In this paper I argue against the stronger of the two views concerning the right and wrong kind of reasons for belief, i.e. the view that the only genuine normative reasons for belief are evidential. The project in this paper is primarily negative, but with an ultimately positive aim. That aim is to leave room for the possibility that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. Work is required to make room for this view, because evidentialism of a strict variety (...) remains the default view in much of the debate concerning normative reasons for belief. Strict versions of evidentialism are inconsistent with the view that there are genuine pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can give a plausible account of how to compare pragmatic and evidential normative reasons for belief. The account I offer is given in the form of a ‘defeasing function’. This function allows for a sophisticated comparison of the two types of reasons without assigning complex features to the logical structures of either type of reason.
This paper argues that both a limited doxastic voluntarism and anti-evidentialism are consistent with the views that the aim of belief is truth or knowledge and that this aim plays an important role in norm-setting for beliefs. More cautiously, it argues that limited doxastic voluntarism is (or would be) a useful capacity for agents concerned with truth tracking to possess, and that having it would confer some straightforward benefits of both an epistemic and non-epistemic variety to an agent concerned with (...) truth tracking. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the enkratic principle in its classic formulation may not be a requirement of rationality. The investigation of whether it is leads to some important methodological insights into the study of rationality. I also consider the possibility that we should consider rational requirements as a subset of a broader category of agential requirements.
An important advance in normativity research over the last decade is an increased understanding of the distinction, and difference, between normativity and rationality. Normativity concerns or picks out a broad set of concepts that have in common that they are, put loosely, guiding. For example, consider two commonly used normative concepts: that of a normative reason and that of ought. To have a normative reason to perform some action is for there to be something that counts in favour of performing (...) that action. Likewise with ought, when there is sufficient evidence for something, one ought to believe it (at least under normal circumstances). Not all guidance need be directed towards a specific state or a specific action. Subject to the requirements of normativity, too, are relations. It is commonly believed, for example, that we ought not to hold contradictory beliefs.1 At least some of the requirements that concern relations amongst an agent’s mental states are, or seem, distinctive. Agents who fail to satisfy these requirements are considered, at least to some degree, irrational. On many current views, being irrational is distinct in some way from not being how one ought to be; rationality is a concept distinct from normativity. Much of the literature on this topic over the last decade stems from attempts to capture the characteristic features of the requirements of rationality. Two influential views in particular did much to set the agenda. The first of these two was put forward John Broome.2 His view, the particulars of which I shall discuss in more detail below, is that the requirements of rationality could be expressed using a normative relation, which he calls a ‘normative requirement’. Normative requirements are conditionals governed by an all-thingsconsidered ought. In the case of rationality, the conditional is made up entirely of mental states.. (shrink)
This paper shows that strict evidentialism about normative reasons for belief is inconsistent with taking truth to be the source of normative reasons for belief. It does so by showing that there are circumstances in which one can know what truth requires one to believe, yet still lack evidence for the contents of that belief.
Philosophers interested in the fitting attitude analysis of final value have devoted a great deal of attention to the wrong kind of reasons problem. This paper offers an example of the reverse difficulty, the wrong kind of value problem. This problem creates deeper challenges for the fitting attitude analysis and provides independent grounds for rejecting it, or at least for doubting seriously its correctness.
In tradition linked to Aristotle and Kant, many contemporary philosophers treat practical and theoretical normativity as two genuinely distinct domains of normativity. In this paper I consider the question of what it is for normative domains to be distinct. I suggest that there are two different ways that the distinctness thesis might be understood and consider the different implications of the two different distinctness theses.
Philosophers have long been concerned about what we know and how we know it. Increasingly, however, a related question has gained prominence in philosophical discussion: what should we believe and why? This volume brings together twelve new essays that address different aspects of this question. The essays examine foundational questions about reasons for belief, and use new research on reasons for belief to address traditional epistemological concerns such as knowledge, justification and perceptually acquired beliefs. This book will be of interest (...) to philosophers working on epistemology, theoretical reason, rationality, perception and ethics. It will also be of interest to cognitive scientists and psychologists who wish to gain deeper insight into normative questions about belief and knowledge. (shrink)
This paper considers the relation between the sources of normativity, reasons, and normative conflicts. It argues that common views about how normative reasons relate to their sources have important consequences for how we can understand putative normative conflicts.
This paper looks at the question of what form the requirements of practical rationality take. One common view is that the requirements of rationality are wide-scope, and another is that they are narrow-scope. I argue that the resolution to the question of wide-scope versus narrow-scope depends to a significant degree on what one expects a theory of rationality to do. In examining these expectations, I consider whether there might be a way to unify requirements of both forms into a single (...) theory of rationality, and what the difficulties involved in doing so can teach us about the foundations of practical rationality. (shrink)
There are many uses in English of the word “ought” (see Ought). This essay concerns the normative uses and the concepts or properties denoted thereby. In particular, it concerns two nonfinal oughts commonly used in the philosophical literature: prima facie oughts and pro tanto oughts.
The Projectability Challenge states that a metaethical view must explain how ordinary agents can, on the basis of moral experience and reflection, accurately and justifiably apply moral concepts to novel situations. In this paper, we argue for two primary claims. First, paradigm nonnaturalism can satisfactorily answer the projectability challenge. Second, it is unclear whether there is a version of moral naturalism that can satisfactorily answer the challenge. The conclusion we draw is that there is an important respect in which nonnaturalism (...) holds an advantage over its most prominent naturalist rivals. The conclusion is interesting if only because it is widely assumed that naturalism has an easier time handling thorny problems in moral epistemology. We argue that there is at least one such problem of which this assumption is not true. (shrink)
In this paper I introduce an objection to normative evidentialism about reasons for belief. The objection arises from difficulties that evidentialism has with explaining our reasons for belief in unstable belief contexts with a single fixed point. I consider what other kinds of reasons for belief are relevant in such cases.
In this paper it is argued that the buck-passing analysis (BPA) of final value is not a plausible analysis of value and should be abandoned. While considering the influential wrong kind of reason problem and other more recent technical objections, this paper contends that there are broader reasons for giving up on buck-passing. It is argued that the BPA, even if it can respond to the various technical objections, is not an attractive analysis of final value. It is not attractive (...) for two reasons: the first being that the BPA lacks the features typical of successful conceptual analyses and the second being that it is unable to deliver on the advantages that its proponents claim for it. While not offering a knock-down technical refutation of the BPA, this paper aims to show that there is little reason to think that the BPA is correct, and that it should therefore be given up as an analysis of final value. (shrink)
This entry discusses the notion of a unit of normativity. This notion may be understood in two distinct ways. One way to understand a unit of normativity is as some particular type of assignment of normative status, e.g., a requirement, an ought, a reason, or a permission. A second way to understand a unit of normativity is as a measure of a quantity of normativity, perhaps associated with the numerical assignment given to the strength of reasons. This entry outlines some (...) basic differences among units of normativity in the first sense, noting that they vary slightly depending on whether one is talking about normativity in a more general or more robust sense. This entry also discusses in more detail the question of whether there might be a unit of normativity in the second sense. It discusses the relevant metaphysical questions. It also provides an explanation of why reasons can be assigned numerical strengths, even if there are no units of normativity in the sense of measurements of quantities of normativity. (shrink)
This chapter addresses an ambiguity in some of the literature on rational peer disagreement about the use of the term 'rational'. In the literature 'rational' is used to describe a variety of normative statuses related to reasons, justification, and reasoning. This chapter focuses most closely on the upshot of peer disagreement for what is rationally required of parties to a peer disagreement. This follows recent work in theoretical reason which treats rationality as a system of requirements among an agent's mental (...) states. It is argued that peer disagreement has either no, or a very limited, affect on what rationality requires of an agent in a given circumstance. This is in part because of difficulties generated by a novel example of evidence of evidence of p being evidence against p. This example calls into question the mechanisms whereby peer disagreement might affect what is rationally required of an agent. The chapter also reevaluates the importance of actual peer disagreement against the backdrop of prior expectations about whether disagreement is believed to be likely, arguing that peer disagreement is most likely to change what is rationally required of an agent when it is believed to be unlikely. (shrink)
The thesis contains my early work arguing against evidentialism for reasons for belief (chapter 1), my early argument that rationality is not normative (chapter 2), an argument that rationality is not responding reasons, at least understood in one way (chapter 2), a general discussion of how normative conflicts might (appear to) arise in many different ways (chapter 3), a discussion of how to weigh pragmatic and evidential reasons for belief (chapter 4), and a discussion of the general structure of normativity (...) and its ramifications for understanding putative normative conflicts (chapter 4). At a more general level, the thesis aims to explore how putative normative conflicts might arise and whether they are genuine conflicts or only apparent. It also offers a defence of the view that there are genuine state-given reasons for propositional attitudes, including pragmatic reasons for belief. (shrink)
In this chapter we discuss some of the central ethical issues specific to eating and harvesting fish. We survey recent research on fish intelligence and cognition and discuss possible considerations that are distinctive to questions about the ethics of eating fish as opposed to terrestrial and avian mammals. We conclude that those features that are distinctive to the harvesting and consumption of fish, including means of capture and the central role that fishing plays in many communities, do not suggest that (...) eating fish is less morally problematic than eating terrestrial of avian animals. (shrink)
This paper offers a sketch of welfarist pluralism, a view that is intended to resolve a difficulty for non-derivative pluralists about normative reasons for belief. Welfarist pluralism is the view that all reasons for belief are rooted in wellbeing, and that wellbeing has as one of its components being in a positive epistemic state. The paper explores how this view can explain various pluralist intuitions and why it offers a plausible basis for combinatorial pluralists who believe that alethic and pragmatic (...) reasons for belief combine to determine what one ought to believe. The paper also considers the relationship between theoretical rationality and wellbeing, and provides a partial argument for the derivative normativity of at least some requirements of theoretical rationality. (shrink)
According to moral testimony pessimists, the testimony of moral experts does not provide non-experts with normative reasons for belief. Moral testimony optimists hold that it does. We first aim to show that moral testimony optimism is, to the extent such things may be shown, the more natural view about moral testimony. Speaking roughly, the supposed discontinuity between the norms of moral beliefs and the norms of non-moral beliefs, on careful reflection, lacks the intuitive advantage that it is sometimes supposed to (...) have. Our second aim is to highlight the difference in the nature of the pragmatic reasons for belief that support moral testimony optimism and moral testimony pessimism, setting out more clearly the nature and magnitude of the challenge for the pessimist. (shrink)
John Broome has made major contributions to, and radical innovations in, contemporary moral philosophy. His research combines the formal method of economics with the philosophical analysis. Broome's works stretch over formal axiology, decision theory, philosophy of economics, population axiology, the value of life, the ethics of climate change, the nature of rationality, and practical and theoretical reasoning. Weighing and Reasoning brings together fifteen original essays from leading philosophers who have been influenced by the work and thought of John Broome.They explore (...) Broome's works on the theory of value, and his works on practical and theoretical reasoning. This volume also includes Broome's note on his intellectual history to date. (shrink)
This chapter explores two kinds of testimonial trust, what we call ‘evidential trust’ and ‘non-evidential trust’ with the aim of asking how testimonial trust could provide epistemic reasons for belief. We argue that neither evidential nor non-evidential trust can play a distinctive role in providing evidential reasons for belief, but we tentatively propose that non-evidential trust can in some circumstances provide a novel kind of epistemic reason for belief, a reason of epistemic facilitation. The chapter begins with an extensive discussion (...) of standard accounts of both kinds of trust and criticises especially the standard accounts of non-evidential trust. A new account of non-evidential trust is offered that avoids a number of difficulties that plague the standard accounts by rejecting what we call ‘attitude-liability assumptions’. (shrink)
This chapter sets out a theory of how to weigh alethic and pragmatic (non-alethic) reasons for belief, or more precisely, to say how alethic and non-alethic considerations jointly determine what one ought to believe. It replaces my earlier (2008) weighing account. It is part of _The true and the good: a new theory of theoretical reason_, which develops a view, welfarist pluralism, which comprises central two theses. One is that there are both irreducibly alethic or epistemic reasons for belief and (...) irreducibly pragmatic (and non-alethic) reasons for belief. The other is that despite this, the source of all normativity is pragmatic in a particular way, i.e. that all reasons are reasons in virtue of their being conducive to wellbeing. The pluralist theory of reasons emerges from the irreducibly plural nature of the components of wellbeing, on of which is being in a positively-valenced epistemic state. This view also offers some insight into outstanding problems concerning the scope, chronicity, and normativity of the requirements of theoretical rationality as well. (Updated 10 May 2022). (shrink)
As Dworkin puts it: moral scepticism is a moral view. This is in contrast to the more popular idea that the real challenge for moral realism is external scepticism, scepticism which arises because of non-moral considerations about the metaphysics of morality. I, too, do not concur with Dworkin’s strongest conclusions about the viability of external scepticism. But, I think his criticism of error scepticism offers a much needed corrective to more traditional metaethical projects. My aim in this paper is to (...) split the difference between Dworkin’s view and more traditional views, concluding that Dworkin’s work in Justice for Hedgehogs contributes to metaethics for everyone. (shrink)
One way to approach the question of whether there are non-derivative partial reasons of any kind is to give an account of what partial reasons are, and then to consider whether there are such reasons. If there are, then it is at least possible that there are partial reasons of friendship. It is this approach that will be taken here, and it produces several interesting results. The first is a point about the structure of partial reasons. It is at least (...) a necessary condition of a reason’s being partial that it has an explicit relational component. This component, technically, is a rela- tum in the reason relation that itself is a relation between the person to whom the reason applies and the person whom the action for which there is a reason concerns. The second conclusion of the paper is that this relational component is also required for a number of types of putatively impartial reasons. In order to avoid trivialising the distinction between partial and impartial rea- sons, some further sufficient condition must be applied. Finally, there is some prospect for a way of distinguishing between impartial reasons that contain a relational component and partial rea- sons, but that this approach suggests that the question of whether ethics is partial or impartial will be settled at the level of normative ethical discourse, or at least not at the level of discourse about the nature of reasons for action. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that the use of survey data or intuitions about single person cases as a dialectically neutral data point for favouring telic egalitarianism over prioritarianism has dim prospects for success. We take as a case study Otsuka and Voorhoeve (2009)'s now well known paper and show that it either is either argumentatively irrelevant or question-begging, depending on whether the survey data about people's judgements concerning single-person cases is interpreted as being prudential or moral in character. We (...) suggest that this problem is likely to generalise to other ways of trying to use intuitions or survey data about single-person cases, where those data or intuitions are not just treated as further direct moral intuitions about prioritarianism and telic egalitarianism. (shrink)
[Please note, this paper has been for the most part superseded by 'Unifying the Requirements of Rationality'] In the last decade, it has become commonplace among people who work on reasons (although not uncontroversially so) to distinguish between normativity and rationality. Work by John Broome, Niko Kolodny, Derek Parfit, and Nicholas Shackel has helped to establish the view that rationality is conceptually distinct from reasons. The distinction allows us to make sense of the questions recently addressed by Broome, Kolodny, Reisner, (...) and Shackel: is rationality normative, and if so, in what way? Kolodny’s ‘Why be Rational?’ answered the first of these questions by claiming that there is no reason to be rational. In order to argue for this conclusion, Kolodny argues for a process account of rationality. Kolodny’s view is that rational requirements govern mental processes. His view is set in direct contrast to Broome’s, who holds that rational requirements are primarily, and perhaps exclusively, concerned with relations among mental states at a time. (shrink)
This is chapter 5 of the book project _The true and the good: a new theory of theoretical reason_, in which I explore the claim that both alethic and pragmatic reasons for belief are basic, but that they share a pragmatic foundation in a pluralist theory of wellbeing in which being in a positive epistemic state is a non-derivative component of wellbeing. This chapter argues that all three of fittingness first, reasons first, and value first views are false. It does (...) so by showing that fittingness and reasons both have unalike variance conditions with respect to value, i.e. that sometimes the value of something can switch from good to bad or bad to good without there being any change in whether it is fitting to favour it or whether there are reason to favour it. This is a form of an argument from under-generation following on earlier work by Krister Bykvist and Andrew Reisner, respectively. It is also more tentatively that reasons cannot be analysed in terms of correctness. Because the the arguments in this paper concern the extensional adequacy of the various bi-conditionals linking fittingness, reasons, and value, they suffice for rejecting even modest versions of '-first' views that do not purport to provide analyses, but rather only sets of correctness conditions for, e.g., reasons and value in terms of fittingness, or any two in terms of the third. (Updated 10 May 2022). (shrink)
This is the latest draft of chapter 1 of _The true and the good: a new theory of theoretical reason_. It outlines the view that is the focus of the book: Welfarist Pluralism. Welfarist pluralism is the view that all normative reasons for belief are grounded in wellbeing and that being in a positive epistemic state is one of the components of wellbeing. This chapter explains how one can develop a principled version of non-derivative pluralism about normative reasons for belief (...) while still accepting that theoretical reason has a single, unified pragmatic foundation. Updated 10 May 2022. (shrink)
One way to approach the question of whether there are non-derivative partial reasons of any kind is to give an account of what partial reasons are, and then to consider whether there are such reasons. If there are, then it is at least possible that there are partial reasons of friendship. It is this approach that will be taken here, and it produces several interesting results. The first is a point about the structure of partial reasons. It is at least (...) a necessary condition of a reason’s being partial that it has an explicit relational component. This component, technically, is a relatum in the reason relation that itself is a relation between the person to whom the reason applies and the person whom the action for which there is a reason concerns. The second conclusion of the paper is that this relational component is also required for a number of types of putatively impartial reasons. In order to avoid trivialising the distinction between partial and impartial reasons, some further sufficient condition must be applied. Finally, there is some prospect for a way of distinguishing between impartial reasons that contain a relational component and partial reasons, but that this approach suggests that the question of whether ethics is partial or impartial will be settled at the level of normative ethical discourse, or at least not at the level of discourse about the nature of reasons for action. (shrink)
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