In this paper, I argue that the method of transparency --determining whether I believe that p by considering whether p -- does not explain our privileged access to our own beliefs. Looking outward to determine whether one believes that p leads to the formation of a judgment about whether p, which one can then self-attribute. But use of this process does not constitute genuine privileged access to whether one judges that p. And looking outward will not provide for access (...) to dispositional beliefs, which are arguably more central examples of belief than occurrent judgments. First, one’s dispositional beliefs as to whether p may diverge from the occurrent judgments generated by the method of transparency. Second, even in cases where these are reliably linked — e.g., in which one’s judgment that p derives from one’s dispositional belief that p — using the judgment to self-attribute the dispositional belief requires an ‘inward’ gaze. (shrink)
Many philosophers have sought to account for doxastic and epistemic norms by supposing that belief ‘aims at truth.’ A central challenge for this approach is to articulate a version of the truth-aim that is at once weak enough to be compatible with the many truth-independent influences on belief formation, and strong enough to explain the relevant norms in the desired way. One phenomenon in particular has seemed to require a relatively strong construal of the truth-aim thesis, namely ‘ (...) class='Hi'>transparency’ in doxastic deliberation. In this paper, I argue that the debate over transparency has been in the grip of a false presupposition, namely that the phenomenon must be explained in terms of being a feature of deliberation framed by the concept of belief. Giving up this presupposition makes it possible to adopt weaker and more plausible versions of the truth-aim thesis in accounting for doxastic and epistemic norms. (shrink)
I offer a novel account of the absurdity of Moore-paradoxical assertion in terms of an interlocutor’s fully conscious beliefs. This account starts with an original argument for the principle that fully conscious belief collects over conjunction. The argument is premised on the synchronic unity of consciousness and the transparency of belief.
This paper critically examines currently influential transparency accounts of our knowledge of our own beliefs that say that self-ascriptions of belief typically are arrived at by “looking outward” onto the world. For example, one version of the transparency account says that one self-ascribes beliefs via an inference from a premise to the conclusion that one believes that premise. This rule of inference reliably yields accurate self-ascriptions because you cannot infer a conclusion from a premise without believing the (...) premise, and so you cannot infer from a premise that you believe the premise unless you do believe it. I argue that this procedure cannot be a source of justification, however, because one can be justified in inferring from p that q only if p amounts to strong evidence that q is true. This is incompatible with the transparency account because p often is not very strong evidence that you believe that p. For example, unless you are a weather expert, the fact that it will rain is not very strong evidence that you believe it will rain. After showing how this intuitive problem can be made precise, I conclude with a broader lesson about the nature of inferential justification: that beliefs, when justified, must be underwritten by beliefs, when justified, must be underwritten by evidential relationships between the facts or propositions which those beliefs represent. (shrink)
Among recent theories of the nature of self-knowledge, the rationalistic view, according to which self-knowledge is not a cognitive achievement—perceptual or inferential—has been prominent. Upon this kind of view, however, self-knowledge becomes a bit of a mystery. Although the rationalistic conception is defended in this article, it is argued that it has to be supplemented by an account of the transparency of belief: the question whether to believe that P is settled when one asks oneself whether P.
A central dispute in the ethics of belief concerns what kinds of considerations can be reasons for belief. Nishi Shah has recently argued that the correct explanation of transparency in doxastic deliberation—the psychological phenomenon that only considerations taken to bear on the truth of p can be deliberated from to conclude in believing that p—settles this debate in favor of strict evidentialism, the view that only evidence can be a reason for belief. I argue that Shah’s (...) favored explanation of transparency fails to imply this result—that it leaves open the possibility that there can be non-evidential reasons for belief. The upshot is that practical non-evidentialists—those who hold that there are at least some non-evidential, practical reasons for belief—can happily accept the fact of transparency, and Shah’s explanation of it, without having to abandon their view. (shrink)
I develop an account of our capacity to know what we consciously believe, which is based on an account of the phenomenology of conscious belief. While other recent authors have suggested that phenomenally conscious states play a role in the epistemology of self-ascriptions of belief, they have failed to give a satisfying account of how exactly the phenomenology is supposed to help with the epistemology — i.e., an account of the way “what it is like” for the subject (...) of a conscious belief makes it rational, for her, to self-ascribe that belief. I argue that an account according to which the phenomenology of belief is transparent — i.e., such that in having a conscious belief one is aware of the world as being a certain way, rather than of anything distinctively mental — is adequate to this task. (shrink)
This paper considers a view according to which there are certain symmetries between the nature of belief and that of intention. I do not defend this Symmetry View in detail, but rather try to adjudicate between different versions of it: what I call Evaluative, Normative and Teleological versions. I argue that the central motivation for the Symmetry View in fact supports only a specific Teleological version of the view.
The main question of this paper is: how do we manage to know what our own degrees of belief are? Section 1 briefly reviews and criticizes the traditional functionalist view, a view notably associated with David Lewis and sometimes called the theory-theory. I use this criticism to motivate the approach I want to promote. Section 2, the bulk of the paper, examines and begins to develop the view that we have a special kind of introspective access to our degrees (...) of belief. I give an initial assessment of the view by examining its compatibility with leading theories of introspection. And I identify a challenge for the view, and explain why I’m optimistic that the view can overcome it. (shrink)
You can come to know that you believe that p partly by reflecting on whether p and then judging that p. Call this procedure “the transparency method for belief.” How exactly does the transparency method generate known self-attributions of belief? To answer that question, we cannot interpret the transparency method as involving a transition between the contents p and I believe that p. It is hard to see how some such transition could be warranted. Instead, (...) in this context, one mental action is both a judgment that p and a self-attribution of a belief that p. The notion of embedded mental action is introduced here to explain how this can be so and to provide a full epistemic explanation of the transparency method. That explanation makes sense of first-person authority and immediacy in transparent self-knowledge. In generalized form, it gives sufficient conditions on an attitude’s being known transparently. (shrink)
Does transparency in doxastic deliberation entail a constitutive norm of correctness governing belief, as Shah and Velleman argue? No, because this presupposes an implausibly strong relation between normative judgements and motivation from such judgements, ignores our interest in truth, and cannot explain why we pay different attention to how much justification we have for our beliefs in different contexts. An alternative account of transparency is available: transparency can be explained by the aim one necessarily adopts in (...) deliberating about whether to believe that p. To show this, I reconsider the role of the concept of belief in doxastic deliberation, and I defuse 'the teleologian's dilemma'. (shrink)
That truth provides the standard for believing appears to be a platitude, one which dovetails with the idea that in some sense belief aims only at the truth. In recent years, however, an increasing number of prominent philosophers have suggested that knowledge provides the standard for believing, and so that belief aims only at knowledge. In this paper, I examine the considerations which have been put forward in support of this suggestion, considerations relating to lottery beliefs, Moorean beliefs, (...) the criticism and defence of belief, and the value of knowledge. I argue that those considerations do not give us reason to give up the truth view in favour of the knowledge view and, moreover, that reflection on those considerations gives us some reason to reject the knowledge view. Thus, I conclude, we can continue to the take the apparent platitude at face value. (shrink)
I critically analyze Richard Moran's account of knowing one's own emotions, which depends on the Transparency Claim for self-knowledge. Applied to knowing one's own beliefs, TC states that when one is asked “Do you believe P?”, one can answer by referencing reasons for believing P. TC works for belief because one is justified in believing that one believes P if one can give reasons for why P is true. Emotions, however, are also conceptually related to concerns; they involve (...) a response to something one cares about. As a consequence, acquiring self-knowledge of one's emotions requires knowledge of other mental attitudes, which falls outside the scope of TC. Hence, TC cannot be applied to emotions. (shrink)
William Kingdon Clifford proposed a vigorous ethics of belief, according to which you are morally prohibited from believing something on insufficient evidence. Though Clifford offers numerous considerations in favor of his ethical theory, the conclusion he wants to draw turns out not to follow from any reasonable assumptions. In fact, I will argue, regardless of how you propose to understand the notion of evidence, it is implausible that we could have a moral obligation to refrain from believing something whenever (...) we lack sufficient evidence. I will argue, however, that there are wide-scope conditional requirements on beliefs but the beliefs in question need not be beliefs for which we have sufficient evidence. I then argue that we are epistemically, but not morally, required to form epistemically valuable beliefs. However, these beliefs, too, need not be beliefs for which we have sufficient evidence. (shrink)
Subjects appear to take only evidential considerations to provide reason or justification for believing. That is to say that subjects do not take practical considerations—the kind of considerations which might speak in favour of or justify an action or decision—to speak in favour of or justify believing. This is puzzling; after all, practical considerations often seem far more important than matters of truth and falsity. In this paper, I suggest that one cannot explain this, as many have tried, merely by (...) appeal to the idea that belief aims only at the truth. I appeal instead to the idea that the aim of belief is to provide only practical reasons which might form the basis on which to act and to make decisions, an aim which is in turn dictated by the aim of action. This, I argue, explains why subjects take only evidential considerations to favour of or justify believing. Surprisingly, then, it turns out that it is practical reason itself which demands that there be no practical reasons for belief. (shrink)
The “ ethics of belief” refers to a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. The central question in the debate is whether there are norms of some sort governing our habits of belief formation, belief maintenance, and belief relinquishment. Is it ever or always morally wrong to hold a belief on insufficient evidence? Is it ever or always morally right to believe on the basis of sufficient evidence, (...) or to withhold belief in the perceived absence of it? Is it ever or always obligatory to seek out all available epistemic evidence for a belief? Are there some ways of obtaining evidence that are themselves immoral or imprudent? -/-. (shrink)
The chapter focuses on attributions of the transparency of thought to early modern figures, most notably Descartes. Many recent philosophers assume that Descartes believed the mind to be “transparent”: since all mental states are conscious, we are therefore aware of them all, and indeed incorrigibly know them all. Descartes, and Berkeley too, do make statements that seem to endorse both aspects of the transparency theses (awareness of all mental states; incorrigibility). However, they also make systematic theoretical statements that (...) directly countenance “unnoticed” thoughts or mental states, that is, thoughts or mental states of which the subject is unaware and has no knowledge. Descartes, having identified the essence of mind with thought or representation, distinguishes bare states of mind from states of which we have reflective awareness, thereby providing a theoretical tool for understanding both his seeming endorsement of transparency and his actual denial of it: Descartes distinguished between a basic perceptual state, or a basic awareness, and reflectively conscious states that involve explicit noticing and cognizing on the part of the subject. Leibniz (as is better known) directly endorsed a similar distinction between bare perception and reflective consciousness, using the term “perception” for the first and “apperception” for the second. In these cases, bare perceptions are not transparently available to the subject, and so in fact the subject does not have knowledge, hence does not have incorrigible knowledge, of all its occurrent mental states. This chapter gives evidence to support these claims; elaborates the complex psychology of the subject found in Descartes and other early moderns; and notes some ways in which these early moderns contributed to the genesis of the modern subject. Finally, it compares McDowell’s conception of the Cartesian mind with the conceptions of mind found in the writings of Descartes, Berkeley, and Leibniz, finding that his characterization caricatures the positions of early modern philosophers. McDowell's characterization has four elements: consciousness as essence of mind; intentionality as exclusively mental; the veil of perception; and the transparency of mind. Only the second point, about intentionality, fully fits Descartes. As a consequence of his own misdirection, McDowell misses the actual basis of his difficulty in connecting mind with world, which arises from a point of agreement between him and Descartes: the removal of intentionality from material sensory systems. But whereas Descartes could relocate (nonconceptual) sensory intentionality in mental states, McDowell is left to account for it with his overly cognitivized scheme of perceptual content as exclusively conceptual. (Paper first given at the European Society for Early Modern Philosophy, 2007.). (shrink)
How should we account for self-knowledge of our inner lives? Some have argued that just as we have various senses that allow us to perceive the environment, we have an inner sense that allows us to perceive our inner lives. But others find such a view implausible and think that there are other ways to account for self-knowledge. With respect to all-or-nothing beliefs, some have held that we may account for self-knowledge by appealing to the claim that such beliefs are (...) transparent--that we may answer the question 'Do you believe p?' by answering the question 'Is it the case that p?' But surprisingly, little or no attention has been paid to the question of whether partial beliefs are transparent. In this paper, I clarify the question of whether partial beliefs are transparent. I also consider various attempts to answer the question in the affirmative. To anticipate, my verdict is pessimistic: I argue that such attempts fail. (shrink)
Any plausible ethics of belief must respect that normal agents are doxastically blameworthy for their beliefs in a range of non-exotic cases. In this paper, we argue, first, that together with independently motivated principles this constraint leads us to reject occurrentism as a general theory of belief. Second, we must acknowledge not only dormant beliefs, but tacit beliefs as well. Third, a plausible ethics of belief leads us to acknowledge that a difference in propositional content cannot in (...) all contexts count as a criterion for belief individuation. In some contexts, we need to individuate beliefs in a different manner, namely in such a way that they have at least part of their causal history essentially. (shrink)
Isaac Levi's new book develops further his pioneering work in formal epistemology, focusing on the problem of belief contraction, or how rationally to relinquish old beliefs. Levi offers the most penetrating analysis to date of this key question in epistemology, offering a completely new solution and explaining its relation to his earlier proposals. He mounts an argument in favor of the thesis that contracting a state of belief by giving up specific beliefs is to be evaluated in terms (...) of the value of the information lost by doing so. The rationale aims to be thoroughly decision theoretic. Levi spells out his goals and shows that certain types of recommendations are obtained if one seeks to promote these goals. He compares his approach to his earlier account of inductive expansion. The recommendations are for "mild contractions." These are formally the same as the "severe withdrawals" considered by Pagnucco and Rott. The rationale, however, is different. A critical part of the book concerns the elaboration of these differences. The results are relevant to accounts of the conditions under which it is legitimate to cease believing and to accounts of conditionals. Mild Contraction will be of great interest to all specialists in belief revision theory and to many students of formal epistemology, philosophy of science, and pragmatism. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that the following Rule should be part of any characterization of science: Claims concerning specific disputed facts should be endorsed only if they are sufficiently supported by the application of validated methods of research or discovery, and moreover that acceptance of this Rule should lead one to reject religious belief. This paper argues, first, that the Rule, as stated, should not be accepted as it suffers from a number of problems. And second, that even (...) if the Rule were to be acceptable, it should not lead one to reject religious belief. (shrink)
The relationship between knowledge, belief, and ethics is an inaugural theme in philosophy; more recently, under the title “ethics of belief” philosophers have worked to develop the appropriate methodology for studying the nexus of epistemology, ethics, and psychology. The title “ethics of belief” comes from a 19th-century paper written by British philosopher and mathematician W.K. Clifford. Clifford argues that we are morally responsible for our beliefs because each belief that we form creates the cognitive circumstances for (...) related beliefs to follow, and we inevitably influence each other through those beliefs. This study argues that recent cognitive research supports Cliffordian insights regarding patterns of belief formation and social influence. From the confirmation offered by such research, it follows that informational accuracy holds serious ethical significance in public discourse. Although scientific and epistemological matters are not always thought to be linked to normative morality, this study builds on Clifford's initial insights to show their linkage is fundamental to inquiry itself. In turn, Clifford's ethical and epistemic outline can inform a framework grounded in “public reason” under which seemingly opposed science communication strategies are philosophically united. With public discourse on climate change as the key example, empirically informed and grounded strategies for science communication in the public sphere are considered. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine Quine's views on the epistemology of logic. According to Quine's influential holistic account, logic is central in the “web of belief” that comprises our overall theory of the world. Because of this, revisions to logic would have devastating systematic consequences, and this explains why we are loath to make such revisions. In section1, I clarify this idea and thereby show that Quine actually takes the web of belief to have asymmetrical internal structure. This (...) raises two puzzles. First, as I show in section 2, Quine's mature thoroughly naturalized view has it that logic is simply obvious, and this is explains why we do not typically consider revising it. While Quine presents this naturalized view as a way to make good on his earlier metaphor of centrality in a web of belief, I argue that the resources of Quine's naturalized epistemology cannot adequately explain why we are reluctant to revise logic. And, Quine seems to recognize this point himself. In light of this, I explain in section 3 how Quine can allow that our overall scientific theory has systematic structure in a way that is consistent with his naturalistic strictures. Second, the asymmetrical internal structure of the web of belief seems to be inconsistent with its being a holistic web at all. I defuse this problem in section 4 by showing how Quine distinguishes between structural and confirmational considerations. I close by using this distinction to show how Quine's view can evade Michael Friedman’s criticisms, and allow for important methodological distinctions between areas of the web of belief. (shrink)
In this paper I am concerned with the question of whether degrees of belief can figure in reasoning processes that are executed by humans. It is generally accepted that outright beliefs and intentions can be part of reasoning processes, but the role of degrees of belief remains unclear. The literature on subjective Bayesianism, which seems to be the natural place to look for discussions of the role of degrees of belief in reasoning, does not address the question (...) of whether degrees of belief play a role in real agents’ reasoning processes. On the other hand, the philosophical literature on reasoning, which relies much less heavily on idealizing assumptions about reasoners than Bayesianism, is almost exclusively concerned with outright belief. One possible explanation for why no philosopher has yet developed an account of reasoning with degrees of belief is that reasoning with degrees of belief is not possible for humans. In this paper, I will consider three arguments for this claim. I will show why these arguments are flawed, and conclude that, at least as far as these arguments are concerned, it seems like there is no good reason why the topic of reasoning with degrees of belief has received so little attention. (shrink)
William Kingdon Clifford famously argued that "it is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence." His ethics of belief can be construed as involving two distinct theses—a moral claim (that it is wrong to hold beliefs to which one is not entitled) and an epistemological claim (that entitlement is always a function of evidential support). Although I reject the (universality of the) epistemological claim, I argue that something deserving of the name "ethics of (...) class='Hi'>belief" can nevertheless be preserved. However, in the second half of the paper I argue that Clifford's response to the problem of unethical belief is insufficiently attentive to the role played by self-deception in the formation of unethical beliefs. By contrasting the first-person perspective of a doxastic agent with the third-person perspective of an outside observer, I argue that unethical belief is a symptom of deficiencies of character: fix these, and belief will fix itself. I suggest that the moral intuitions implicit in our response to examples of unethical belief (like Clifford's famous example of the ship owner) can better be accounted for in terms of a non-evidentialist virtue ethics of belief-formation, and that such an account can survive the rejection of strong versions of doxastic voluntarism. (shrink)
We often evaluate belief-forming processes, agents, or entire belief states for reliability. This is normally done with the assumption that beliefs are all-or-nothing. How does such evaluation go when we’re considering beliefs that come in degrees? I consider a natural answer to this question that focuses on the degree of truth-possession had by a set of beliefs. I argue that this natural proposal is inadequate, but for an interesting reason. When we are dealing with all-or-nothing belief, high (...) reliability leads to high levels of truth-possession. However, when it comes to degrees of belief, reliability and truth-possession part ways. The natural answer thus fails to be a good way to evaluate degrees of belief for reliability. I propose and develop an alternative method based on the notion of calibration, suggested by Frank Ramsey, which does not have this problem and consider why we should care about such assessments of reliability even if they are not tied directly to truth-possession. (shrink)
Educational worries about indoctrination are linked to matters of rationality and of the ethics of belief. These are both threatened by too 'open' approaches to moral education and by too 'closed' approaches to science education. The moral importance of what is involved points to the need to inform the teaching of all disciplines by reflection on their rational foundations.
People often act in ways that appear incompatible with their sincere assertions. But how might we explain such cases? On the shifting view, subjects’ degrees of belief may be highly sensitive to changes in context. This paper articulates and refines this view, after defending it against recent criticisms. It details two mechanisms by which degrees of beliefs may shift.
For many epistemologists and normativity theorists, epistemic norms necessarily entail normative reasons. Why or in virtue of what do epistemic norms have this necessary normative authority? According to what I call epistemic constitutivism, it is ultimately because belief constitutively aims at truth. In this paper, I examine various versions of the aim of belief thesis and argue that none of them can plausibly ground the normative authority of epistemic norms. I conclude that epistemic constitutivism is not a promising (...) strategy for grounding epistemic normativity. (shrink)
There has been much discussion about whether traditional epistemology's doxastic attitudes are reducible to degrees of belief. In this paper I argue that what I call the Straightforward Reduction - the reduction of all three of believing p, disbelieving p, and suspending judgment about p, not-p to precise degrees of belief for p and not-p that ought to obey the standard axioms of the probability calculus - cannot succeed. By focusing on suspension of judgment (agnosticism) rather than (...) class='Hi'>belief, we can see why the Straightforward Reduction is bound to fail. I argue that, in general, suspending about p is not just a matter of having some specified standard credence for p, and in the end I suggest some ways to extend the arguments that will put pressure on other credence-theoretic accounts of belief and suspension of judgment as well. (shrink)
What is belief? "Beliefs aim at truth" is the commonly accepted starting point for philosophers who want to give an adequate account of this fundamental state of mind, but it raises as many questions as it answers. For example, in what sense can beliefs be said to have an aim of their own? If belief aims at truth, does it mean that reasons to believe must also be based on truth? Must beliefs be formed on the basis of (...) evidence alone? Is truth the constitutive norm of belief? Does aiming at truth bring in a normative dimension to the nature of belief? How can the aim of truth guide the formation of our beliefs? In what ways do partial beliefs aim at truth? Is truth the aim of epistemic justification? Last but not least, is it knowledge rather than truth which is the fundamental aim of belief? -/- In recent years, pursuing these questions has proved extremely fertile for our understanding of a wide range of current issues in philosophy of mind and action, epistemology, and meta-ethics. The Aim of Belief is the first book to be devoted to this fast-growing topic. It brings together eleven newly commissioned essays by leading authors on the aim of belief. -/- Contributors: Jonathan Adler, Krister Bykvist, Timothy Chan, Pascal Engel, Kathrin Glüer, Anandi Hattiangadi, Michael Hicks, Paul Horwich, David Papineau, Andrew Reisner, Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen, Ralph Wedgwood, Åsa Wikforss, Daniel Whiting. (shrink)
It is often said that some kind of peripheral (or inattentional) conscious awareness accompanies our focal (attentional) consciousness. I agree that this is often the case, but clarity is needed on several fronts. In this paper, I lay out four distinct theses on peripheral awareness and show that three of them are true. However, I then argue that a fourth thesis, commonly associated with the so-called "self-representational approach to consciousness," is false. The claim here is that we have outer focal (...) consciousness accompanied often (or even always) by inner peripheral (self-)awareness. My criticisms stem from both methodological and phenomenological considerations. In doing so, I offer a diagnosis as to why the fourth thesis has seemed true to so many and also show how the so-called "transparency of experience," frequently invoked by representationalists, is importantly relevant to my diagnosis. Finally, I respond to several objections and to further attempts to show that thesis four is true. What emerges is that if one wishes to hold that some form of self-awareness accompanies all outer-directed conscious states, one is better off holding that such self-awareness is itself unconscious, as is held for example by standard higher-order theories of consciousness. (shrink)
This chapter examines the modifications William James made to his account of the ethics of belief from his early ‘subjective method’ to his later heightened concerns with personal doxastic responsibility and with an empirically-driven comparative research program he termed a ‘science of religions’. There are clearly tensions in James’ writings on the ethics of belief both across his career and even within Varieties itself, tensions which some critics think spoil his defense of what he calls religious ‘faith ventures’ (...) or ‘overbeliefs’. But our study of James in the first half of the chapter reveals a significant degree of unnoticed unity: The two distinct defenses of faith ventures he develops post-1900 are actually both versions of the Dialogue Model of the relationship between individual religiosity and scientific reasoning. One shared theme in the diverging approaches to doxastic responsibility suggested by the two versions is what some interpreters have called ‘the character issue’ in James’ writings. The second half of the chapter develops these connections and argues that a neo-Jamesian approach tying the ethics of belief with Rawlsian reasonable pluralism and with contemporary character epistemology results in a stronger yet more clearly delimited defense of responsible faith ventures. (shrink)
Starting from John MacFarlane's recent survey of answers to the question ‘What is assertion?’, I defend an account of assertion that draws on elements of MacFarlane's and Robert Brandom's commitment accounts, Timothy Williamson's knowledge norm account, and my own previous work on the normative status of logic. I defend the knowledge norm from recent attacks. Indicative conditionals, however, pose a problem when read along the lines of Ernest Adams' account, an account supported by much work in the psychology of reasoning. (...) Furthermore, there seems to be no place for degrees of belief in the accounts of belief and assertion given here. Degrees of belief do have a role in decision‐making, but, again, there is much evidence that the orthodox theory of subjective utility maximization is not a good description of what we do in decision‐making and, arguably, neither is it a good normative guide to how we ought to make decisions. (shrink)
In this paper I look at three challenges to the very possibility of an ethics of belief and then show how they can be met. The first challenge, from Thomas Kelly, says that epistemic rationality is not (merely) a form of instrumental rationality. If this claim is true, then it will be difficult to develop an ethics of belief that does not run afoul of naturalism. The second challenge is the Non-Voluntarism Argument, which holds that because we cannot (...) believe at will and because ought implies can, there can be no ethics of belief. The third challenge comes from Richard Feldman, who claims that there is no such thing as ought all-things-considered. He says, for example, that moral oughts can be weighed against other moral oughts and that epistemic oughts can be compared to each other, but that there is no way to weigh moral oughts against epistemic oughts. If this is true, then norms about what one ought to believe are not nearly as important as one might have hoped or as philosophers have traditionally thought. In answering these three challenges, I try to show how and why the project of developing epistemic norms might be a promising avenue of research, despite claims to the contrary. (shrink)
This paper discusses an intriguing, though rather overlooked case of normative disagreement in the history of philosophy of mathematics: Weyl's criticism of Dedekind’s famous principle that "In science, what is provable ought not to be believed without proof." This criticism, as I see it, challenges not only a logicist norm of belief in mathematics, but also a realist view about whether there is a fact of the matter as to what norms of belief are correct.
In "Culture and Value" Wittgenstein remarks that the truly "religious man" thinks himself to be, not merely "imperfect" or "ill," but wholly "wretched." While such sentiments are of obvious biographical interest, in this paper I show why they are also worthy of serious philosophical attention. Although the influence of Wittgenstein's thinking on the philosophy of religion is often judged negatively (as, for example, leading to quietist and/or fideist-relativist conclusions) I argue that the distinctly ethical conception of religion (specifically Christianity) that (...) Wittgenstein presents should lead us to a quite different assessment. In particular, his preoccupation with the categorical nature of religion suggests a conception of "genuine" religious belief which disrupts both the economics of eschatological-salvationist hope, and the traditional ethical precept that "ought implies can." In short, what Wittgenstein presents is a sketch of a religion without recompense. (shrink)
In "Culture and Value" Wittgenstein remarks that the truly "religious man" thinks himself to be, not merely "imperfect" or "ill," but wholly "wretched." While such sentiments are of obvious biographical interest, in this paper I show why they are also worthy of serious philosophical attention. Although the influence of Wittgenstein's thinking on the philosophy of religion is often judged negatively I argue that the distinctly ethical conception of religion that Wittgenstein presents should lead us to a quite different assessment. In (...) particular, his preoccupation with the categorical nature of religion suggests a conception of "genuine" religious belief which disrupts both the economics of eschatological-salvationist hope, and the traditional ethical precept that "ought implies can." In short, what Wittgenstein presents is a sketch of a religion without recompense. (shrink)
The present paper aims at a synthesis of belief revision theory with the Sneed formalism known as the structuralist theory of science. This synthesis is brought about by a dynamisation of classical structuralism, with an abductive inference rule and base generated revisions in the style of Rott (2001). The formalism of prioritised default logic (PDL) serves as the medium of the synthesis. Why seek to integrate the Sneed formalism into belief revision theory? With the hybrid system of the (...) present investigation, a substantial simplification of the ranking information that is necessary to define revisions and contractions uniquely is achieved. This system is, furthermore, expressive enough to capture complex and non-trivial scientific examples. It is thus closely related to a novel research area within belief revision theory which addresses the dynamics of scientific knowledge. (shrink)
A framework of degrees of belief, or credences, is often advocated to model our uncertainty about how things are or will turn out. It has also been employed in relation to the kind of uncertainty or indefiniteness that arises due to vagueness, such as when we consider “a is F” in a case where a is borderline F. How should we understand degrees of belief when we take into account both these phenomena? Can the right kind of theory (...) of the semantics of vagueness help us answer this? Nicholas J.J. Smith defends a unified account, according to which “degree of belief is expected truth-value”; this builds on his Degree Theory of vagueness that offers an account of the semantics and logic of vagueness in terms of degrees of truth. I argue that his account fails. Degree theories of vagueness do not help us understand degrees of belief and, I argue, we shouldn’t expect a theory of vagueness to yield a detailed uniform story about this. The route from the semantics to psychological states needn’t be straightforward or uniform even before we attempt to combine vagueness with probabilistic uncertainty. (shrink)
What is the relationship between degrees of belief and all-or-nothing beliefs? Can the latter be expressed as a function of the former, without running into paradoxes? We reassess this “belief-binarization” problem from the perspective of judgment-aggregation theory. Although some similarities between belief binarization and judgment aggregation have been noted before, the literature contains no general study of the implications of aggregation-theoretic impossibility and possibility results for belief binarization. We seek to fill this gap. This paper is (...) organized around a “baseline” impossibility theorem, which we use to map out the space of possible solutions to the belief-binarization problem. The theorem shows that, except in simple cases, there exists no belief-binarization rule satisfying four initially plausible desiderata. A surprising finding is that this result is a direct corollary of the judgment-aggregation variant of Arrow's classic impossibility theorem. (shrink)
In this paper I evaluate Zamulinski’s recent attempt to rebut an argument to the conclusion that having any kind of religious faith violates a moral duty. I agree with Zamulinski that the argument is unsound, but I disagree on where it goes wrong. I criticize Zamulinski’s alternative construal of Christian faith as existential commitment to fundamental assumptions. It does not follow that we should accept the moral argument against religious faith, for at least two reasons. First, Zamulinski’s Cliffordian ethics of (...)belief is defective in several regards. Second, the truth of doxastic involuntarism and the possibility of doxastic excuse conditions can be used to demonstrate that the argument is unconvincing. (shrink)
Dispositionalist accounts of belief define beliefs in terms of specific sets of dispositions. In this article, I provide a blind-spot argument against these accounts. The core idea of the argument is that beliefs having the form [p and it is not manifestly believed that p] cannot be manifestly believed. This means that one cannot manifest such beliefs in one’s assertions, conscious thoughts, actions, behaviours, or any other type of activity. However, if beliefs are sets of dispositions, they must be (...) manifestable in some way. Therefore, according to my argument, beliefs are not sets of dispositions. The argument is defended against some possible objections. (shrink)
Despite amendments to the sexual assault provisions in the Criminal Code, decisions about the availability and operation of the defence of belief in consent remain vulnerable to the influence of legally extraneous considerations. The author proposes an approach designed to limit the influence of such considerations.