Rational Self-Doubt and the Failure of Closure

Philosophical Studies 163 (2):428-452 (2013)
Closure for justification is the claim that thinkers are justified in believing the logical consequences of their justified beliefs, at least when those consequences are competently deduced. Many have found this principle to be very plausible. Even more attractive is the special case of Closure known as Single-Premise Closure. In this paper, I present a challenge to Single-Premise Closure. The challenge is based on the phenomenon of rational self-doubt – it can be rational to be less than fully confident in one's beliefs and patterns of reasoning. In rough outline, the argument is as follows: Consider a thinker who deduces a conclusion from a justified initial premise via an incredibly long sequence of small competent deductions. Surely, such a thinker should suspect that he has made a mistake somewhere. And surely, given this, he should not believe the conclusion of the deduction even though he has a justified belief in the initial premise.
Keywords Single-premise closure  Justification  Competent deduction  Deductive inference  Long sequence argument  Rational self-doubt
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DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9823-1
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Maria Lasonen‐Aarnio (2014). Higher‐Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):314-345.
David Christensen (2010). Rational Reflection. Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):121-140.
Jessica Brown (2015). Contextualism About Evidential Support. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 91 (2):n/a-n/a.

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