In this paper, we propose a new theory of rationality defeat. We propose that defeaters are indicators of ignorance, evidence that we’re not in a position to know some target proposition. When the evidence that we’re not in a position to know is sufficiently strong and the probability that we can know is too low, it is not rational to believe. We think that this account retains all the virtues of the more familiar approaches that characterise defeat in terms (...) of its connection to reasons to believe or to confirmation but provides a better approach to higher-order defeat. We also think that a strength of this proposal is that it can be embedded into a larger normative framework. On our account the no-defeater condition is redundant. We can extract our theory of defeat from our theory of what makes it rational to believe—it is rational to believe when it is sufficiently probable that our belief would be knowledge. Thus, our view can provide a monistic account of defeat, one that gives a unifying explanation of the toxicity of different defeaters that is grounded in a framework that either recognises knowledge as the norm of belief or identifies knowledge as the fundamental epistemic good that full belief can realise. (shrink)
Shared decision‐making involves health professionals and patients/clients working together to achieve true person‐centred health care. However, this goal is infrequently realized, and most barriers are unknown. Discussion between philosophers, clinicians, and researchers can assist in confronting the epistemic and moral basis of health care, with benefits to all. The aim of this paper is to describe what shared decision‐making is, discuss its necessary conditions, and develop a definition that can be used in practice to support excellence in maternity care. Discussion (...) between the authors, with backgrounds in philosophy, clinical maternity care, health care management, and maternity care research, assisted the team to confront established norms in maternity care and challenge the epistemic and moral basis of decision‐making for caesarean section. The team concluded that shared decision‐making must start in pregnancy and continue throughout labour and birth, with equality in discourse facilitated by the clinician. Clinicians have a duty of care for the adequacy of women's knowledge, which can only be fulfilled when relevant knowledge is offered freely and when personal beliefs and biases that may impinge on decision‐making (defeaters) are disclosed. Informed consent is not shared decision‐making. Key barriers include existing cultural norms of “the doctor knows best” and “patient acquiescence” that prevent defeaters being acknowledged and discussed and can lead to legal challenges, overuse of medical intervention and, in some areas, obstetric violence. Shared decision‐making in maternity care can thus be defined as an enquiry by clinician and expectant woman aimed at deciding upon a course of care or none, which takes the form of a dialogue within which the clinician fulfils their duty of care to the client's knowledge by making available their complete knowledge (based on all types of evidence) and expertise, including an exposition of any relevant and recognized potential defeaters. Research to develop measurement tools is required. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to refute the widespread view that challenging a knowledge-claim always raises the original standards of justification–a view often associated with contextualism. To that purpose the distinction between undermining and overriding defeaters will be used. Three kinds of challenges will be considered that differ in their degree of specification. In all three kinds of challenges, the rising standards of justification model fails to capture the dialectic of justification in the case of undermining defeaters. (...) At the end, the skeptical challenge will more briefly be given a similar analysis. (shrink)
There is widespread consensus that there are undercutting and rebutting defeaters that diminish or destroy the warrant of a belief B. I argue that there are counterparts of defeaters: the counterparts of undercutting defeaters are “requirement fulfillment beliefs”, the counterparts of rebutting defeaters are “consistency beliefs”. These beliefs confirm the warrant of B, I therefore call them “confirmers”.
This paper situates the problem of defeaters in a larger debate about the source of normative authority. It argues in favour of a constructivist account of defeasibility, which appeals to the justificatory role of moral principles. The argument builds upon the critique of two recent attempts to deal with defeasibility: first, a particularist account, which disposes of moral principles on the ground that reasons are holistic; and second, a proceduralist view, which addresses the problem of defeaters by distinguishing (...) between provisional and strictly universal principles. The particularist view fails to establish that moral principles have no epistemological import, but it raises important questions about their role in practical reasoning. The proceduralist view fails to distinguish between reasoning by default and reasoning by principles, but it shows that moral principles have a structural justificatory role. The constructivist view recognizes that the moral valence of normative claims vary across contexts, but denies that this is because of holism about reasons. Rather, it defends defeasibility within a constructivist account of reasoning where universality serves as the matrix of judgment. The constructivist view vindicates the justificatory role of universal moral principles, and makes room for some ordinary sources of defeasibility. (shrink)
I argue elsewhere (Roche 2014) that evidence of evidence is evidence under screening-off. Tal and Comesaña (2017) argue that my appeal to screening-off is subject to two objections. They then propose an evidence of evidence thesis involving the notion of a defeater. There is much to learn from their very careful discussion. I argue, though, that their objections fail and that their evidence of evidence thesis is open to counterexample.
Internalists tend to impose on justification higher-level requirements, according to which a belief is justified only if the subject has a higher-level belief (i.e., a belief about the epistemic credentials of a belief). I offer an error theory that explains the appeal of this requirement: analytically, a belief is not justified if we have a defeater for it, but contingently, it is often the case that to avoid having defeaters, our beliefs must satisfy a higher-level requirement. I respond to (...) the objection that externalists who endorse this error theory will be forced to accept a radical form of scepticism. (shrink)
Justification depends on context: even if E on its own justifies H, still it might fail to justify in the context of D. This sort of effect, epistemologists think, is due to defeaters, which undermine or rebut a would-be justifier. I argue that there is another fundamental sort of contextual feature, disqualification, which doesn't involve rebuttal or undercutting, and which cannot be reduced to any notion of screening-off. A disqualifier makes some would-be justifier otiose, as direct testimony sometimes does (...) to distal testimony, and as manifestly decisive evidence might do to gratuitous evidence on the same team. Basing a belief on disqualified evidence, moreover, is distinctively irrational. One is not necessarily irresponsible. Instead one is turning down a free upgrade to a sleeker, stabler basis for one's beliefs. Such an upgrade would prevent wastes of epistemic effort, since someone who bases her belief on a disqualified proposition E will need to remember E and rethink her belief should E ever be defeated. The upgrade might also reduce reliance on unwieldy evidence, if E is relevant only thanks to some labyrinthine argument; and if even ideal agents should doubt their ability to follow such arguments, even they should care about disqualifiers. (shrink)
In this paper we discuss the ``admissibility troubles'' for Bayesian accounts of direct inference proposed in, which concern the existence of surprising, unintuitive defeaters even for mundane cases of direct inference. We first show that one could reasonably suspect that the source of these troubles was informal talk about higher-order probabilities: for cardinality-related reasons, classical probability spaces abound in defeaters for direct inference. We proceed to discuss the issues in the context of the rigorous framework of Higher Probability (...) Spaces. However, we show that the issues persist; we prove a few facts which pertain both to classical probability spaces and to HOPs, in our opinion capturing the essence of the problem. In effect we strengthen the message from the admissibility troubles: they arise not only for approaches using classical probability spaces---which are thus necessarily informal about metaprobabilistic phenomena like agents having credences in propositions about chances---but also for at least one respectable framework specifically tailored for rigorous discussion of higher-order probabilities. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently claimed that unjustified beliefs can be defeaters. However these claims have been made in passing, occurring in the context of defenses of other theses. As a result, the claim that unjustified beliefs can be defeaters has been neither vigorously defended nor thoroughly explained. This paper fills that gap. It begins by identifying problems with the two most in-depth accounts of the possibility of unjustified defeaters due to Bergmann and Pryor. It then (...) offers a revised version of Pryor’s account. On this proposal, an unjustified belief can be a defeater if it is rational, all things considered. If a belief is rational, all things considered, it can require one to abandon other beliefs with which it conflicts—even if it is unjustified. Finally, this paper shows that the proposed account of unjustified defeaters is one that can and should be embraced by leading accounts of justified belief as diverse as reliabilism and evidentialism. (shrink)
It is widely assumed that justification is defeasible, e.g. that under certain conditions counterevidence removes prior justification of beliefs. In this paper I will first (sect. 1) explain why this feature of justification poses a prima facie problem for reliabilism. I then will try out different reliabilist strategies to deal with the problem. Among them I will discuss conservative strategies (sect. 2), eliminativist stragies (sect. 3) and revisionist strategies (sect. 4). In the final section I will present an improved revisionist (...) approach to defeaters that is able to overcome the main shortcomings of the other approaches. (shrink)
Scott Sturgeon has recently challenged Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters. The challenge involves three primary contentions: the account is both too strong and too weak, undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat only in conjunction with higher-order beliefs about the basis of the lower-order beliefs whose justification they target, and since rebutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat in isolation, rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways. My goal is to reject each of these (...) contentions. I maintain that Sturgeon fails to show that Pollock’s account of undercutting defeaters is either too strong or too weak, his own account of how undercutting defeaters exercise their power to defeat is both too strong and too weak, and his claim that rebutting and undercutting defeaters work in fundamentally different ways is mistaken. (shrink)
Foundationalism in moral epistemology is a core tenet of ethical intuitionism. According to foundationalism, some moral beliefs can be known without inferential justification; instead, all that is required is a proper understanding of the beliefs in question. In an influential criticism against this view, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has argued that certain psychological facts undermine the reliability of moral intuitions. He claims that foundationalists would have to show that non-inferentially justified beliefs are not subject to those defeaters, but this would already (...) constitute a form of inference and hence undermine the possibility of noninferential justification. The goal of my paper is to defend foundationalism against Sinnott-Armstrong’s criticism. After presenting his challenge, I first argue that the most promising objection to it fails. This objection makes the case that defeater-defeaters are not part of the justification, but merely preserve the justification which the original claim provides. I object to this argument by distinguishing between weak and robust defeaters; only weak defeaters, I argue, fall outside the scope of justification, and it is an open question whether Sinnott-Armstrong’s defeaters fall into that category. This leads the way to my own criticism of Sinnott-Armstrong’s challenge: foundationalists in moral epistemology are entitled to the use of defeater-defeaters as part of the justification for moral beliefs as long as those defeater-defeaters themselves do not entail moral claims. Therefore, Sinnott-Armstrong’s challenge does not undermine foundationalism. (shrink)
I critically examine two features of Plantinga’s Reformed Epistemology. (i) If basic theistic beliefs are threatened by defeaters (of various kinds) and thus must be defended by higher-order defeaters in order to remain rational and warranted, are they still “properly basic”? (ii) Does Plantinga’s overall account offer an argument that basic theistic beliefs actually are warranted? I answer both questions in the negative.
Two notions from philosophical logic and linguistics are brought together and applied to the psychological study of defeasible conditional reasoning. The distinction between disabling conditions and alternative causes is shown to be a special case of Pollock's (1987) distinction between 'rebutting' and 'undercutting' defeaters. 'Inferential' conditionals are shown to come in two varieties, one that is sensitive to rebutters, the other to undercutters. It is thus predicted and demonstrated in two experiments that the type of inferential conditional used as (...) the major premise of conditional arguments can reverse the heretofore classic, distinctive effects of defeaters. (shrink)
Two notions from philosophical logic and linguistics are brought together and applied to the psychological study of defeasible conditional reasoning. The distinction between disabling conditions and alternative causes is shown to be a special case of Pollock’s (1987) distinction between ‘rebutting’ and ‘undercutting’ defeaters. ‘Inferential’ conditionals are shown to come in two varieties, one that is sensitive to rebutters, the other to undercutters. It is thus predicted and demonstrated in two experiments that the type of inferential conditional used as (...) the major premise of conditional arguments can reverse the heretofore classic, distinctive effects of defeaters. (shrink)
In this paper we dispel the supposed ``admissibility troubles'' for Bayesian accounts of direct inference proposed by Wallmann and Hawthorne, which concern the existence of surprising, unintuitive defeaters even for mundane cases of direct inference. We show that if one follows the majority of authors in the field in using classical probability spaces unimbued with any additional structure, one should expect similar phenomena to arise and should consider them unproblematic in themselves: defeaters abound! We then show that the (...) framework of Higher Probability Spaces allows the natural modelling of the discussed cases which produces no troubles of this kind. (shrink)
Two notions from philosophical logic and linguistics are brought together and applied to the psychological study of defeasible conditional reasoning. The distinction between disabling conditions and alternative causes is shown to be a special case of Pollock's (1987) distinction between ‘rebutting' and ‘undercutting' defeaters. ‘Inferential' conditionals are shown to come in two types, one that is sensitive to rebutters, the other to undercutters. It is thus predicted and demonstrated in two experiments that the type of inferential conditional used as (...) the major premise of conditional arguments can reverse the heretofore classic, distinctive effects of defeaters. (shrink)
This paper situates the problem of defeaters in a larger debate about the source of normative authority. It argues in favour of a constructivist account of defeasibility, which appeals to the justificatory role of normative principles. The argument builds upon the critique of two recent attempts to deal with defeasibility: first, a particularist account, which disposes of moral principles on the ground that reasons are holistic; and second, a proceduralist view, which addresses the problem of defeaters by distinguishing (...) between provisional and strictly universal principles. The particularist view fails to establish that moral principles have no epistemological import, but it raises important questions about their role in practical reasoning. The proceduralist view fails to distinguish between reasoning by default and reasoning by principles, but it shows that normative principles have a structural justificatory role. The constructivist view recognizes that the moral valence of normative claims vary across contexts, but denies that this is because of holism about reasons. Rather, it defends defeasibility within a constructivist account of reasoning where universality serves as the matrix of judgment. The constructivist view vindicates the justificatory role of universal normative principles, and makes room for some ordinary sources of defeasibility, which are left unaccounted by competing views, and which depend on the agent’s own progress. (shrink)
Pre-natal genetic enhancement affords us unprecedented capacity to shape our skills, talents, appearance and perhaps subsequently the quality of our lives in terms of overall happiness, success and wellbeing. Despite its powerful appeal, some have raised important and equally persuasive concerns against genetic enhancement. Sandel has argued that compassion and humility, themselves grounded in the unpredictability of talents and skills, would be lost. Habermas has argued that genetically altered individuals will see their lives as dictated by their parents’ design and (...) therefore will not acquire an appropriate self-understanding. How should we view enhancement efforts in light of these concerns? I propose that we begin by adopting a defeasibility stance. That is, I ask whether our belief that genetic enhancements serve in the best interests of the child is reason to genetically enhance, underscoring a sort of epistemic vulnerability. I utilize the epistemological notions of defeasible reasons, undercutting and overriding defeaters in order to better understand and systematically evaluate the force of such concerns. I argue that close examination of both objections using this framework shows that we have reason to enhance, a reason that is defeasible but as yet, undefeated. (shrink)
Can known disagreement with our epistemic peers undermine or defeat the justification our beliefs enjoy? Much of the current literature argues for one of two extreme positions on this topic, either that the justification of each person's belief is (fully) defeated by the awareness of disagreement, or that no belief is defeated by this awareness. I steer a middle course and defend a principle describing when a disagreement yields a partial defeater, which results in a loss of some, but not (...) all, of the justification of a belief. I show that the 'no defeater' view is too strong. I also offer reasons for thinking that the 'full defeater' view is similarly mistaken. (shrink)
The post-Gettier literature contained many views that tried to solve the Gettier problem by appealing to the notion of defeat. Unfortunately, all of these views are false. The failure of these views greatly contributed to a general distrust of reasons in epistemology. However, reasons are making a comeback in epistemology, both in general and in the context of the Gettier problem. There are two main aims of this paper. First, I will argue against a natural defeat based resolution of the (...) Gettier problem. Second, I will defend my own defeat based solution. This solution appeals to a modal anti-luck condition. I will argue that this condition captures anti-luck intuitions and has virtues that rival modal anti-luck conditions lack. (shrink)
People may disagree about moral issues because they have fundamentally different intuitions. I argue that we ought to suspend judgement in such cases. Since we trust our own moral intuitions without positive evidence of their reliability, we must necessarily extend this trust to the moral intuitions of others: a fundamental self-other asymmetry in moral epistemology is untenable. This ensures that disagreements in moral intuition are defeating. In addition, I argue that brute conflicts in moral intuition require suspension of judgement only (...) if we are required to exhibit this kind of default trust with respect to the moral intuitions of others. (shrink)
Like David Silver before them, Erik Baldwin and Michael Thune argue that the facts of religious pluralism present an insurmountable challenge to the rationality of basic exclusive religious belief as construed by Reformed Epistemology. I will show that their argument is unsuccessful. First, their claim that the facts of religious pluralism make it necessary for the religious exclusivist to support her exclusive beliefs with significant reasons is one that the reformed epistemologist has the resources to reject. Secondly, they fail to (...) demonstrate that it is impossible for basic religious beliefs to return to their properly basic state after defeaters against them have been defeated. Finally, I consider whether there is perhaps a similar but better argument in the neighbourhood and conclude in the negative. Reformed Epistemology's defence of exclusivism thus remains undefeated. (shrink)
This paper offers a detailed criticism of different versions of modal scepticism proposed by Van Inwagen and Hawke, and, against these views, attempts to vindicate our reliance on thought experiments in philosophy. More than one different meaning of “ modal scepticism” will be distinguished. Focusing mainly on Hawke’s more detailed view I argue that none of these versions of modal scepticism is compelling, since sceptical conclusions depend on an untenable and, perhaps, incoherent modal epistemology. With a detailed account of modal (...)defeaters at hand I argue that Van Inwagen and Hawke’s scepticism is either groundless, or it leads to boundless and unacceptable modal scepticism. Additionally, I show that Hawke’s conception of analogical modal reasoning is problematic. Either his principle of similarity is arbitrary or it begs the question about modal scepticism. In contrast to Hawke’s restricted view of analogical modal reasoning, I present two examples of analogy-based modal justification of philosophically relevant possibility claims. My criticism of modal scepticism also shows that there is no good reason to insist on a sharp distinction between an unproblematic and a presumably dubious kind of modality. The upshot is that in absence of proper defeaters both Yablo-style conceivability and properly applied analogical reasoning are reliable guides to possibility, and also that modal justification comes in degrees. The proposed framework of defeaters of modal justification as well as the analysed examples of analogical modal reasoning trace out interesting new areas for further discussions. (shrink)
In the standard thought experiments, dualism strikes many philosophers as true, including many non-dualists. This ‘striking’ generates prima facie justification: in the absence of defeaters, we ought to believe that things are as they seem to be, i.e. we ought to be dualists. In this paper, I examine several proposed undercutting defeaters for our dualist intuitions. I argue that each proposal fails, since each rests on a false assumption, or requires empirical evidence that it lacks, or overgenerates (...) class='Hi'>defeaters. By the end, our prima facie justification for dualism remains undefeated. I close with one objection concerning the dialectical role of rebutting defeaters, and I argue that the prospects for a successful rebutting defeater for our dualist intuitions are dim. Since dualism emerges undefeated, we ought to believe it. (shrink)
Higher‐order evidence can make an agent doubt the reliability of her reasoning. When this happens, it seems rational for the agent to adopt a cautious attitude towards her original conclusion, even in cases where the higher‐order evidence is misleading and the agent's original reasons were actually perfectly good. One may think that recoiling to a cautious attitude in the face of misleading self‐doubt involves a failure to properly respond to one's reasons. My aim is to show that this is not (...) so. My proposal is that (misleading) higher‐order evidence can undermine the agent's possession of her first‐order reasons, constituting what I call a dispossessing defeater. After acquiring the higher‐order evidence, the agent is no longer in a position to rely competently on the relevant first‐order considerations as reasons for her original conclusion, so that such reasons stop being available to her (even if they remain as strong as in the absence of the higher‐order evidence). In this way, an agent with misleading higher‐order evidence can adopt a cautious stance towards her original conclusion, while properly responding to the set of reasons that she possesses–a set that is reduced due to the acquisition of higher‐order dispossessing defeaters. (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)
This is a survey article about epistemic defeaters: what is defeated, how defeaters work, different kinds of defeaters, indefeasibility and how defeaters fit into epistemic internalism and externalism.
Phenomenal conservatism is a popular theory of epistemic justification. Despite its popularity and the fact that some think that phenomenal conservatism can provide a complete account of justification, it faces several challenges. Among these challenges are the need to provide accounts of defeaters and inferential justification. Fortunately, there is hope for phenomenal conservatism. Explanationism, the view on which justification is a matter of explanatory considerations, can help phenomenal conservatism with both of these challenges. The resulting view is one that (...) respects the internalist character of phenomenal conservatism and its motivating intuitions while providing an intuitive and elegant account of both inferential justification and the justificatory impact of defeaters. (shrink)
Thomas Reed argues that the Christian, if apprised of Plantinga's central claims in Warranted Christian Belief, should be agnostic regarding Christianity's central tenets. Reed models his argument on Plantinga's own argument against naturalism, according to which naturalists have a built-in defeater for their epistemology. Reed bases his argument on the contention that if Christian theism cannot be shown or demonstrated, rational Christians should refrain from believing. Not only does Reed's contention not follow, but he confuses logically possible defeaters with (...) actual defeaters and ignores Plantinga's claims regarding the Aquinas/Calvin model and the proper basicality of belief in God. (shrink)
I argue that one’s views about which “metaphysical laws” obtain—including laws about what is identical with what, about what is reducible to what, and about what grounds what—can be used to deflect or neutralize the threat posed by a debunking explanation. I use a well-known debunking argument in the metaphysics of material objects as a case study. Then, after defending the proposed strategy from the charge of question-begging, I close by showing how the proposed strategy can be used by certain (...) moral realists to resist the evolutionary debunking arguments. (shrink)
Does rationality require logical omniscience? Our best formal theories of rationality imply that it does, but our ordinary evaluations of rationality seem to suggest otherwise. This paper aims to resolve the tension by arguing that our ordinary evaluations of rationality are not only consistent with the thesis that rationality requires logical omniscience, but also provide a compelling rationale for accepting this thesis in the first place. This paper also defends an account of apriori justification for logical beliefs that is designed (...) to explain the rational requirement of logical omniscience. On this account, apriori justification for beliefs about logic has its source in logical facts, rather than psychological facts about experience, reasoning, or understanding. This account has important consequences for the epistemic role of experience in the logical domain. In a slogan, the epistemic role of experience in the apriori domain is not a justifying role, but rather an enabling and disabling role. (shrink)