When a claim is in doubt, justification can be used to support the claim and reduce or remove the doubt. Justification can use empiricism (the evidence of the senses), authoritative testimony (the appeal to criteria and authority), or logical deduction.
Justification is the reason why someone properly holds a belief, the explanation as to why the belief is a true one, or an account of how one knows what one knows. In much the same way arguments and explanations may be confused with each other, as may explanations and justifications. Statements which are justifications of some action take the form of arguments. For example, attempts to justify a theft usually explain the motives (e.g., to feed a starving family).
It is important to be aware when an explanation is not a justification. A criminal profiler may offer an explanation of a suspect's behavior (e.g.; the person lost his or her job, the person got evicted, etc.), and such statements may help us understand why the person committed the crime. An uncritical listener may believe the speaker is trying to gain sympathy for the person and his or her actions, but it does not follow that a person proposing an explanation has any sympathy for the views or actions being explained. This is an important distinction because we need to be able to understand and explain terrible events and behavior in attempting to discourage it.
Justification Is a Normative Activity
One way of explaining the theory of justification is to say that a justified belief is one that we are "within our rights" in holding. The rights in question are neither political nor moral, however, but intellectual.
In some way, each of us is responsible for what we believe. Beliefs are not typically formed completely at random, and thus we have an intellectual responsibility, or obligation, to try to believe what is true and to avoid believing what is false. An intellectually responsible act is within one's intellectual rights in believing something; performing it, one is justified in one's belief.
Thus, justification is a normative notion. The standard definition is that a concept is normative if it is a concept regarding or depending on the norms, or obligations and permissions (very broadly construed), involved in human conduct. It is generally accepted that the concept of justification is normative, because it is defined as a concept regarding the norms of belief.
- Abductive reasoning
- Occam's Razor
- Probability theory
- Scientific method
- Logical positivism