Normative accounts of the correctness of belief have often been misconstrued. The norm of truth for belief is a constitutive norm which regulates our beliefs through ideals of reason. I try to show that this kind of account can meet some of the main objections which have been raised against normativism about belief: that epistemic reasons enjoy no exclusivity, that the norm of truth does not guide, and that normativism cannot account for suspension of judgement.
This article discusses the arguments against associating epistemic responsibility with the ordinary notion of agency. I examine the various 'Kantian' views which lead to a distinctive conception of epistemic agency and epistemic responsibility. I try to explain why we can be held responsible for our beliefs in the sense of obeying norms which regulate them without being epistemic agents.
Engel argues that, although the minimalist conception of truth is basically right, it does not follow that truth can be eliminated from our philosophical thinking, as is claimed by some radical deflationists. In particular, he shows that some deflationist views have a definitively relativist and "postmodernist" ring and should be rejected. Even if a metaphysically substantive theory of truth has little chance to succeed, he argues, truth plays a central role as a norm or guiding value of our rational inquiries (...) and practices in the philosophy of knowledge and in ethics. (shrink)
Belief is not a unified phenomenon. In this paper I argue, as a number of other riters argue, that one should distinguish a variety of belief-like attitudes: believing proper - a dispositional state which can have degrees - holding true - which can occur without understanding what one believes - and accepting - a practical and contextual attitude that has a role in deliberation and in practical reasoning. Acceptance itself is not a unified attitude. I explore the various relationships and (...) differences between these doxastic attitudes, and claim that although acceptance is distinct from belief, it rests upon it, and is therefore a species of belief. (shrink)
The knowledge account of assertion (KAA) is the view that assertion is governed by the norm that the speaker should know what s/he asserts. It is not the purpose of this article to examine all the criticisms nor to try to give a full defence of KAA, but only to defend it against the charge of being normatively incorrect. It has been objected that assertion is governed by other norms than knowledge, or by no norm at all. It seems to (...) me, however, that a number of these criticisms are based on a number of misunderstandings of the notion of a norm and of the way it can regulated a given practice. Once we spell out in what sense knowledge can play a normative role in this context, the KAA appears much more plausible. (shrink)
These replies to commentators on my work focus on the nature of epistemic norms, on the nature of truth and on the nature and value of knowledge. A normative account of belief and knowledge is committed to substantial and objective epistemic norms. But not everyone agrees on their form. I try here to reply to some doubts raised by my critics.
This article examines Keith Lehrer's distinction between belief and acceptance and how it differs from other accounts of belief and of the family of doxastic attitudes. I sketch a different taxonomy of doxastic attitudes. Lehrer's notion of acceptance is mostly epistemic and at the service of his account of the "loop of reason", whereas for other writers acceptance is mostly a pragmatic attitude. I argue, however, that his account of acceptance underdetermines the role that the attitude of trust plays in (...) his analysis of reason. (shrink)
This paper tries to say in what sense truth is a norm, a thesis that Donald Davidson, whose view are examined, denies. After skteching his conception of rationality, it is argued that truth is a norm in only the sense that we ought to believe what we believe is true, not that we all to believe everything which is true. This minimal norm of truth is isolated and defended.
The identity theory of truth, according to which true thoughts are identical with facts, is very hard to formulate. It oscillates between substantive versions, which are implausible, and a merely truistic version, which is difficult to distinguish from deflationism about truth. This tension is present in the form of identity theory that one can attribute to McDowell from his views on perception, and in the conception defended by Hornsby under that name.
I discuss Ruth Marcus' conception of beliefs as dispositional states related to possible states of affaires. While I agree with Marcus that this conception accounts for the necessary distinction between belief and linguistic assent, I argue that the relationship between dispositional beliefs and our assent attitudes is more complex, and should include other mental states, such as acceptances, which, although they contain voluntary elements, are further layers of dispositional doxastic attitudes.
Sosa takes epistemic normativity to be kind of performance normativity: a belief is correct because a believer sets a positive value to truth as an aim and performs aptly and adroitly. I object to this teleological picture that beliefs are not performances, and that epistemic reasons or beliefs cannot be balanced against practical reasons. Although the picture fits the nature of inquiry, it does not fit the normative nature of believing, which has to be conceived along distinct lines.
There are mental actions, and a number of epistemic attitudes involve activity. But can there be epistemic agency? I argue that there is a limit to any claim that we can be epistemic agents, which is that the structure of reasons for epistemic attitudes differs fundamentally from the structure of reasons for actions. The main differences are that we cannot act for the wrong reasons although we can believe for the wrong reasons, and that reasons for beliefs are exclusive in (...) a sense in which our reasons for actions are not. Epistemic agency is possible in the weak sense that we can be active, but not in the strong one in which we could have some elbow room for our epistemic reasons in reasoning leading to beliefs and other epistemic states. (shrink)
A commonplace in contemporary philosophy is that mental content has normative properties. A number of writers associate this view to the idea that the normativity of content is essentially connected to its social character. I agree with the first thesis, but disagree with the second. The paper examines three kinds of views according to which the norms of thought and content are social: Wittgensteinâs rule following considerations, Davidsonâs triangulation argument, and Brandomâs inferential pragmatics, and criticises each. It is argued that (...) there are objective conceptual norms constitutive of mental content, but that these are not essentially social. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn has shown that there is an analogy between the problem of moral motivation in ethics (how can moral reasons move us?) and the problem of what we might call the power of logical reasons (how can logical reasons move us, what is the force of the 'logical must?'). In this paper, I explore further the parallel between the internalism problem in ethics and the problem of the power of logical reasons, and defend a version of psychologism about reasons, (...) although not one of the Humean form. I discuss two forms of cognitivism: (i) a pure cognitivism and 'hard' realism modelled after Dancy's parallel conception in ethics: when we grasp logical reasons we grasp facts, which are directly known to us; (ii) a Kantian form of cognitivism, based on the idea that compulsion by reason goes with the capacity of reflection. I argue that (i) is implausible, and that (ii) fails to meet the internalist requirement. One would then seem to be left with what Dancy calls, about practical reasoning, psychologism about reasons. I sketch what might be such a psychologism. But it fails to account for the objectivity of logical reasons. I argue that the relevant state here is a form of dispositional knowledge of logical reasons. (shrink)
As part of the conference commemorating Theoria's 75th anniversary, a round table discussion on philosophy publishing was held in Bergendal, Sollentuna, Sweden, on 1 October 2010. Bengt Hansson was the chair, and the other participants were eight editors-in-chief of philosophy journals: Hans van Ditmarsch (Journal of Philosophical Logic), Pascal Engel (Dialectica), Sven Ove Hansson (Theoria), Vincent Hendricks (Synthese), Søren Holm (Journal of Medical Ethics), Pauline Jacobson (Linguistics and Philosophy), Anthonie Meijers (Philosophical Explorations), Henry S. Richardson (Ethics) and Hans Rott (Erkenntnis).
This paper argues that the normative dimension in mental and semantic content is not a categorical feature of content, but an hypothetical one, relative to the features of the interpretation of thoughts and meaning. The views of Robert Brandom are discussed. The thesis defended in this paper is not interpretationist about thought. It implies that the normative dimension of content arises from the real capacity of thinkers and speakers to self ascribe thoughts to themselves and to reach self knowledge of (...) their own thoughts. (shrink)
The book introduces Ramsey's main doctrines and assesses their contemporary significance. In particular, Jérôme Dokic and Pascal Engel are interested in Ramsey's thoughts on truth and belief, and his pragmatic thesis that the truth of one's beliefs guarantees the success of one's actions. From this, it is a short step to what may be called "Ramsey's principle": the content of a belief is constituted by the success of one's actions. This principle finds its current expression in the work of philosophers (...) who offer evolutionary conceptions of mental states, according to which the success conditions of a belief are constituted by its biological functions. (shrink)
Is there such a thing as free belief? This paper is not about free expression of belief or free speech. It is about freedom of belief as a mental state. In the sense in which the believer would be the cause of his or her own belief, and could believe at will, it is, for well-known reasons, impossible. Some writers, however, like McDowell, have argued, in a Kantian spirit, that obeying the norms of thought and setting oneself as a member (...) of the "space of reasons" could provide the appropriate notion of free belief. Their account is based on the idea that a reflexive believer is automatically a free believer. I argue that this is wrong. There is no appropriate notion of free belief in this sense, although this does not show that one cannot be responsible for one's belief. (shrink)
What is the relationship between logic and reasoning? How do logical norms guide inferential performance? This paper agrees with Gilbert Harman and most of the psychologists that logic is not directly relevant to reasoning. It argues, however, that the mental model theory of logical reasoning allows us to harmonise the basic principles of deductive reasoning and inferential perfomances, and that there is a strong connexion between our inferential norms and actual reasoning, along the lines of Peacocke’s conception of inferential role.
Draft as of 2001 of a book chapter a^ppeared in 2005. This paper gives an account of the belief/ acceptance distrinction applied to the issue of collective beliefs and intentionality in terms of the "doctrinal dilemma" proposed by some legal theorists.
This paper is about Ramsey's Principle, according to which a belief's truth-conditions are those that guarantee the success of an action based on that belief whatever the underlying motivating desires. Some philosophers have argued that the Principle should be rejected because it leads to the apparently implausible consequence that any failure of action is the result of some false belief on the agent's part. There is a gap between action and success that cannot be bridged by the agent's cognitive state. (...) At best, the Principle should be relativized to circumstances. We show on the contrary that when the Principle is properly understood, it does not amount to “overburdening” belief. We exploit an analogy between knowledge and action in order to show that intentional action is a source of knowledge relative to a set of beliefs whose collective truth guarantees the success of the action. It does not follow that the agent is explicitly representing all possible obstacles to her action. Most of the relevant beliefs are implicit, in the sense that if they were to be formed, they would be directly or indirectly justified by the agent's experience of acting. (shrink)
The author recalls some of the reasons why analytical philosophy has been foreign to contemporary fre philosophical tradition. Presenting some recent work by contemporary fre philosophers influenced by analytic philosophy, He shows that most of them share the view that philosophy is a kind of transcendental inquiry on the nature and limits of language, And that recent trends in analytical philosophy, Such as scientific realism and "naturalised epistemology" are not well represented in france.
In this paper I want to show that, although it is a common thread of many pragmatist or pragmatist-inspired doctrines, the belief-as-disposition-to-act theme is played on very different tunes by the various philosophical performers. A whole book could be devoted to the topic. I shall limit myself here to the views of Peirce, James, Ramsey, contemporary functionalists, and Isaac Levi. Depending on how they interpret this theme, the pragmatist philosophers can emphasise more or less the role of theory and practice (...) in their respective account of thought, truth and inquiry. When they stress the former pragmatists are what I shall call theoria-pragmatists, when they put the stress on the latter, I'll call them the praxis pragmatists. I suggest that the first variety is much more appealing than the other, and I side with the theoreticist pragmatists. (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.
Many contemporary writers (and Richard Rorty in particular) have attempted to define an "ecumenistic" position, according to which "continental" and "analytic" philosophy should join forces and work together. This has been claimed on behalf of supposed similarities between hermeneutics and interpretation theory. The author tries to show, comparing Gadamer and Davidson on interpretation, that there are, on the contrary, huge differences between these respective approaches.
This paper attempts to clarify some issues about what is usually called “doxastic voluntarism”. This phrase often hides a confusion between two separate (although connected) issues: whether beliefis or can be, as a matter of psychological fact, under the control of the will, on the one hand, and whether we can have practical reasons to believe something, or whether our beliefs are subject to any sort of “ought”, on the other hand. The first issue -- which I prefer to call (...) the issue of volitionism about belief -- is psychological, and I take the answer to be negative, along the lines of the conceptual arguments against believing at will adduced by writers such as Bernard Williams. The second issue -- which I call voluntarism proper -- is normative, and the answer that I give is a qualified yes. Belief is not a matter of the will, although there are certain things that we ought to believe. (shrink)
A number of writers have attempted, since Mach, Boltzman and the psychologists of the end of the XIXth century, to give an evolutionary account of logical norms. Husserl famously argued that this account fails, for it is circular. I examine here some recent accounts, based on evolutionary psychology and game theory, in particular those of Gibbard, Millikan and Cosmides-Tooby. I argue that they suffer for similar circularities, although an evolutionary account of the cognitive mecanisms which underlie logical norms is feasible.