Higher‐Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):314-345 (2014)
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Abstract

Recent authors have drawn attention to a new kind of defeating evidence commonly referred to as higher-order evidence. Such evidence works by inducing doubts that one’s doxastic state is the result of a flawed process – for instance, a process brought about by a reason-distorting drug. I argue that accommodating defeat by higher-order evidence requires a two-tiered theory of justification, and that the phenomenon gives rise to a puzzle. The puzzle is that at least in some situations involving higher-order defeaters the correct epistemic rules issue conflicting recommendations. For instance, a subject ought to believe p, but she ought also to suspend judgment in p. I discuss three responses. The first resists the puzzle by arguing that there is only one correct epistemic rule, an Über-rule. The second accepts that there are genuine epistemic dilemmas. The third appeals to a hierarchy or ordering of correct epistemic rules. I spell out problems for all of these responses. I conclude that the right lesson to draw from the puzzle is that a state can be epistemically rational or justified even if one has what looks to be strong evidence to think that it is not. As such, the considerations put forth constitute a non question-begging argument for a kind of externalism.

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Maria Lasonen-Aarnio
University of Helsinki

Citations of this work

Rational Polarization.Kevin Dorst - 2023 - Philosophical Review 132 (3):355-458.
The Normativity of Rationality.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2017 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Epistemic Akrasia.Sophie Horowitz - 2013 - Noûs 48 (4):718-744.
The Basing Relation.Ram Neta - 2019 - Philosophical Review 128 (2):179-217.

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References found in this work

Epistemology and cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Epistemology of disagreement: The good news.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (2):187-217.
Higher Order Evidence.David Christensen - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):185-215.
The aim of belief.Ralph Wedgwood - 2002 - Philosophical Perspectives 16:267-97.

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