While growing empirical evidence suggests a continuity between human and non-human psychology, many philosophers still think that only humans can act and form beliefs rationally. In this paper, we challenge this claim. We first clarify the notion of rationality. We then focus on the rationality of beliefs and argue that, in the relevant sense, humans are not the only rational animals. We do so by first distinguishing between unreflective and reflective responsiveness to epistemic reasons in belief formation and revision. We (...) argue that unreflective responsiveness is clearly within the reach of many animals. We then defend that a key demonstration of reflective responsiveness would be the ability to respond to undermining defeaters. We end by presenting some empirical evidence that suggests that some animal species are capable of processing these defeaters, which would entail that even by the strictest standards, humans are not the only rational animals. (shrink)
One important distinction in the debate over the nature of epistemic justification is the one between propositional and doxastic justification. Roughly, while doxastic justification is a property of beliefs, propositional justification is a property of propositions. On a rather common view, which accounts for doxastic justification in terms of propositional justification plus the so-called ‘basing relation’, propositional justification is seen as the prior notion, and doxastic justification is explained in terms of it. According to the opposing view, the direction of (...) explanation needs to be reversed, and doxastic justification should be seen as primary. I distinguish between two notions of priority, and I argue that they give different verdicts with respect to the issue of which notion of justification comes first. The lesson may be taken to be that propositional and doxastic justification are in a relation of intertwinement. (shrink)
Taking the inspiration from some points made by Scott Sturgeon and Albert Casullo, I articulate a view according to which an important difference between undermining and overriding defeaters is that the former require the subject to engage in some higher-order epistemic thinking, while the latter don’t. With the help of some examples, I argue that underminers push the cognizer to reflect on the way she formed a belief by challenging the epistemic worthiness of either the source of justification or the (...) specific justificatory process. By contrast, overriders needn’t pose any such challenge. I also consider some problems for the proposed view, and I put forward some possible solutions. Finally, I provide some details on how undermining defeat works in different cases. (shrink)
We focus on Timothy Williamson’s recent attack on the epistemological significance of the a priori–a posteriori distinction, and offer an explanation of why, fundamentally, it does not succeed. We begin by setting out Williamson’s core argument, and some of the background to it and move to consider two lines of conciliatory response to it—conciliatory in that neither questions the central analogy on which Williamson's argument depends. We claim, setting aside a methodological challenge to which Williamson owes an answer, that no (...) satisfactory such reconciliation is in prospect. Rather, as we then argue, —and it is on this that we base our overall negative assessment of his argument—Williamson’s core analogy is flawed by an oversight. We conclude with some brief reflections on Williamson’s ideas about the imagination as a source of knowledge. Our principal conclusion is only that Williamson’s argument fails to perform as advertised. A constructive case for confidence, to the contrary, that the intuitive contrast between a priori and a posteriori reflects something of fundamental epistemological significance is prefigured in our final section, but will not be elaborated here. (shrink)
I extend the Higher-Order View of Undermining Defeat (HOVUD) defended in Melis (2014) to account for the defeat of propositional justification. In doing so, I clarify the important notion of higher-order commitment, and I make some considerations concerning the defeat of externalist epistemic warrants.
One emerging issue in contemporary epistemology concerns the relation between animal knowledge, which can be had by agents unable to take a view on the epistemic status of their attitudes, and reflective knowledge, which is only available to agents capable of taking such a view. Philosophers who are open to animal knowledge often presume that while many of the beliefs of human adults are formed unreflectively and thus constitute mere animal knowledge, some of them—those which become subject of explicit scrutiny (...) or are the result of a deliberative effort—may attain the status of reflective knowledge. According to Sanford Goldberg and Jonathan Matheson (2020), however, it is impossible for reflective subjects to have mere animal knowledge. If correct, their view would have a number of repercussions, perhaps most notably the vindication of a dualism about knowledge, which would frustrate attempts to provide a unified account of knowledge-attributions to human adults, very young children, and non-human animals. I discuss Goldberg and Matheson’s proposal, outline some of the ways in which it is insightful, and argue that it is ultimately unsuccessful because it neglects the inherent temporal dimension of knowledge acquisition. While the article is pitched as a reply to Goldberg and Matheson, its primary aim is to highlight significant connections between the debates on the relation between animal and reflective knowledge, propositional and doxastic justification, and the theory of epistemic defeat. (shrink)