Assertion is Weak

Philosophers' Imprint (forthcoming)
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Recent work has argued that belief is weak: the level of rational credence required for belief is relatively low. That literature has contrasted belief with assertion, arguing that the latter requires an epistemic state much stronger than (weak) belief—perhaps knowledge or even certainty. We argue that this is wrong: assertion is just as weak as belief. We first present a variety of new arguments for this claim, and then show that the standard arguments for stronger norms are not convincing. Finally, we sketch an alternative picture on which the fundamental norm of assertion is to say what you believe, but both belief and assertion are weak. To help make sense of this, we propose that both belief and assertion involve navigating a tradeoff between accuracy and informativity: it can makes sense to believe or say something you only have weak evidence for, so long as it’s sufficiently informative.

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Author Profiles

Matthew Mandelkern
New York University
Kevin Dorst
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Citations of this work

Assertion Remains Strong.Peter van Elswyk & Matthew A. Benton - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies:1-24.
Risky Belief.Martin Smith - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
Two accounts of assertion.Martin Smith - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-18.

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References found in this work

Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Oxford University Press.
Elusive Knowledge.David K. Lewis - 1996 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (4):549 – 567.
Ignorance: A Case for Scepticism.Peter K. Unger - 1975 - Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and its Limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 64 (1):200-201.
Solving the Skeptical Problem.Keith DeRose - 1995 - Philosophical Review 104 (1):1-52.

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