We defend Uniqueness, the claim that given a body of total evidence, there is a uniquely rational doxastic state that it is rational for one to be in. Epistemic rationality doesn't give you any leeway in forming your beliefs. To this end, we bring in two metaepistemological pictures about the roles played by rational evaluations. Rational evaluative terms serve to guide our practices of deference to the opinions of others, and also to help us formulate contingency plans about what to (...) believe in various situations. We argue that Uniqueness vindicates these two roles for rational evaluations, while Permissivism clashes with them. (shrink)
In this paper I will present a puzzle about epistemic akrasia, and I will use that puzzle to motivate accepting some non-standard views about the nature of epistemological judgment. The puzzle is that while it seems obvious that epistemic akrasia must be irrational, the claim that epistemic akrasia is always irrational amounts to the claim that a certain sort of justified false belief—a justified false belief about what one ought to believe—is impossible. But justified false beliefs seem to be possible (...) in any domain, and it’s hard to see why beliefs about what one ought to believe should be an exception. I will argue that when we get clearer about what sort of psychological state epistemic akrasia is, we can resolve the puzzle in favor of the intuitive view that epistemic akrasia is always irrational. (shrink)
In this paper I present a qualified defense of the KK principle. In section one I introduce two popular arguments against the KK principle, along with an example in which these arguments seem to prove too much. In section two I provide a simple formal model of knowledge in which KK holds, and which I argue provides an attractive analysis of the example from section one. I go on argue that when this model is combined with contextualism, we can retain (...) our attractive analysis of the example, while also explaining away the appeal of the aforementioned arguments against KK. I use the same maneuver contextualists have used to defend epistemic closure principles--I argue that KK holds within contexts, but can fail across contexts. (shrink)
While epistemologists have long debated what it takes for beliefs to be justified, they've devoted much less collective attention to the question of what it takes for beliefs to be excused, and how excuses differ from justifications. This stands in contrast to the state of affairs in legal scholarship, where the contrast between justifications and excuses is a standard topic in introductory criminal law textbooks. My goal in this paper is to extract some lessons from legal theory for epistemologists seeking (...) to distinguish epistemic justifications from epistemic excuses. First, I'll provide a brief overview of appeals to the justification/excuse distinction in epistemology, focusing on the internalism/externalism debate. Then, I'll identify some choice points in legal theory for how to think about the function of the justification/excuse distinction, and will in turn correspond to analogous choice points in epistemology. Ultimately, I'll argue that depending on which way we go at some crucial junctures, we can motivate either a traditional, non‐factive, internalist conception of justification, or a purely factive one where truth is all that's required for a belief to be justified. But there's no clear path, via legal theory, to view that only beliefs that amount to knowledge are justified. (shrink)
While recent discussions of contextualism have mostly focused on other issues, some influential early statements of the view emphasized the possibility of its providing an alternative to both coherentism and traditional versions of foundationalism. In this essay, I will pick up on this strand of contextualist thought, and argue that contextualist versions of foundationalism promise to solve some problems that their non-contextualist cousins cannot. In particular, I will argue that adopting contextualist versions of foundationalism can let us reconcile Bayesian accounts (...) of belief updating with a version of the holist claim that all beliefs are defeasible. (shrink)
This paper argues for several related theses. First, the epistemological position that knowledge requires safe belief can be motivated by views in the philosophy of science, according to which good explanations show that their explananda are robust. This motivation goes via the idea—recently defended on both conceptual and empirical grounds—that knowledge attributions play a crucial role in explaining successful action. Second, motivating the safety requirement in this way creates a choice point—depending on how we understand robustness, we'll end up with (...) different conceptions of safety in epistemology. Lastly, and most controversially, there's an attractive choice at this point that will not vindicate some of the most influential applications of the safety-theoretic framework in epistemology, e.g., Williamson's arguments against the KK principle, and luminosity. (shrink)
While there has been a great deal of recent interest in parallels between metaethics and metaepistemology, there has been little discussion of epistemological analogues of the open question argument. This is somewhat surprising—the general trend in recent work is in the direction of emphasizing the continuity between metaethics and metaepistemology, and to treat metanormative questions as arising in parallel in these two normative domains. And while the OQA has been subjected to a wide variety of objections, it is still influential (...) in metaethics. In this paper, I aim to show that an epistemological version of the OQA is just as promising as its moral cousin. That's not to say that I'll unqualifiedly endorse either argument. Rather, my aim is to show that there is just as strong a prima facie case for an OQA in metaepistemology as there is in metaethics—I leave open whether the ultima facie case collapses. (shrink)
Epistemologists and philosophers of mind both ask questions about belief. Epistemologists ask normative questions about belief—which beliefs ought we to have? Philosophers of mind ask metaphysical questions about belief—what are beliefs, and what does it take to have them? While these issues might seem independent of one another, there is potential for an interesting sort of conflict: the epistemologist might think we ought to have beliefs that, according to the philosopher of mind, it is impossible to have. This essay argues (...) that this conflict does arise and that it creates problems for traditional skeptical views in epistemology. In particular, it argues that on certain popular views about the nature of belief, it is impossible to adopt the near-global agnosticism recommended by the skeptical epistemologist. On other plausible views, it is possible only in special circumstances, and this limitation undermines skeptical epistemological claims. The only views about the nature of belief on which there are no metaphysical hurdles to adopting the agnosticism recommended by the skeptic are views that face powerful objections—objections that are completely independent of antiskeptical epistemological considerations. (shrink)
The idea that certain philosophical debates are "merely verbal" has historically been raised as a challenge against (large parts of) metaphysics. In this paper, I explore an analogous challenge to large parts of epistemology, which is motivated by recent arguments in experimental philosophy. I argue that, while this challenge may have some limited success, it cannot serve as a wedge case for wide-ranging skepticism about the substantiveness of epistemological debates; most epistemological debates are immune to the worries it raises.
Epistemic iteration principles are principles according to which some or another epistemic operator automatically iterates---e.g., if it is known that P, then it is known that P, or there is evidence that P, then there is evidence that there is evidence that P. This article provides a survey of various arguments for and against epistemic iteration principles, with a focus on arguments relevant to a wide range of such principles.
I present a straightforward objection to the view that what we know has epistemic probability 1: when combined with Bayesian decision theory, the view seems to entail implausible conclusions concerning rational choice. I consider and reject three responses. The first holds that the fault is with decision theory, rather than the view that knowledge has probability 1. The second two try to reconcile the claim that knowledge has probability 1 with decision theory by appealing to contextualism and sensitive invariantism, respectively. (...) I argue that each response fails, and that we can hold on to much of what was attractive in the responses while denying that what we know has probability 1. (shrink)
The prequel to this paper introduced the topic of iteration principles in epistemology and surveyed some arguments in support of them. In this sequel, I'll consider two influential families of objection to iteration principles. The first turns on the idea that they lead to some variety of skepticism, and the second turns on ‘margin for error’ considerations adduced by Timothy Williamson.
Frequentism and Bayesianism represent very different approaches to hypothesis testing, and this presents a skeptical challenge for Bayesians. Given that most empirical research uses frequentist methods, why (if at all) should we rely on it? While it is well known that there are conditions under which Bayesian and frequentist methods agree, without some reason to think these conditions are typically met, the Bayesian hasn’t shown why we are usually safe in relying on results reported by significance testers. In this article, (...) I provide arguments that such conditions will usually be met; the Bayesian can maintain her theoretical disagreement with the frequentist while holding that her error is mostly harmless in practice. (shrink)
The case for the superiority of Conviction Narrative Theory (CNT) over probabilistic approaches rests on selective employment of a double standard. The authors judge probabilistic approaches inadequate for failing to apply to “grand-world” decision problems, while they praise CNT for its treatment of “small-world” decision problems. When both approaches are held to the same standard, the comparative question is murkier.
Agustín Rayo’s The Construction of Logical Space offers an exciting and ambitious defense of a broadly Carnapian approach to metaphysics. This essay will focus on one of the main differences between Rayo’s and Carnap’s approaches. Carnap distinguished between analytic, a priori “meaning postulates”, and empirical claims, which were both synthetic and knowable only a posteriori. Like meaning postulates, they determine the boundaries of logical space. But Rayo is skeptical that the a priori/a posteriori or analytic/synthetic distinctions can do the work (...) Carnap wanted them to, so unlike meaning postulates, ‘just is’-statements aren’t assumed to be analytic or knowable a priori. This essay will concern the epistemology of ‘just is’-statements in Rayo’s picture. If not by a priori reflection, how can we determine which ones to accept? I’ll distinguish two competing strands in Rayo’s work. The less radical, Lewisian strand holds that the question of whether to accept a ‘just is’-statement can be addressed in a neutral, non-question-begging way, by a kind of cost-benefit analysis. The more radical, Kuhnian strand holds that there can be no ‘just is’-statement-independent, rational choice of which ‘just is’-statements to accept. I argue that Rayo faces strong internal pressure to adopt the Kuhnian picture. While it is possible for Rayo to resist these Kuhnian pressures, natural strategies for doing so leave his view more similar to Carnap’s than the above gloss suggested. (shrink)
Jessica Brown argues against infallibilist views of knowledge as follows. (1) Infallibilism is committed to the sufficiency of knowledge for self-support: if one knows that p, then p is part of one's evidence for p. (2) This commitment is false: often one knows that p, but p isn't part of one's evidence for p. So (3) infallibilism about knowledge is false. I’ll respond by questioning the motivation for (2). Brown’s main line of argument in defense of (2) concerns the awkwardness (...) of citing a proposition as evidence in support of itself. I’ll argue that this infelicity, while genuine, stem not from any particular view about knowledge, but from a probabilistic conception of evidential support. Given such a conception of evidential support, whenever E is part of someone’s evidence, E is evidence for E. This is no less awkward for the fallibilist than the infallibilist. I’ll argue that if we adopt a contextualist view of evidence, we can hold on to the independently attractive probabilistic conception of evidential support, while respecting the idea that there's something wrong with citing a proposition as evidence for itself. -/- . (shrink)