Reflection, Disagreement, and Context

How far, if at all, do our intrapersonal and our interpersonal epistemic obligations run in parallel? This paper treats the question as addressing the stability of doxastic commitment in the two dimensions. In the background lies an analogy between doxastic and practical commitment. We’ll pursue the question of doxastic stability by coining a doxastic analogue of Gregory Kavka’s much-discussed toxin case. In this new case, you foresee that you will rationally abandon a doxastic commitment by undergoing a shift in the context in which you doxastically deliberate. The case reveals an important stability condition on doxastic commitment that plays no role in cases modeled on Ulysses and the Sirens, the scenario that has shaped previous attempts to draw an analogy between doxastic and practical commitment. The stability condition thereby revealed is not diachronic -- it does not involve a shift in belief -- but we can construct specifically diachronic cases that reveal an important intrapersonal epistemic obligation. This obligation arises when you expect the shift in belief by ‘projecting’ yourself into a future doxastic context -- thus vindicating a restricted, but only this restricted, application of Bas van Fraassen’s Reflection Principle. Despite some important differences, we can use these diachronic cases as a model for interpersonal cases that reveal an important role for doxastic context in the epistemology of disagreement. But the roles played by projection and context in disagreement ensure that there is no general obligation to be responsive to the opinion of an epistemic peer who disagrees with you
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