Why is Epistemic Evaluation Prescriptive?

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 57 (1):97-121 (2014)
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Epistemic evaluation is often appropriately prescriptive in character because believers are often capable of exercising some kind of control—call it doxastic control—over the way in which they regulate their beliefs. An intuitively appealing and widely endorsed account of doxastic control—the immediate causal impact account—maintains that a believer exercises doxastic control when her judgments about how she ought to regulate her beliefs in a particular set of circumstances can cause the believer actually to regulate her beliefs in those circumstances as she judges she ought to. I show here that the immediate causal impact account is ultimately untenable. Nevertheless, the immediate causal impact account gets something important about the nature of doxastic control right: exercising doxastic control involves being such that one’s conception of ideal belief regulation somehow shapes the way in which one actually regulates one’s beliefs. Thus, I develop here an alternative account according to which, insofar as she exercises doxastic control, a believer’s conception of ideal belief regulation shapes the way in which she actually believes by exerting causal power directly on her dispositions to regulate her beliefs in certain ways. I defend this alternative against other competitors by showing that it can be extended to supply a unified account of rational control that explains why evaluation with respect to the various different norms of rationality that govern the way in which we form, revise and sustain not only our beliefs, but also our intention, hopes, fears, etc. is often appropriately prescriptive.



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Kate Nolfi
University of Vermont

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What we owe to each other.Thomas Scanlon - 1998 - Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Mind and World.John Henry McDowell - 1994 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Responsibility for believing.Pamela Hieronymi - 2008 - Synthese 161 (3):357-373.
Controlling attitudes.Pamela Hieronymi - 2006 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (1):45-74.
Doxastic deliberation.Nishi Shah & J. David Velleman - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (4):497-534.

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