Varieties of epistemic conservatism

Synthese 141 (1):97 - 122 (2004)
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Abstract

According to the thesis of epistemic conservatism it would be unreasonable to change one's beliefs in the absence of any good reasons. Although it is claimed that epistemic conservatism has informed and resolved a number of positions and problems in epistemology, it is difficult to identify a single representative view of the thesis. This has resulted in advancing a series of disparate and largely unconnected arguments to establish conservatism. In this paper, I begin by casting doubt on the claim of widespread and genuine applications of the conservative policy. I then distinguish between three main varieties of epistemic conservatism, namely, differential, perseverance and generation conservatism Having evaluated various arguments that have been offered or may be considered on behalf of the conservative thesis, I close by concluding that those versions of the thesis that survive critical scrutiny fail to live up to the aspirations of the thesis as a substantive canon of rationality, that to the extent that principles of conservatism are epistemically promising, they are not plausible. While to the extent that they are plausible, they are not of much epistemic interest.

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Hamid Vahid
Institute for Fundamental Sciences

Citations of this work

In defence of error theory.Chris Daly & David Liggins - 2010 - Philosophical Studies 149 (2):209-230.
Platitudes and metaphysics.Daniel Nolan - 2009 - In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism. MIT Press.
The virtues of epistemic conservatism.Kevin McCain - 2008 - Synthese 164 (2):185-200.
Changing minds in a changing world.Wolfgang Schwarz - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 159 (2):219-239.

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