Evidentialism and Occurrent Belief: You Aren’t Justified in Believing Everything Your Evidence Clearly Supports

Erkenntnis 88 (7):3059-3078 (2023)
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Abstract

Evidentialism as an account of epistemic justification is the position that a doxastic attitude, D, towards a proposition, p, is justified for an intentional agent, S, at a time, t, iff having D towards p fits S’s evidence at t, where the fittingness of an attitude on one’s evidence is typically analyzed in terms of evidential support for the propositional contents of the attitude. Evidentialism is a popular and well-defended account of justification. In this paper, I raise a problem for evidentialism on the grounds that there can be epistemic circumstances in which a proposition is manifestly and nonmisleadingly supported by an agent’s total evidence, and yet believing the proposition is not justified for the agent. As I argue, in order for an agent to have justification to believe a proposition, it needs to be the case that the belief as possessed by the agent could exhibit certain epistemic good making features, e.g., the propositional content of the belief as possessed by the agent would be supported by the agent’s evidence. As I demonstrate, the fact that a proposition, p, is supported by an agent’s total evidence at a time, t, doesn’t guarantee that a belief in p as possessed by the agent at t could exhibit any epistemic good making features, including having propositional contents (i.e., p) that would be supported by the agent’s evidence. Thus, the fact that a proposition is supported by an agent’s evidence doesn’t guarantee that the agent has justification to believe the proposition.

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Wade Munroe
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

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