No practical reasons for belief: the epistemic significance of practical considerations

Synthese 200 (2):1-18 (2022)
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On some versions of evidentialism, only evidential reasons can be normatively relevant to belief. An opposed philosophical view denies this. Unfortunately, the debate between these contrasting views quickly ends in a stalemate because while evidentialists typically point to the difficulty of believing for practical reasons, pragmatists respond by citing cases where people seem to hold beliefs in the absence of evidence. Recently, however, some pragmatists have adopted a new strategy that seeks to combine the evidentialist insight that only evidence can cause belief with the pragmatist claim that practical considerations can be motivating reasons for belief. By assimilating the pragmatist cases that are said to implement the new strategy to those involving deviant causal chains, this paper will argue that the strategy is undermined by the problem of the basing relation. Finally, a positive account of the epistemic significance of practical considerations will be suggested that stops short of seeing them as reasons for belief.



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Hamid Vahid
Institute for Fundamental Sciences

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On What Matters: Two-Volume Set.Derek Parfit - 2011 - Oxford University Press.
Actions, Reasons, and Causes.Donald Davidson - 1963 - Journal of Philosophy 60 (23):685.
Internal and External Reasons.Bernard Williams - 1979 - In Ross Harrison (ed.), Rational Action. Cambridge University Press. pp. 101-113.
Emotions, Values, and Agency.Christine Tappolet - 2016 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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