45 (2):239-268 (2010
A moral-pragmatic argument for a proposition is an argument intended to establish that believing the proposition would be morally beneficial. Since such arguments do not adduce epistemic reasons, i.e., reasons that support the truth of a proposition, they can seem at best to be irrelevant epistemically. At worst, believing on the basis of such reasoning can seem to involve wishful thinking and intellectual dishonesty of a sort that that precludes such beliefs from being epistemically unjustified. Inspired by an argument from William James’ classic, “The Will to Believe”, I argue that there is a way of making sense of moral-pragmatic arguments such that they are epistemically relevant. I develop and argue for a theory of epistemic justification that I dub the “moral encroachment theory” (emphasizing its connection to recent pragmatic encroachment views). According to the theory, moral considerations can raise or lower epistemic standards from where they would be in morally neutral settings. The moral encroachment theory, I contend, denotes a normative property that is at once distinctively epistemic and valuable. The theory also allows a legitimate role for moral-pragmatic reasoning under certain conditions. The upshot is that moral-pragmatic reasoning can be epistemically as well as morally appropriate.