According to Veritism, true belief is the sole fundamental epistemic value. Epistemologists often take Veritism to entail that all other epistemic items can only have value by standing in certain instrumental relations—namely, by tending to produce a high ratio of true to false beliefs or by being products of sources with this tendency. Yet many value theorists outside epistemology deny that all derivative value is grounded in instrumental relations to fundamental value. Veritists, I believe, can and should follow suit. After (...) setting the stage in §1, I explain in §2 why Veritism should not take an Instrumentalist form. Instrumentalist Veritism faces a generalized version of the swamping problem. But this problem undermines Instrumentalism, not Veritism: granting Instrumentalism, similar problems arise for any economical epistemic axiology. I show in §3 how Veritism can take a less narrow form and solve the swamping problem. After answering some objections in §4, I consider in §5 what some would regard as a less radical alternative solution and argue that it either fails or collapses into mine. I close in §6 by taking stock and re-evaluating the overall prospects for Veritism, suggesting that it is a highly promising epistemic axiology when divorced from Instrumentalism. (shrink)
Despite the recent backlash against epistemic consequentialism, an explicit systematic alternative has yet to emerge. This paper articulates and defends a novel alternative, Epistemic Kantianism, which rests on a requirement of respect for the truth. §1 tackles some preliminaries concerning the proper formulation of the epistemic consequentialism / non-consequentialism divide, explains where Epistemic Kantianism falls in the dialectical landscape, and shows how it can capture what seems attractive about epistemic consequentialism while yielding predictions that are harder for the latter to (...) secure in a principled way. §2 presents Epistemic Kantianism. §3 argues that it is uniquely poised to satisfy the desiderata set out in §1 on an ideal theory of epistemic justification. §4 gives three further arguments, suggesting that it (i) best explains the objective normative significance of the subject's perspective in epistemology, (ii) follows from the kind of axiology needed to solve the swamping problem together with modest assumptions about the relation between the evaluative and the deontic, and (iii) illuminates certain asymmetries in epistemic value and obligation. §5 takes stock and reassesses the score in the debate. (shrink)
Many meta-ethicists have thought that rationality requires us to heed apparent normative reasons, not objective normative reasons. But what are apparent reasons? There are two kinds of standard answers. On de dicto views, R is an apparent reason for S to \ when it appears to S that R is an objective reason to \ . On de re views, R is an apparent reason for S to \ when R’s truth would constitute an objective reason for S to \ (...) , and it appears to S that R. De re views are currently more popular because they avoid overintellectualizing rationality. But they face problems owing to the way in which they do so. Some assume that we can escape these problems by requiring more information to be apparent or by appealing to defeat. But these strategies fail. So, I defend a new view: apparent reasons are apparent facts that agents are competently attracted to treat like objective reasons, where competence is indirectly defined in terms of objective reasons and a competence/performance distinction is honored. Since one can treat X like an F without having the concept of an F, the view does not overintellectualize rationality. But it is also strong enough to dodge the pitfalls of de re views. (shrink)
This paper is an opinionated guide to the literature on normative epistemic reasons. After making some distinctions in §1, I begin in §2 by discussing the ontology of normative epistemic reasons, assessing arguments for and against the view that they are mental states, and concluding that they are not mental states. In §3, I examine the distinction between normative epistemic reasons there are and normative epistemic reasons we possess. I offer a novel account of this distinction and argue that we (...) in fact ought to acknowledge a threefold distinction between objective, possessed, and apparent normative epistemic reasons. In §4, I discuss the question of which normative reasons for doxastic attitudes are the epistemic ones, evaluating reasons against a simple evidentialist answer. Finally, in §5, I look at the role of reasons in epistemology, considering challenges to viewing reasons as the building blocks of epistemic normativity and maintaining that the challenges recommend a novel bi-level epistemology rather than a marginalization of reasons in epistemology. (shrink)
According to a view I’ll call Epistemic Normativism, knowledge is normative in the same sense in which paradigmatically normative properties like justification are normative. This paper argues against EN in two stages and defends a positive non-normativist alternative. After clarifying the target in §1, I consider in §2 some arguments for EN from the premise that knowledge entails justification. I first raise some worries about inferring constitution from entailment. I then rehearse the reasons why some epistemologists reject the Entailment Thesis (...) and argue that a non-normativist picture provides the best explanation of all the intuitions surrounding this thesis, favorable and unfavorable. On this picture, human knowledge is a structured non-normative complex that has as one of its parts a justification-making property, analogous in role to good-making properties like pleasurableness. After giving three arguments against EN in §3 and answering an objection in §4, I turn in §5 to further develop the positive view sketched in §2. In §6, I take stock and conclude. (shrink)
It is often assumed that believing that p for a normative reason consists in nothing more than (i) believing that p for a reason and (ii) that reason’s corresponding to a normative reason to believe that p, where (i) and (ii) are independent factors. This is the Composite View. In this paper, we argue against the Composite View on extensional and theoretical grounds. We advocate an alternative that we call the Prime View. On this view, believing for a normative reason (...) is a distinctive achievement that isn’t exhausted by the mere conjunction of (i) and (ii). Its being an achievement entails that (i) and (ii) are not independent when one believes for a normative reason: minimally, (i) must hold because (ii) holds. Apart from its intrinsic interest, our discussion has important upshots for central issues in epistemology, including the analysis of doxastic justification, the epistemology of perception, and the place of competence in epistemology. (shrink)
This paper considers the place of reasons in the metaphysics of epistemic normativity and defends a middle ground between two popular extremes in the literature. Against members of the ‘reasons first’ movement, we argue that reasons are not the sole fundamental constituents of epistemic normativity. We suggest instead that the virtue-theoretic property of competence is the key building block. To support this approach, we note that reasons must be possessed to play a role in the analysis of central epistemically normative (...) properties, and argue that the relation of possession must be analyzed in terms of competence. But while we diverge with reasons-firsters on this score, we also distance ourselves from those who deny reasons any important role in epistemology. For we maintain that possessed reasons do help to ground deontic facts in the epistemic domain (e.g., facts about what one epistemically ought to believe, may believe, or is justified in believing). Indeed, we present an argument that the possession of sufficient epistemic reasons is necessary and sufficient for propositional justification, and that proper basing on such reasons yields doxastic justification. But since possession and proper basing are themselves grounded in competence, reasons are not the end of the explanatory road: competence enables them to do their work, putting them—and us—in the middle. (shrink)
The paper is an opinionated tour of the literature on the reasons for which we hold beliefs and other doxastic attitudes, which I call ‘operative epistemic reasons’. After drawing some distinctions in §1, I begin in §2 by discussing the ontology of operative epistemic reasons, assessing arguments for and against the view that they are mental states. I recommend a pluralist non-mentalist view that takes seriously the variety of operative epistemic reasons ascriptions and allows these reasons to be both propositions (...) and truth-making facts. In §3, I turn to consider what it takes for a consideration to be an operative epistemic reason, examining three conditions – the representational, treating, and explanatory conditions – that have been proposed. I offer a novel view about the explanatory condition. In §4, I discuss the special case of inferential operative reasons and examine attempts to understand them in terms of rule-following, sketching a competence-based spinoff of dispositionalism. Finally, in §5, I consider whether there are non-inferential operative reasons, observing that one needn't countenance them to be a foundationalist but then developing a view about what they are and how they do and don't differ from inferential reasons. (shrink)
Rationality requires us to respond to apparent normative reasons. Given the independence of appearance and reality, why think that apparent normative reasons necessarily provide real normative reasons? And if they do not, why think that mistakes of rationality are necessarily real mistakes? This paper gives a novel answer to these questions. I argue first that in the moral domain, there are objective duties of respect that we violate whenever we do what appears to violate our first-order duties. The existence of (...) these duties of respect, I argue, ensures that apparent moral reasons are exceptions to the independence of appearance and reality. I then extend these arguments to the domain of overall reason. Just as there are objective duties of respect for moral reasons that explain moral blameworthiness, so there are objective duties of respect for reasons that explain blameworthiness in the court of overall reason. The existence of these duties ensures that apparent reasons are exceptions to the independence of appearance and reality. (shrink)
Reasons fundamentalists maintain that we can analyze all derivative normative properties in terms of normative reasons. These theorists famously encounter the Wrong Kind of Reasons problem, since not all reasons for reactions seem relevant for reasons-based analyses. Some have argued that this problem is a general one for many theorists, and claim that this lightens the burden for reasons fundamentalists. We argue in this paper that the reverse is true: the generality of the problem makes life harder for reasons fundamentalists. (...) We do this in two stages. First, we show that reflection on the generality of the distinction between wrong-kind reasons and right-kind reasons shows that not all right-kind reasons are normative reasons. So, not only do reasons-based analyses require a distinction between right-kind reasons and wrong-kind reasons, they also need a distinction between normative right-kind reasons from nonnormative right-kind reasons. We call this the Right Kind of Reasons Problem. In the second stage of the paper, we argue that reasons fundamentalism places tight constraints on its proper solution: in particular, it forbids one from appealing to anything normative to distinguish normative RKRs from nonnormative RKRs. It hence seems that reasons fundamentalists can only appeal to natural facts to solve the problem, but it is unclear which ones can do the job. So, reflection on the generality of the distinction only multiplies the fundamentalist’s problems. We end by exploring several solutions to these problems, and recommend a form of constitutivism as the best. (shrink)
Having direct doxastic control would not be particularly desirable if exercising it required a failure of epistemic rationality. With that thought in mind, recent writers have invoked the view that epistemic rationality gives us options to defend the possibility of a significant form of direct doxastic control. Specifically, they suggest that when the evidence for p is sufficient but not conclusive, it would be epistemically rational either to believe p or to be agnostic on p, and they argue that we (...) can in these cases effectively decide to form either attitude without irrationality. This paper argues against the version of epistemic permissivism invoked by these writers and shows that other plausible versions of permissivism do not support their cause. It concludes that if we can exercise direct doxastic control without irrationality, it is not because epistemic rationality gives us options. (shrink)
Judgment and Agency contains Sosa’s latest effort to explain how higher epistemic value of the sort missing from an unwitting clairvoyant’s beliefs might be a special case of performance normativity, with its superior value following from truisms about performance value. This paper argues that the new effort rests on mistaken assumptions about performance normativity. Once these mistaken assumptions are exposed, it becomes clear that higher epistemic value cannot be a mere special case of performance normativity, and its superiority cannot be (...) guaranteed just by truisms about performance value. Sections 1 and 2 set the stage, clarifying the thesis and the relevant features of Sosa’s strategy, and explaining why the strategy requires the mistaken assumptions. Section 3 presents a dilemma for the new account of higher epistemic value. Section 4 deepens the case for one of the horns. Section 5 takes stock and draws some broader morals. (shrink)
This paper surveys some ways in which epistemic reasons ascriptions (or ERAs) appear to be context-sensitive, and outlines a framework for thinking about the nature of this context-sensitivity that is intimately related to ERAs' explanatory function.
This paper raises a dilemma for Skorupski’s meta-normative outlook in The Domain of Reasons and explores some escape routes, recommending a more thoroughgoing Kantianism as the best option. §1 argues that we cannot plausibly combine Skorupski’s spontaneity-based epistemology of normativity with his cognition-independent view of normative truth. §§2–4 consider whether we should keep the epistemology and revise the metaphysics, opting for constructivism. While Skorupski’s negative case for his spontaneity-based epistemology is found wanting, it is suggested that a better argument for (...) keeping the epistemology and switching to Kantian constructivism can be given from a thesis he ﬁnds appealing—viz., ‘cognitive internalism’. While this premise is not, it is argued, obviously true, the view it supports does provide a good way to undergird Skorupski’s most interesting rationale for his reasons-ﬁrst approach. (shrink)
Many epistemologists treat rationality and justification as the same thing. Those who don’t lack detailed accounts of the difference, leading their opponents to suspect that the distinction is an ad hoc attempt to safeguard their theories of justiﬁcation. In this paper, I offer a new and detailed account of the distinction. The account is inspired by no particular views in epistemology, but rather by insights from the literature on reasons and rationality outside of epistemology. Speciﬁcally, it turns on a version (...) of the familiar distinction in meta-ethics between possessing apparent normative reasons (which may be merely apparent) and possessing objective normative reasons. The paper proceeds as follows. In §1, I discuss the history of indiﬀerence to the distinction between rationality and justiﬁcation in epistemology and the striking contrast with meta-ethics. I introduced the distinction between apparent reasons and possessed objective reasons in §2 and provide a deeper basis for it in §3. I explain how the ideas extend to epistemology in §4 and explore the upshots for some central issues in §5. (shrink)
Recent writers claim that responsibilist virtue epistemology courts skepticism, owing to the fact that most of us lack the virtues it deems necessary for justified belief and knowledge. A powerful version of this objection is the challenge from situationist social psychology pressed by Alfano (2012, 2013) and Olin and Doris (2014). This paper develops a new version of responsibilism that is immune from this objection, and shows that this view has many advantages over other forms of virtue epistemology. My responsibilism (...) dispenses with the ubiquitous but (I argue) mistaken idea that responsibilist virtue properties must be understood in terms of character traits. My view parallels an often overlooked form of virtue ethics suggested by Thomson (1997) that some situationists (e.g., Harman (2001)) have praised. That form shares with other forms the thought that virtue properties are normatively fundamental, but it adds that act-attaching ones are prior to person-attaching ones, and require no backing by character traits. Far from being an ad hoc retreat position, I argue that this view is independently attractive. (shrink)
We argue for a novel view of suspending judgment properly--i.e., suspending judgment in an ex post justified way. In so doing we argue for a Kantian virtue-theoretic view of epistemic normativity and against teleological virtue-theoretic accounts.
We argue that we can avoid epistemic dilemmas by properly understanding the nature and epistemology of the suspension of judgment, with a particular focus on conflicts between higher-order evidence and first-order evidence.
According to ambitious responsibilism (AR), the virtues that are constitutive of epistemic responsibility should play a central and fundamental role in traditional projects like the analysis of justification and knowledge. While AR enjoyed a shining moment in the mid-1990s, it has fallen on hard times. Part of the reason is that many epistemologists—including fellow responsibilists—think it paints an unreasonably demanding picture of knowledge and justification. I agree that such worries undermine AR's existing versions. But I think the curtains have been (...) prematurely drawn on the view. My goal is to show that the objections only threaten the periphery of certain versions of AR, and to develop a version that blocks them. With this goal in mind, here is the plan. I begin in §2 by clarifying the core commitments of AR and explain how influential responsibilists have added to these commitments in optional ways. In §3, I rehearse the standard objections to AR, explaining why they only impugn the add-ons. I turn in §4 to develop a version I call Kantian Responsibilism (KR). KR is a two-level view consisting of (i) a high-level analysis of epistemic normativity in responsibilist terms, and (ii) a first-order account of the conditions under which these terms apply. According to KR's first tier, epistemically virtuous thought is thought that manifests respect for truth; because I hold that manifesting certain reasons-sensitive dispositions is necessary and sufficient for respecting truth, KR's second tier takes epistemic virtues to coincide substantively with reasons-sensitive dispositions. After unpacking KR in §4, I show in §5 how it answers the objections to AR. I close in §6 by making some broader points about KR's virtues, especially when compared with reliabilist views. (shrink)
Some epistemologists and philosophers of mind hold that the non-epistemic perceptual relation of which feature-seeing and object-seeing are special cases is the foundation of perceptual knowledge. This paper argues that such relations are best understood as having only a technological role in explaining perceptual knowledge. After introducing the opposing view in §1, §2 considers why its defenders deny that some cases in which one has perceptual knowledge without the relevant acquaintance relations are counterexamples, detailing their case for lurking inferential epistemology. (...) §§3-4 suggest that this strategy fails in many other cases. While there is a computational tale that might be deemed ‘inferential’ in these cases, there is no corresponding tale in epistemic structure, not even if one rejects what Siegel (2017) calls the ‘Reckoning Model’ of inference. §5 offers a more fundamental dilemma. §6 concludes that there is only a technological role for non-epistemic perception in grounding perceptual knowledge, but allows that it might play a more-than-technological role elsewhere. (shrink)
The Routledge Handbook of Practical Reasonis an outstanding reference source to this exciting and distinctive subject area. Comprising over thirty chapters by a team of international contributors the handbook provides a comprehensive overview of the field covering questions such as: What is the nature of the reasons for which we act and what is the nature of the faculty of practical reason? What are normative reasons for action? What is practical irrationality and what are the requirements, permissions, and powers that (...) explain what it is to be practically rational and irrational? What is the relationship between ethics and the philosophy of practical reason? This handbook will be essential reading for philosophy students and researchers in metaethics, philosophy of action, action theory, ethics and history of philosophy. (shrink)