detectable causal connection between the experiences had by remote-viewers and the events they allegedly predict and/or describe. Moreover, there have been no credible, replicable studies showing that remote-viewing is a reliable method of predicting and/or describing events in the external world. Remote-viewing is also considered a pseudoscience by many experts (Alcock 1981) (Marks and Kammann 2000).
Furthermore, as my disjunctive belief formation faculty example in section one showed, there can be an infinite number of alleged perceptual modalities. We can now see how an infinite number of possible perceptual modalities is a problem for Pryor. An alleged source of experience that produces beliefs whose contents are conjunctions qualifies as a perceptual modality given Pryor’s view. The perceptual modality of conjunctive remote-viewing produces beliefs about what is happening 500 miles away from the viewer and that the moon is made of green cheese. One can fill the conjuncts in with any wildly implausible propositions that one wishes. At this point, biting the bullet and claiming that this perceptual modality functions as a justifier is pushing dogmatism near the threshold of complete implausibility.
Now, this would not be such a problem if no other theory of perceptual justification could present a principled way of ruling out epistemically suspect sources of experience. However, coherentism is able to do this. Explanatory coherentists can appeal to current scientific theories of perception to rule out sources of experience such as remote-viewing. Since belief-sets containing beliefs produced by remote-viewing are less explanatorily virtuous than belief-sets without such beliefs, we can rule those beliefs and their source out as epistemically relevant. While this is not a knockdown argument against the dogmatist, it does put pressure on him to show how the theory fares better than competitors in other areas to mitigate the damage from biting this bullet.
Pryor’s view is stuck with the implausible entailment that there is no way to individuate perceptual modalities such that we can rule out cases of modalities that do not provide even some justification for their outputs. At best, we can give a descriptive taxonomy of perceptual modalities claimed to be had by various people. The reason why Pryor is stuck with this individuation problem is that he cannot allow for the complete defeat of any particular source of justification, as long as that source qualifies as a perceptual modality. The necessary connection between a source being perceptual and its outputs having at least some justification is what makes this a problem for Pryor. If Pryor allowed for the complete defeat the outputs of any particular perceptual modality, revoking its status as a justifier, then he could rule out epistemically suspect perceptual sources like remote-viewing. But then he would no longer be a dogmatist, since he would sever the necessary connection between perception and justification that lends dogmatism its attractiveness in the dialectic between the skeptic and the dogmatist.
 Huemer’s view can be interpreted as a particular form of dogmatism rather than conservatism (Steup 2016).
 By, “modality” I mean any perceptual faculty or sub-faculty, such as hearing and sight.
 Some perceptual beliefs can be inferred, but the mark of a perceptual modality is that it epistemically connects us with the external world without any additional intermediary. A priori justified beliefs about the external world, if there are any to begin with, would have to be justified mediately by virtue of inference from beliefs directly justified a priori.
 These are perceptual modalities because they produce beliefs about the external world, and such beliefs aren’t mediated by anything further.
 Since Pryor does not give further conditions on what constitutes perceptual experience, besides not allowing the a priori to qualify, he must grant that the alleged sources of experience listed above qualify as perceptual modalities, and therefore are sources of justification.
 See (Poston 2014) for a contemporary defense of explanatory coherentism.
 Nothing in his (2000) indicates otherwise.
Alcock, James. (1981). Parapsychology-Science Or Magic?: A Psychological Perspective. Pergamon Press. Print.
Huemer, Michael. “Compassionate Phenomenal Conservatism.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74.1 (2007): 30-55. Web.
Marks, David and Kammann, Richard. (2000). The Psychology of the Psychic. PrometheusBooks. Print.
Poston, Ted. Reason and explanation: a defense of explanatory coherentism. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Print.
Pryor, James. “The Skeptic and the Dogmatist.” Nous 34.4 (2000): 517-49. Web. Steup, Matthias. “Internalist Reliabilism.” Philosophical Issues 14.1 (2004): 403-25. Web.
Steup, Matthias. “Destructive defeat and justificational force: the dialectic of dogmatism, conservatism, and meta-evidentialism.” Synthese (2016). Web.
Steup, Matthias. “Internalist Reliabilism.” Philosophical Issues 14.1 (2004): 403-25. Web.