Epistemological theories of knowledge and justification draw a crucial distinction between one's simply havinggood reasons for some belief, and one's actually basingone's belief on good reasons. While the most natural kind of account of basing is causal in nature--a belief is based on a reason if and only if the belief is properly caused by the reason--there is hardly any widely-accepted, counterexample-free account of the basing relation among contemporary epistemologists. Further inquiry into the nature of the basing relation is therefore (...) of paramount importance for epistemology. Without an acceptable account of the basing relation, epistemological theories remain both crucially incomplete and vulnerable to errors that can arise when authors assume an implausible view of what it takes for beliefs to be held on the basis of reasons. Well-Founded Beliefbrings together seventeen essays written by leading epistemologists to explore this important topic in greater detail. The collection is divided thematically to cover a wide range of issues related to the epistemic basic relation. The first section of essays covers the nature of the basing relation and attempts to articulate defensible accounts of what it takes to believe on the basis of a reason. Section II explores the kind of things that can be reasons on the basis of which we hold beliefs. Finally, the last section addresses the basing relation as it bears on particular problems in epistemology, such as skepticism, the analysis of knowledge, and the contingencies of our epistemic upbringing. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to adapt Miranda Fricker’s concept of testimonial injustice to cases of what I call “argumentative injustice”: those cases where an arguer’s social identity brings listeners to place too much or little credibility in an argument. My recommendation is to adopt a stance of “metadistrust”—we ought to distrust our inclinations to trust or distrust members of stereotyped groups.
The aim of this book is to answer two important questions about the issue of normativity in epistemology: Why are epistemic reasons evidential, and what makes epistemic reasons and rationality normative? Bondy's argument proceeds on the assumption that epistemic rationality goes hand in hand with basing beliefs on good evidence. The opening chapters defend a mental-state ontology of reasons, a deflationary account of how kinds of reasons are distinguished, and a deliberative guidance constraint on normative reasons. They also argue in (...) favor of doxastic voluntarism—the view that beliefs are subject to our direct voluntary control—and embrace the controversial view that voluntarism bears directly on the question of what kinds of things count as reasons for believing. The final three chapters of the book feature a noteworthy critique of the instrumental conception of the nature of epistemic rationality, as well as a defense of the instrumental normativity of epistemic rationality. The final chapter defends the view that epistemic reasons and rationality are normative for us when we have normative reason to get to the truth with respect to some proposition, and it provides a response to the swamping problem for monistic accounts of value. (shrink)
This article is about the epistemic basing relation, which is the relation that obtains between beliefs and the reasons for which they are held. We need an adequate account of the basing relation if we want to have a satisfactory account of doxastic justification, which we should want to have. To that end, this article aims to achieve two goals. The first is to show that a plausible account of the basing relation must invoke counterfactual concepts. The second is to (...) set out two related analyses of the basing relation, each of which seems quite plausible. (shrink)
Descartes’ demon is a deceiver: the demon makes things appear to you other than as they really are. However, as Descartes famously pointed out in the Second Meditation, not all knowledge is imperilled by this kind of deception. You still know you are a thinking thing. Perhaps, though, there is a more virulent demon in epistemic hell, one from which none of our knowledge is safe. Jonathan Schaffer thinks so. The “Debasing Demon” he imagines threatens knowledge not via the truth (...) condition on knowledge, but via the basing condition. This demon can cause any belief to seem like it’s held on a good basis, when it’s really held on a bad basis. Several recent critics, Conee, Ballantyne & Evans ) grant Schaffer the possibility of such a debasing demon, and argue that the skeptical conclusion doesn’t follow. By contrast, we argue that on any plausible account of the epistemic basing relation, the “debasing demon” is impossible. Our argument for why this is so gestures, more generally, to the importance of avoiding common traps by embracing mistaken assumptions about what it takes for a belief to be based on a reason. (shrink)
There is an important disagreement in contemporary epistemology over the possibility of non-epistemic reasons for belief. Many epistemologists argue that non-epistemic reasons cannot be good or normative reasons for holding beliefs: non-epistemic reasons might be good reasons for a subject to bring herself to hold a belief, the argument goes, but they do not offer any normative support for the belief itself. Non-epistemic reasons, as they say, are just the wrong kind of reason for belief. Other epistemologists, however, argue that (...) there can be cases where non-epistemic reasons directly offer normative support for the beliefs a subject holds. My aim in this paper is to remove an apparent obstacle for the view that there can be non-epistemic normative reasons for belief, by showing that the existence of non-epistemic reasons for belief does not conflict with epistemic standards for the assessment of inferences. More specifically, I aim to show that the following principles are compatible. Epistemic norm of inference (ENI): necessarily, for all subjects S and inferences I: I is a good inference for S only if S can gain a (doxastically) epistemically justified belief in I’s conclusion on the basis of I’s premises. Non-epistemic reasons for belief (NERB): possibly, for some subject S, reason R, and belief B: R is a good (i.e., normative) reason for S to hold B, and R is not an epistemic reason for B. Guidance: for all subjects S, potential reasons R, and beliefs/actions φ: In order for R to count as a normative reason for S to φ, it must be possible for S to take R into account as relevant to the determination of whether S ought to φ. One might naturally think that these principles conflict, for if there are non-epistemic reasons for belief, then they must guide deliberation, and in guiding deliberation, they would violate epistemic standards. The aim of this paper is to show that no such conflict need arise. Section 2 of the paper sets out the concept of an inference, and sketches an epistemic framework for the assessment of inferences and arguments. Section 3 sets out the distinction between normative and motivating reasons, discusses motivational internalism about reasons, and briefly defends the view that there can be non-epistemic reasons for beliefs. Section 4 shows that non-epistemic reasons for belief are compatible with epistemic standards for inference and with a deliberative guidance constraint on normative reasons, because any time a reason R is a good non-epistemic reason for a subject S to hold a belief B, there is an epistemically good inference available to S which takes R as a premise and which concludes with the meta-belief that S ought to hold B. So the paper employs an indirect level-connecting principle between normative reasons for φ-ing and epistemic reasons for believing that one ought to φ. The paper ends with clarifications of that level-connecting principle, and responses to three objections. (shrink)
If a subject has a true belief, and she has good evidence for it, and there’s no evidence against it, why should it matter if she doesn’t believe on the basis of the good available evidence? After all, properly based beliefs are no likelier to be true than their corresponding improperly based beliefs, as long as the subject possesses the same good evidence in both cases. And yet it clearly does matter. The aim of this paper is to explain why, (...) and in the process delineate a species of epistemic luck that has hitherto gone unnoticed—what we call propositional epistemic luck—but which we claim is crucial to accounting for the importance of proper basing. As we will see, in order to understand why this type of epistemic luck is malignant, we also need to reflect on the relationship between epistemic luck and epistemic risk. (shrink)
There is an important disagreement in contemporary epistemology over the possibility of non-epistemic reasons for belief. Many epistemologists argue that non-epistemic reasons cannot be good or normative reasons for holding beliefs: non-epistemic reasons might be good reasons for a subject to bring herself to hold a belief, the argument goes, but they do not offer any normative support for the belief itself. Non-epistemic reasons, as they say, are just the wrong kind of reason for belief. Other epistemologists, however, argue that (...) there can be cases where non-epistemic reasons directly offer normative support for the beliefs a subject holds. -/- My aim in this paper is to remove an apparent obstacle for the view that there can be non-epistemic normative reasons for belief, by showing that the existence of non-epistemic reasons for belief does not conflict with epistemic standards for the assessment of inference. More specifically, I aim to show that the following principles are compatible: -/- Epistemic Norm of Inference (ENI): Necessarily, for all subjects, S, and inferences, I: I is a good inference for S only if S can gain a (doxastically) epistemically justified belief in I’s conclusion on the basis of I’s premises. -/- Non-Epistemic Reasons for Belief (NERB): Possibly, for some subject, S, reason, R, and belief, B: R is a good (i.e., normative) reason for S to hold B, and R is not an epistemic reason for B. -/- Guidance: For all subjects S, potential reasons R, and beliefs/actions φ: In order for R to count as a normative reason for S to φ, it must be possible for S to take R into account as relevant to the determination of whether S ought to φ. -/- One might naturally think that these principles conflict, for if there are non-epistemic reasons for belief, then they must guide deliberation, and in guiding deliberation, they would violate epistemic standards. The aim of this paper is to show that no such conflict need arise. -/- Section 2 of the paper proceeds to set out the concept of an inference, and to sketch an epistemic framework for the assessment of inferences and arguments. Section 3 sets out the distinction between normative and motivating reasons, and briefly defends the view that there can be non-epistemic reasons for beliefs. Section 4 shows that non-epistemic reasons for belief are compatible with epistemic standards for inference, because any time a reason R is a good non-epistemic reason for a subject S to hold a belief B, there is an epistemically good inference available to S which takes R as a premise and which concludes with the meta-belief that S ought to hold B. So the paper employs a level-connecting principle between normative reasons for φ-ing and epistemic reasons for believing that one ought to φ. The paper ends with clarifications of that level-connecting principle, and responses to three objections. (shrink)
Interpersonal disagreement happens all the time. How to properly characterize interpersonal disagreement and how to respond to it are important problems, but the existence of such disagreements at least is obvious. The existence of intrapersonal disagreement, however, is another matter. On the one hand, we do change our minds sometimes, especially when new evidence comes in, and so there is a clear enough sense in which we can be characterized as having disagreements with our past selves. But what about synchronic (...) disagreements with ourselves? Are such cases possible, or is there something about the nature of belief that rules out the possibility of knowingly holding beliefs which cannot be rationally held at the same time? In this paper, I argue that there can be cases of intrapersonal synchronic disagreement, and that such disagreements can be deep, in the same way that interpersonal disagreements can be deep. For intrapersonal disagreements, just like interpersonal disagreements, can be grounded in conflicting frameworks for interpreting and reasoning about the world. I also argue that synchronic intrapersonal disagreements are peer disagreements. The paper ends with a discussion of four possible responses to interpersonal deep disagreements, concluding that if those responses are sometimes rational responses in the interpersonal case, then they are also sometimes rational responses in the intrapersonal case. (shrink)
In Lehrer’s case of the superstitious lawyer, a lawyer possesses conclusive evidence for his client’s innocence, and he appreciates that the evidence is conclusive, but the evidence is causally inert with respect to his belief in his client’s innocence. This case has divided epistemologists ever since Lehrer originally proposed it in his argument against causal analyses of knowledge. Some have taken the claim that the lawyer bases his belief on the evidence as a data point for our theories to accommodate, (...) while others have denied that the lawyer has knowledge, or that he bases his belief on the evidence. In this paper, we move the dialectic forward by way of arguing that the superstitious lawyer genuinely infers his client’s innocence from the evidence. To show that the lawyer’s inference is genuine, we argue in defense of a version of a doxastic construal of the ‘taking’ condition on inference. We also provide a pared-down superstitious lawyer-style case, which displays the key features of the original case without including its complicated and distracting features. But interestingly, although we argue that the lawyer’s belief is based on his good evidence, and is also plausibly doxastically justified, we do not argue that the lawyer knows that his client is innocent. (shrink)
Argumentation theorists are beginning to think of ad hominem arguments as generally legitimate. Virtue argumentation theorists argue that a character trait approach to argument appraisal can explain why ad hominems would are legitimate, when they are legitimate. But I argue that we do not need to appeal to virtue argumentation theory to explain the legitimacy of ad hominem arguments; a more straightforward evidentialist approach to argument appraisal is also committed to their legitimacy. I also argue that virtue argumentation theory faces (...) some important problems, and that whereas the virtue-theoretic approach in epistemology is well-motivated, that motivation does not carry over to virtue argumentation theory. (shrink)
This article summarizes recent work by epistemologists on four related problems. (1) The value of knowledge. Briefly, the problem is to explain why knowledge is, or at least appears to be, more valuable than any proper subset of its parts, such as true belief. (2) The value of understanding. The task here is to explain why understanding appears to be more valuable than any epistemic status that falls short of understanding, such as having knowledge without understanding. (3) Truth and epistemic (...) value. The arguments considered in this section have to do with whether truth is epistemically valuable at all, and whether it is the fundamental epistemic value. (4) Intrumentalism and the epistemic goal. This final section considers the instrumentalist view of epistemic reasons and rationality, and explains why instrumentalists formulate the epistemic goal in the ways they do. (shrink)
The following claims are independently plausible but jointly inconsistent: (1) epistemic deontologism is correct (i.e., there are some beliefs we ought to have, and some beliefs we ought not to have); (2) we have no voluntary control over our beliefs; (3) S’s lack of control over whether she φs implies that S has no obligation to φ or to not φ (i.e., ought-implies-can). The point of this paper is to argue that there are active and passive aspects of belief, which (...) can come apart, and to argue that deontological epistemic evaluations apply to the active aspect of belief. (shrink)
Epistemically circular arguments have been receiving quite a bit of attention in the literature for the past decade or so. Often the goal is to determine whether reliabilists (or other foundationalists) are committed to the legitimacy of epistemically circular arguments. It is often assumed that epistemic circularity is objectionable, though sometimes reliabilists accept that their position entails the legitimacy of some epistemically circular arguments, and then go on to affirm that such arguments really are good ones. My goal in this (...) paper is to argue against the legitimacy of epistemically circular arguments. My strategy is to give a direct argument against the legitimacy of epistemically circular arguments, which rests on a principle of basis-relative safety, and then to argue that reliabilists do not have the resources to resist the argument. I argue that even if the premises of an epistemically circular argument enjoy reliabilist justification, the argument does not transmit that justification to its conclusion. The main goal of my argument is to show that epistemic circularity is always a bad thing, but it also has the positive consequence that reliabilists are freed from an awkward commitment to the legitimacy of some intuitively bad arguments. (shrink)
Epistemic Value Epistemic value is a kind of value which attaches to cognitive successes such as true beliefs, justified beliefs, knowledge, and understanding. These kinds of cognitive success do often have practical value: true beliefs about local geography help us get to work on time; knowledge of mechanics allows us to build vehicles; understanding of … Continue reading Epistemic Value →.
The aim of this paper is to defend the claim that arguments are truth-directed, and to discuss the role that truth plays in the evaluation of arguments that are truth-directed. It concludes that the proper place of truth is in the metatheory in terms of which a theory of evaluation is to be worked out, rather than in the theory of evaluation itself as a constraint on premise adequacy.
It has been claimed that there is a lottery paradox for justification and an analogous paradox for knowledge, and that these two paradoxes should have a common solution. I argue that there is in fact no lottery paradox for knowledge, since that version of the paradox has a demonstrably false premise. The solution to the justification paradox is to deny closure of justification under conjunction. I present a principle which allows us to deny closure of justification under conjunction in certain (...) kinds of cases, but which still allows that belief in a conjunction on the basis of justified belief in its conjuncts can often be justified. (shrink)
This special issue collects five new essays on various topics relevant to the ethics of belief. They shed fresh light on important questions, and bring new arguments to bear on familiar topics of concern to most epistemologists, and indeed, to anyone interested in normative requirements on beliefs either for their own sake or because of the way such requirements bear on other domains of inquiry.
This essay addresses the collapse/incoherence problem for normative frameworks that contain both fundamental values and rules for promoting those values. The problem is that in some cases, we would bring about more of the fundamental value by violating the framework’s rules than by following them. In such cases, if the framework requires us to follow the rules anyway, then it appears to be incoherent; but if it allows us to make exceptions to the rules, then the framework “collapses” into one (...) that doesn’t make use of rules in the first place. The chapter begins with an examination of happiness and truth as fundamental values in Mill’s work, which lead into parallel versions of the collapse/incoherence problem in ethics and epistemology. It then sets out the collapse problem for rule-consequentialist approaches in ethics, truth-directed accounts of justification in epistemology, and epistemological approaches to argument cogency. The chapter closes with discussion of two potential solutions to the problem. (shrink)
This essay addresses what we can call epistemology’s Prime Evils. These are the three demons epistemologists have conjured that are the most troublesome and the most difficult to dispel: Descartes’ classic demon; Lehrer and Cohen’s New Evil Demon; and Schaffer’s Debasing Demon. These demons threaten the epistemic statuses of our beliefs—in particular, the statuses of knowledge and justification—and they present challenges for our theories of these epistemic statuses. This paper explains the key features of these three central demons, highlights their (...) family resemblances and differences, and attempts to show that a certain kind of internalist view of justification provides the resources to handle these demons well. (shrink)
This paper discusses virtue argumentation theory, as modeled on virtue epistemology. It argues that virtues of argumentation are interesting but parasitic on a more fundamental account of what makes arguments good. -/- *Note: this is an unpublished manuscript presented at the 2013 conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation. An electronic copy is available in the Conference Archive, linked above.
Epistemic Value Epistemic value is a kind of value which attaches to cognitive successes such as true beliefs, justified beliefs, knowledge, and understanding. These kinds of cognitive success do of course often have practical value. True beliefs about local geography help us get to work on time; knowledge of mechanics allows us to build vehicles; … Continue reading Value, Epistemic →.
One finds a surprising number of defenses of the legitimacy of some kinds of question-begging arguments or beliefs in the literature. Without wanting to deny the importance of dialectical analyses of begging the question, what I do here is explore the epistemic side of the issue. In particular, I want to explore the legitimacy of “epistemically circular” arguments and beliefs. My tentative conclusion is that epistemically circular arguments and beliefs are never legitimate. *Note: this is an unpublished manuscript presented at (...) the 2011 conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation. A copy of the manuscript is hosted at the OSSA conference archive, linked above. Some of the central ideas in this paper appear in my "Epistemic Circularity, Reliabilism, and Transmission Failure," Episteme (2014). (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to extend Miranda Fricker’s conception of testimonial injustice to what I call “argumentative injustice”: those cases where an arguer’s social identity brings listeners to place too little or too much credibility in an argument. My recommendation is to put in place a type of indirect “affirmative action” plan for argument evaluation. I also situate my proposal in Johnson ’s framework of argumentation as an exercise in manifest rationality. -/- *Note: this is an unpublished manuscript (...) delivered at the 2009 conference of the Ontario Society for the Study of Argumentation. A copy of the manuscript is hosted on the OSSA conference archive, linked above. A significantly revised version of this paper appears as "Argumentative Injustice," in Informal Logic (2010). (shrink)
According to anti-luck approaches to the analysis of knowledge, knowledge is analyzed as unlucky true belief, or unlucky justified true belief. According to virtue epistemology, on the other hand, knowledge is true belief which a subject has acquired or maintained because of the exercise of a relevant cognitive ability. ALE and VE both appear to have difficulty handling some intuitive cases where subjects have or lack knowledge, so Pritchard proposed that we should take an anti-luck condition and a success-from-ability condition (...) as independent necessary conditions on knowledge. Recently, Carter and Peterson have argued that Pritchard’s modal notion of luck needs to be broadened. My aim in this paper is to show that, with the modal conception of luck appropriately broadened, it is no longer clear that ALE needs to be supplemented with an independent ability condition in order to handle the problematic Gettier cases. (shrink)
Roderick Chisholm argues that in giving an account of knowledge, we must either begin with an account of what knowledge is, and proceed on that basis to identify the particular things that we know, or else start with instances of knowledge, and proceed on that basis to formulate a definition of knowledge. Either approach begs the question against the other. This is the epistemic wheel. This article responds to Chisholm's challenge. It begins with cases of knowledge attribution and builds its (...) account from there, identifying those features that we take to be present in the cases where we have attributed knowledge and those features that seem important when we want to withhold an attribution of knowledge. The proposal does not beg the question against either particularists or methodists; it takes the best features of each view, without beginning with either, and thereby removes us from the wheel. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to raise a new objection to externalist process reliabilism about epistemic justification. The objection is that epistemic justification is intensional—it does not permit the substitution of co-referring expressions—and reliabilism cannot accommodate that.