Belief and contextual acceptance

Synthese 177 (1):41-66 (2010)
Abstract
I develop a strategy for representing epistemic states and epistemic changes that seeks to be sensitive to the difference between voluntary and involuntary aspects of our epistemic life, as well as to the role of pragmatic factors in epistemology. The model relies on a particular understanding of the distinction between full belief and acceptance , which makes room for the idea that our reasoning on both practical and theoretical matters typically proceeds in a contextual way. Within this framework, I discuss how agents can rationally shift their credal probability functions so as to consciously modify some of their contextual acceptances; the present account also allows us to represent how the very set of contexts evolves. Voluntary credal shifts, in turn, might provoke changes in the agent’s beliefs, but I show that this is actually a side effect of performing multiple adjustments in the total lot of the agent’s acceptance sets. In this way we obtain a model that preserves many pre-theoretical intuitions about what counts as adequate rationality constraints on our actual practices—and hence about what counts as an adequate, normative epistemological perspective.
Keywords Belief revision  Acceptance  Bayesianism  Formal epistemology  Cognitive decision theory
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