When one has both epistemic and practical reasons for or against some belief, how do these reasons combine into an all-things-considered reason for or against that belief? The question might seem to presuppose the existence of practical reasons for belief. But we can rid the question of this presupposition. Once we do, a highly general ‘Combinatorial Problem’ emerges. The problem has been thought to be intractable due to certain differences in the combinatorial properties of epistemic and practical reasons. Here we (...) bring good news: if we accept an independently motivated version of epistemic instrumentalism—the view that epistemic reasons are a species of instrumental reasons—we can reduce The Combinatorial Problem to a relatively benign problem of how to weigh different instrumental reasons. As an added benefit, the instrumentalist account can explain the apparent intractability of The Combinatorial Problem in terms of a common tendency to think and talk about epistemic reasons in an ‘elliptical’ manner. (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)
The theory of belief, according to which believing that p essentially involves having as an aim or purpose to believe that p truly, has recently been criticised on the grounds that the putative aim of belief does not interact with the wider aims of believers in the ways we should expect of genuine aims. I argue that this objection to the aim theory fails. When we consider a wider range of deliberative contexts concerning beliefs, it becomes obvious that the aim (...) of belief can interact with and be weighed against the wider aims of agents in the ways required for it to be a genuine aim. (shrink)
A popular account of epistemic justification holds that justification, in essence, aims at truth. An influential objection against this account points out that it is committed to holding that only true beliefs could be justified, which most epistemologists regard as sufficient reason to reject the account. In this paper I defend the view that epistemic justification aims at truth, not by denying that it is committed to epistemic justification being factive, but by showing that, when we focus on the relevant (...) sense of ‘justification’, it isn’t in fact possible for a belief to be at once justified and false. To this end, I consider and reject three popular intuitions speaking in favor of the possibility of justified false beliefs, and show that a factive account of epistemic justification is less detrimental to our normal belief forming practices than often supposed. (shrink)
Epistemic instrumentalists think that epistemic normativity is just a special kind of instrumental normativity. According to them, you have epistemic reason to believe a proposition insofar as doing so is conducive to certain epistemic goals or aims—say, to believe what is true and avoid believing what is false. Perhaps the most prominent challenge for instrumentalists in recent years has been to explain, or explain away, why one’s epistemic reasons often do not seem to depend on one’s aims. This challenge can (...) arguably be met. But a different challenge looms: instrumental reasons in the practical domain have various properties that epistemic reasons do not seem to share. In this chapter, we offer a way for epistemic instrumentalists to overcome this challenge. Our main thesis takes the form of a conditional: if we accept an independently plausible transmission principle of instrumental normativity, we can maintain that epistemic reasons in fact do share the relevant properties of practical instrumental reasons. In addition, we can explain why epistemic reasons seem to lack these properties in the first place: some properties of epistemic reasons are elusive, or easy to overlook, because we tend to think and talk about epistemic reasons in an ‘elliptical’ manner. (shrink)
The predominant view in developmental psychology is that young children are able to reason with the concept of desire prior to being able to reason with the concept of belief. We propose an explanation of this phenomenon that focuses on the cognitive tasks that competence with the belief and desire concepts enable young children to perform. We show that cognitive tasks that are typically considered fundamental to our competence with the belief and desire concepts can be performed with the concept (...) of desire in the absence of competence with the concept of belief, whereas the reverse is considerably less feasible. (shrink)
People tend to think that they know others better than others know them (Pronin et al. 2001). This phenomenon is known as the "illusion of asymmetric insight." While the illusion has been well documented by a series of recent experiments, less has been done to explain it. In this paper, we argue that extant explanations are inadequate because they either get the explanatory direction wrong or fail to accommodate the experimental results in a sufficiently nuanced way. Instead, we propose a (...) new explanation that does not face these problems. The explanation is based on two other well-documented psychological phenomena: the tendency to accommodate ambiguous evidence in a biased way, and the tendency to overestimate how much better we know ourselves than we know others. (shrink)
In this paper I propose a teleological account of epistemic reasons. In recent years, the main challenge for any such account has been to explicate a sense in which epistemic reasons depend on the value of epistemic properties. I argue that while epistemic reasons do not directly depend on the value of epistemic properties, they depend on a different class of reasons which are value based in a direct sense, namely reasons to form beliefs about certain propositions or subject matters. (...) In short, S has an epistemic reason to believe that p if and only if S is such that if S has reason to form a belief about p, then S ought to believe that p. I then propose a teleological explanation of this relationship. It is also shown how the proposal can avoid various subsidiary objections commonly thought to riddle the teleological account. (shrink)
It seems obvious that when higher-order evidence makes it rational for one to doubt that one’s own belief on some matter is rational, this can undermine the rationality of that belief. This is known as higher-order defeat. However, despite its intuitive plausibility, it has proved puzzling how higher-order defeat works, exactly. To highlight two prominent sources of puzzlement, higher-order defeat seems to defy being understood in terms of conditionalization; and higher-order defeat can sometimes place agents in what seem like epistemic (...) dilemmas. This chapter draws attention to an overlooked aspect of higher-order defeat, namely that it can undermine the resilience of one’s beliefs. The notion of resilience was originally devised to understand how one should reflect the ‘weight’ of one’s evidence. But it can also be applied to understand how one should reflect one’s higher-order evidence. The idea is particularly useful for understanding cases where one’s higher-order evidence indicates that one has failed in correctly assessing the evidence, without indicating whether one has over- or underestimated the degree of evidential support for a proposition. But it is exactly in such cases that the puzzles of higher-order defeat seem most compelling. (shrink)
Kathrin Glüer and Åsa Wikforss argue that any truth norm for belief, linking the correctness of believing p with the truth of p, is bound to be uninformative, since applying the norm to determine the correctness of a belief as to whether p, would itself require forming such a belief. I argue that this conflates the condition under which the norm deems beliefs correct, with the psychological state an agent must be in to apply the norm. I also show that (...) since the truth norm conflicts with other possible norms that clearly are informative, the truth norm must itself be informative. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been concerned about what we know and how we know it. Increasingly, however, a related question has gained prominence in philosophical discussion: what should we believe and why? This volume brings together twelve new essays that address different aspects of this question. The essays examine foundational questions about reasons for belief, and use new research on reasons for belief to address traditional epistemological concerns such as knowledge, justification and perceptually acquired beliefs. This book will be of interest (...) to philosophers working on epistemology, theoretical reason, rationality, perception and ethics. It will also be of interest to cognitive scientists and psychologists who wish to gain deeper insight into normative questions about belief and knowledge. (shrink)
In a recent article, I criticized Kathrin Glüer and Åsa Wikforss's so-called “no guidance argument” against the truth norm for belief, for conflating the conditions under which that norm recommends belief with the psychological state one must be in to apply the norm. In response, Glüer and Wikforss have offered a new formulation of the no guidance argument, which makes it apparent that no such conflation is made. However, their new formulation of the argument presupposes a much too narrow understanding (...) of what it takes for a norm to influence behaviour, and betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the point of the truth norm. Once this is taken into account, it becomes clear that the no guidance argument fails. (shrink)
Nishi Shah has recently argued that transparency in doxastic deliberation supports a strict version of evidentialism about epistemic reasons. I argue that Shah's argument relies on a principle that is incompatible with the strict version of evidentialism Shah wishes to advocate.
Many epistemologists have been attracted to the view that knowledge-wh can be reduced to knowledge-that. An important challenge to this, presented by Jonathan Schaffer, is the problem of “convergent knowledge”: reductive accounts imply that any two knowledge-wh ascriptions with identical true answers to the questions embedded in their wh-clauses are materially equivalent, but according to Schaffer, there are counterexamples to this equivalence. Parallel to this, Schaffer has presented a very similar argument against binary accounts of knowledge, and thereby in favour (...) of his alternative contrastive account, relying on similar examples of apparently inequivalent knowledge ascriptions, which binary accounts treat as equivalent. In this article, I develop a unified diagnosis and solution to these problems for the reductive and binary accounts, based on a general theory of knowledge ascriptions that embed presuppositional expressions. All of Schaffer's apparent counterexamples embed presuppositional expressions, and once the effect of these is taken into account, it becomes apparent that the counterexamples depend on an illicit equivocation of contexts. Since epistemologists often rely on knowledge ascriptions that embed presuppositional expressions, the general theory of them presented here will have ramifications beyond defusing Schaffer's argument. (shrink)
In a recent paper in this journal, Carter and Peterson raise two distinctly epistemological puzzles that arise for anyone aspiring to defend the precautionary principle. The first puzzle trades on an application of epistemic contextualism to the precautionary principle; the second puzzle concerns the compatibility of the precautionary principle with the de minimis rule. In this note, I argue that neither puzzle should worry defenders of the precautionary principle. The first puzzle can be shown to be an instance of the (...) familiar but conceptually harmless challenge of adjudicating between relevant interests to reach assessments of threats when applying the precautionary principle. The second puzzle can be shown to rely on a subtle but crucial misrepresentation of the relevant probabilities at play when applying the precautionary principle. (shrink)
In his influential discussion of the aim of belief, David Owens argues that any talk of such an ‘aim’ is at best metaphorical. In order for the ‘aim’ of belief to be a genuine aim, it must be weighable with other aims in deliberation, but Owens claims that this is impossible. In previous work, I have pointed out that if we look at a broader range of deliberative contexts involving belief, it becomes clear that the putative aim of belief is (...) capable of being weighed against other aims. Recently, however, Ema Sullivan-Bissett and Paul Noordhof have objected to this response on the grounds that it employs an undefended conception of the aim of belief not shared by Owens, and that it equivocates between importantly different contexts of doxastic deliberation. In this note, I argue that both of these objections fail. (shrink)
The growing literature on philosophical thought experiments has so far focused almost exclusively on the role of thought experiments in confirming or refuting philosophical hypotheses or theories. In this paper we draw attention to an additional and largely ignored role that thought experiments frequently play in our philosophical practice: some thought experiments do not merely serve as means for testing various philosophical hypotheses or theories, but also serve as facilitators for conceiving and articulating new ones. As we will put it, (...) they serve as ‘heuristics for theory discovery’. Our purpose in the paper is two-fold: to make a case that this additional role of thought experiments deserves the attention of philosophers interested in the methodology of philosophy; to sketch a tentative taxonomy of a number of distinct ways in which philosophical thought experiments can aid theory discovery, which can guide future research on this role of thought experiments. (shrink)
Epistemic instrumentalists seek to understand the normativity of epistemic norms on the model practical instrumental norms governing the relation between aims and means. Non-instrumentalists often object that this commits instrumentalists to implausible epistemic assessments. I argue that this objection presupposes an implausibly strong interpretation of epistemic norms. Once we realize that epistemic norms should be understood in terms of permissibility rather than obligation, and that evidence only occasionally provide normative reasons for belief, an instrumentalist account becomes available that delivers the (...) correct epistemic verdicts. On this account, epistemic permissibility can be understood on the model of the wide-scope instrumental norm for instrumental rationality, while normative evidential reasons for belief can be understood in terms of instrumental transmission. (shrink)
A popular account of luck, with a firm basis in common sense, holds that a necessary condition for an event to be lucky, is that it was suitably improbable. It has recently been proposed that this improbability condition is best understood in epistemic terms. Two different versions of this proposal have been advanced. According to my own proposal (Steglich-Petersen 2010), whether an event is lucky for some agent depends on whether the agent was in a position to know that the (...) event would occur. And according to Stoutenburg (2015; forthcoming), whether an event is lucky for an agent depends on whether the event was guaranteed or certain to occur in light of the agent’s evidence. In this paper, I argue that we should prefer the account in terms of knowledge over that in terms of evidential certainty. (shrink)
While many philosophers have agreed that evidence of disagreement is a kind of higher-order evidence, this has not yet resulted in formally precise higher-order approaches to the problem of disagreement. In this paper, we outline a simple formal framework for determining the epistemic significance of a body of higher-order evidence, and use this framework to motivate a novel interpretation of the popular “equal weight view” of peer disagreement—we call it the Variably Equal Weight View (VEW). We show that VEW differs (...) from the standard Split the Difference (SD) interpretation of the equal weight view in almost all cases of peer disagreement, and use our formal framework to explain why SD has seemed attractive but is in fact misguided. A desirable feature of VEW, we argue, is that it gives rise to plausible instances of synergy—an effect whereby the parties to a disagreement should become more (or less) confident in the disputed proposition than any of them were prior to disagreement. Lastly, we show how VEW may be generalized to cases of non-peer disagreement. (shrink)
The debate on the epistemology of disagreement has so far focused almost exclusively on cases of disagreement between individual persons. Yet, many social epistemologists agree that at least certain kinds of groups are equally capable of having beliefs that are open to epistemic evaluation. If so, we should expect a comprehensive epistemology of disagreement to accommodate cases of disagreement between group agents, such as juries, governments, companies, and the like. However, this raises a number of fundamental questions concerning what it (...) means for groups to be epistemic peers and to disagree with each other. In this paper, we explore what group peer disagreement amounts to given that we think of group belief in terms of List and Pettit’s ‘belief aggregation model’. We then discuss how the so-called ‘equal weight view’ of peer disagreement is best accommodated within this framework. The account that seems most promising to us says, roughly, that the parties to a group peer disagreement should adopt the belief that results from applying the most suitable belief aggregation function for the combined group on all members of the combined group. To motivate this view, we test it against various intuitive cases, derive some of its notable implications, and discuss how it relates to the equal weight view of individual peer disagreement. (shrink)
A number of authors have recently developed and defended various versions of ‘normative essentialism’ about the mental, i.e. the claim that propositional attitudes are constitutively or essentially governed by normative principles. I present two arguments to the effect that this claim cannot be right. First, if propositional attitudes were essentially normative, propositional attitude ascriptions would require non-normative justification, but since this is not a requirement of folk-psychology, propositional attitudes cannot be essentially normative. Second, if propositional attitudes were essentially normative, propositional (...) attitude ascriptions could not support normative rationality judgments, which would remove the central appeal of normative essentialism. (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 ‘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)
For at least three decades, philosophers have argued that general causation and causal explanation are contrastive in nature. When we seek a causal explanation of some particular event, we are usually interested in knowing why that event happened rather than some other specified event. And general causal claims, which state that certain event types cause certain other event types, seem to make sense only if appropriate contrasts to the types of events acting as cause and effect are specified. In recent (...) years, philosophers have extended the contrastive theory of causation to encompass singular causation as well. In this article, I argue that this extension of the theory was a mistake. Although general causation and causal explanation may well be contrastive in nature, singular causation is not. (shrink)
Many philosophers have argued that an event is lucky for an agent only if it was suitably improbable, but there is considerable disagreement about how to understand this improbability condition. This paper argues for a hitherto overlooked construal of the improbability condition in terms of the lucky agent’s epistemic situation. According to the proposed account, an event is lucky for an agent only if the agent was not in a position to know that the event would occur. It is also (...) explored whether this new account threatens the anti- luck program in epistemology. It is argued that although not detrimental to the anti- luck program, the epistemic account of luck sets certain important limits to its scope and feasibility. (shrink)
Psychological studies on fictional persuasion demonstrate that being engaged with fiction systematically affects our beliefs about the real world, in ways that seem insensitive to the truth. This threatens to undermine the widely accepted view that beliefs are essentially regulated in ways that tend to ensure their truth, and may tempt various non-doxastic interpretations of the belief-seeming attitudes we form as a result of engaging with fiction. I evaluate this threat, and argue that it is benign. Even if the relevant (...) attitudes are best seen as genuine beliefs, as I think they often are, their lack of appropriate sensitivity to the truth does not undermine the essential tie between belief and truth. To this end, I shall consider what I take to be the three most plausible models of the cognitive mechanisms underlying fictional persuasion, and argue that on none of these models does fictional persuasion undermine the essential truth-tie. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that doxastic deliberation is transparent to the factual question of the truth of the proposition being considered for belief, and that this sets doxastic deliberation apart from practical deliberation. This feature is frequently invoked in arguments against doxastic voluntarism. I argue that transparency to factual questions occurs in practical deliberation in ways parallel to transparency in doxastic deliberation. I argue that this should make us reconsider the appeal to transparency in arguments against doxastic voluntarism, and the (...) wider issue of distinguishing theoretical from practical rationality. (shrink)
In a recent paper (2008), I presented two arguments against the thesis that intentional states are essentially normative. In this paper, I defend those arguments from two recent responses, one from Nick Zangwill in his (2010), and one from Daniel Laurier in the present volume, and offer improvements of my arguments in light of Laurier’s criticism.
Nishi Shah has recently argued that transparency in doxastic deliberation supports a strict version of evidentialism about epistemic reasons. I argue that Shah's argument relies on a principle that is incompatible with the strict version of evidentialism Shah wishes to advocate.
Causation is of undeniable importance to our understanding of, and interaction with our surroundings. Despite this, the correct understanding of causation remains subject to considerable philosophical controversy. In this article, I introduce the most influential philosophical theories of causation, and provide an overview of the main difficulties that has led to the currently most popular versions of these theories.
In his Knowledge and its Limits (2000) Timothy Williamson argues that knowledge can be causally efficacious and as such figure in psychological explanation. His argument for this claim figures as a response to a key objection to his overall thesis that knowing is a mental state. In this paper I argue that although Williamson succeeds in establishing that knowledge in some cases is essential to the power of certain causal explanations of actions, he fails to do this in a way (...) that establishes knowledge itself as a causal factor. The argument thus fails to support his overall claim that knowledge should be conceived as a state of mind. (shrink)
It is widely held that the possibility of value-incomparability between alternatives poses a serious threat to comparativism. Some comparativists have proposed to avoid this problem by supplementing the three traditional value relations with a fourth value relation, variously identified as "roughly equal" or "on a par", which is supposed to hold between alternatives that are incomparable by the three traditional value relations. However, in a recent article in this journal, Nien-he Hsieh has proposed that the comparisons thought to require rough (...) equality or parity could instead be understood in terms of the concept of "clumpiness". Against this suggestion, Martin Peterson has argued that the concept of clumpiness allows agents to be exploited in money-pumps, and thus that there is no way of linking clumpiness to rational choice. This would remove the central appeal of the concept. In this note, I show that Peterson’s argument fails to establish that the concept of clumpiness allows agents to be exploited in money-pumps. (shrink)
In this paper, I introduce and discuss a series of problems associated with answering the question of semantic unity, and argue that the truth theoretical approach to semantics put forward by Donald Davidson suggests a possible solution. Although not put forward explicitly as such by Davidson, it is argued that we in Davidson's interpretation of Tarski's definition of truth find the resources to illuminate and resolve the problem of unity.
In a recent article in this journal, Esteban Céspedes (2015) seeks to defend the contrastive account of singular causation from my criticisms (Steglich-Petersen 2012). Céspedes objects to my argument on three counts: (1) it is circular in presupposing a principle that it seeks to establish; (2) that same principle is false; and (3) even if the principle were true, it would not speak against the contrastive account. In this note I argue that all three objections are unconvincing.
We often have reason to doubt our own ability to form rational beliefs, or to doubt that some particular belief of ours is rational. Perhaps we learn that a trusted friend disagrees with us about what our shared evidence supports. Or perhaps we learn that our beliefs have been afflicted by motivated reasoning or other cognitive biases. These are examples of higher-order evidence. While it may seem plausible that higher-order evidence should impact our beliefs, it is less clear how and (...) why. Normally, when evidence impacts our beliefs, it does so by virtue of speaking for or against the truth of theirs contents. But higher-order evidence does not directly concern the contents of the beliefs that they impact. In recent years, philosophers have become increasingly aware of the need to understand the nature and normative role of higher-order evidence. This is partly due to the pervasiveness of higher-order evidence in human life. But it has also become clear that higher-order evidence plays a central role in many epistemological debates, spanning from traditional discussions of internalism/externalism about epistemic justification to more recent discussions of peer disagreement and epistemic akrasia. This volume brings together, for the first time, a distinguished group of leading and up-and-coming epistemologists to explore a range of issues about higher-order evidence. (shrink)
Metaphysics: 5 Questions is a collection of short interviews based on 5 questions presented to some of the most influential and prominent philosophers in the field. We hear their views on metaphysics, the aim, the scope, the future direction of research and how their work fits in these respects. Interviews with Lynne Rudder Baker, Helen Beebee, Thomas Hofweber, Hugh Mellor, Peter Menzies, Stephen Mumford, Daniel Nolan, Eric T.Olson, L. A. Paul, Lorenz B. Puntel, Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra, Gideon Rosen, Jonathan Schaffer, Peter (...) Simons, Barry Smith, Michael Tooley, Peter van Inwagen, Dean Zimmerman. (shrink)