Abstract: According to Veritism, true belief is the sole fundamental epistemic value. Epistemologists often take Veritism to entail that all other epistemic items can only have value by standing in certain instrumental relations—namely, by tending to produce a high ratio of true to false beliefs or by being products of sources with this tendency. Yet many value theorists outside epistemology deny that all derivative value is grounded in instrumental relations to fundamental value (‘Instrumentalism’). Veritists, I believe, can and should follow suit. After setting the stage in §1, I explain in §2 why Veritism should not take an Instrumentalist form. Instrumentalist Veritism faces a generalized version of the swamping problem. But this problem undermines Instrumentalism, not Veritism: granting Instrumentalism, similar problems arise for any economical epistemic axiology. I show in §3 how Veritism can take a less narrow form and solve the swamping problem. After answering some objections in §4, I consider in §5 what some would regard as a less radical alternative solution and argue that it either fails or collapses into mine. I close in §6 by taking stock and re-evaluating the overall prospects for Veritism, suggesting that it is a highly promising epistemic axiology when divorced from Instrumentalism.
Abstract: Despite the recent backlash against epistemic consequentialism, an explicit systematic alternative has yet to emerge. This paper articulates and defends a novel alternative, Epistemic Kantianism, which rests on a requirement of respect for the truth. §1 tackles some preliminaries concerning the proper formulation of the epistemic consequentialism / non-consequentialism divide, explains where Epistemic Kantianism falls in the dialectical landscape, and shows how it can capture what seems attractive about epistemic consequentialism while yielding predictions that are harder for the latter to secure in a principled way. §2 presents Epistemic Kantianism. §3 argues that it is uniquely posed to satisfy the desiderata set out in §1 on an ideal theory of epistemic justification. §4 gives three further arguments, suggesting that it (i) best explains the objective normative significance of the subject's perspective in epistemology, (ii) follows from the kind of axiology needed to solve the swamping problem together with modest assumptions about the relation between the evaluative and the deontic, and (iii) illuminates certain asymmetries in epistemic value and obligation. §5 takes stock and reassesses the score in the debate.
Abstract: This paper argues that reliabilism can plausibly live without epistemic consequentialism, either as part of a non-consequentialist normative theory or as a non-normative account of knowledge on a par with certain accounts of the metaphysics of perception and action. It argues moreover that reliabilism should not be defended as a consequentialist theory. Its most plausible versions are not aptly dubbed ‘consequentialist' in any sense that genuinely parallels the dominant sense in ethics. Indeed, there is no strong reason to believe reliabilism was ever seriously intended as a form of epistemic consequentialism. At the heart of its original motivation was a concern about the necessity of non-accidentality for knowledge, a concern quite at home in a non-consequentialist or non-normative setting. Reliabilism’s connection to epistemic consequentialism was an accretion of the '80s, and a feature of only one of its formulations in that decade.
Abstract: Many meta-ethicists have thought that rationality requires us to heed apparent normative reasons, not objective normative reasons. But what are apparent reasons? There are two kinds of standard answers. On de dicto views, R is an apparent reason for S to φ when it appears to S that R is an objective reason to φ. On de re views, R is an apparent reason for S to φ when (i) R’s truth would constitute an objective reason for S to φ, and (ii) it appears to S that R. De re views are currently more popular because they avoid overintellectualizing rationality. But they face problems owing to the way in which they do so. Some assume that we can escape these problems by requiring more information to be apparent or by appealing to defeat. But these strategies fail. So, I defend a new view: apparent reasons are apparent facts that agents are competently attracted to treat like objective reasons, where competence is indirectly defined in terms of objective reasons and a competence/performance distinction is honored. Since one can treat X like an F without having the concept of an F, the view does not overintellectualize rationality. But it is also strong enough to dodge the pitfalls of de re views.
Abstract: This paper considers the place of reasons in the metaphysics of epistemic normativity and defends a middle ground between two popular extremes in the literature. Against members of the ‘reasons first’ movement, we argue that reasons are not the sole fundamental constituents of epistemic normativity. We suggest instead that the virtue-theoretic property of competence is the key building block. To support this approach, we note that reasons must be possessed to play a role in the analysis of central epistemically normative properties, and argue that the relation of possession must be analyzed in terms of competence. But while we diverge with reasons-firsters on this score, we also distance ourselves from those who deny reasons any important role in epistemology. For we maintain that possessed reasons do help to ground deontic facts in the epistemic domain (e.g., facts about what one epistemically ought to believe, may believe, or is justified in believing). Indeed, we present an argument that the possession of sufficient epistemic reasons is necessary and sufficient for propositional justification, and that proper basing on such reasons yields doxastic justification. But since possession and proper basing are themselves grounded in competence, reasons are not the end of the explanatory road: competence enables them to do their work, putting them—and us—in the middle.
Abstract: Many epistemologists treat rationality and justification as the same thing. Those who don’t lack detailed accounts of the difference, leading their opponents to suspect that the distinction is an ad hoc attempt to safeguard their theories of justiﬁcation. In this paper, I offer a new and detailed account of the distinction. The account is inspired by no particular views in epistemology, but rather by insights from the literature on reasons and rationality outside of epistemology. Speciﬁcally, it turns on a version of the familiar distinction in meta-ethics between possessing apparent normative reasons (which may be merely apparent) and possessing objective normative reasons. The paper proceeds as follows. In §1, I discuss the history of indiﬀerence to the distinction between rationality and justiﬁcation in epistemology and the striking contrast with meta-ethics. I introduced the distinction between apparent reasons and possessed objective reasons in §2 and provide a deeper basis for it in §3. I explain how the ideas extend to epistemology in §4 and explore the upshots for some central issues in §5
Abstract: One kind of virtue epistemology understands epistemic normativity in terms of competences. Most defenders of this view treat the fundamental epistemic competences as competences to do one thing in particular: namely, form true beliefs. But other competences could be given a fundamental role. Minds that are not just heaps of informationally encapsulated systems have the power of Reason, which equips them with competences to respond to reasons. Virtue epistemology can and should, I argue, give Reason-based competences a fundamental role in explaining epistemic normativity. By doing so, it can provide a better story about the nature, value, and distinctness of justiﬁcation and rationality, and a better picture of the epistemic difference between lower animals and persons. The key diﬀerence is not a ﬁrst-order /higher-order diﬀerence, since many works of Reason are ﬁrst-order. The result is ahumbler “bi-level” epistemology on which the reﬂective level is the space of reasons and the animal level is a level of non-normative preconditions for standing in it.
Abstract: It is often assumed that believing that p for a normative reason consists in nothing more than (i) believing that p for a reason and (ii) that reason’s corresponding to a normative reason to believe that p, where (i)and (ii) are independent factors. This is the Composite View. In this paper, we argue against the Composite View on extensional and theoretical grounds. We advocate an alternative that we call the Prime View. On this view, believing for a normative reason is a distinctive achievement that isn’t exhausted by the mere conjunction of (i) and (ii). Its being an achievement entails that (i) and (ii) are not independent when one believes for a normative reason: minimally, (i) must hold because (ii) holds. Apart from its intrinsic interest, our discussion has important upshots for central issues in epistemology, including the analysis of doxastic justiﬁcation, the epistemology of perception, and the place of competence in epistemology
Abstract: This paper is an opinionated guide to the literature on normative (=good) epistemic reasons. After making some distinctions in §1, I begin in §2 by discussing the ontology of normative epistemic reasons, assessing arguments for and against the view that they are mental states, and concluding that they are not mental states. In §3, I examine the distinction between normative epistemic reasons there are and normative epistemic reasons we possess. I offer a novel account of this distinction and argue that we in fact ought to acknowledge a threefold distinction between objective, possessed, and apparent normative epistemic reasons. In §4, I discuss the question of which normative reasons for doxastic attitudes are the epistemic ones, evaluating reasons against a simple evidentialist answer. Finally, in §5, I look at the role of reasons in epistemology, considering challenges to viewing them as the building blocks of epistemic normativity and maintaining that the challenges recommend a novel bi-level epistemology rather than the marginalization of reasons in epistemology.
Abstract: The paper is an opinionated tour of the literature on the reasons for which we hold beliefs and other doxastic attitudes, which I call “operative epistemic reasons”. After drawing some distinctions in §1, I begin in §2 by discussing the ontology of operative epistemic reasons, assessing arguments for and against the view that they are mental states. I recommend a pluralist non-mentalist view that takes seriously the variety of operative epistemic reasons ascriptions and allows these reasons to be both propositions and truth-making facts. In §3, I turn to consider what it takes for a consideration to be an operative epistemic reason, examining three conditions—the representational, treating, and explanatory conditions—that have been proposed. I offer a novel view about the explanatory condition. In §4, I discuss the special case of inferential operative reasons and examine attempts to understand them in terms of rule-following, sketching a competence-based spinoff of dispositionalism. Finally, in §5, I consider whether there are non-inferential operative reasons, observing that one needn’t countenance them to be a foundationalist but then developing a view about what they are and how they do and don't differ from inferential reasons.
Abstract: Judgment and Agency contains Sosa's latest effort to explain how higher epistemic value of the sort missing from an unwitting clairvoyant's beliefs might be a special case of performance normativity, with its superior value following from truisms about performance value. This paper argues that the new effort rests on mistaken assumptions about performance normativity. Once these mistaken assumptions are exposed, it becomes clear that higher epistemic value cannot be a mere special case of performance normativity, and its superiority cannot be guaranteed just by truisms about performance value. Sections 1-2 set the stage, clarifying the thesis and the relevant features of Sosa's strategy, and explaining why the strategy requires the mistaken assumptions. Section 3 presents a dilemma for the new account of higher epistemic value. Section 4 deepens the case for one of the horns. Section 5 takes stock and draws some broader morals.
Abstract: Recent writers claim that responsibilist virtue epistemology courts skepticism, owing to the fact that most of us lack the virtues it deems necessary for justified belief and knowledge. A powerful version of this objection is the challenge from situationist social psychology pressed by Alfano (2012, 2013) and Olin and Doris (2014). This paper develops a new version of responsibilism that is immune from this objection, and shows that this view has many advantages over other forms of virtue epistemology. My responsibilism dispenses with the ubiquitous but (I argue) mistaken idea that responsibilist virtue properties must be understood in terms of character traits. My view parallels an often overlooked form of virtue ethics suggested by Thomson (1997) that some situationists (e.g., Harman (2001)) have praised. That form shares with other forms the thought that virtue properties are normatively fundamental, but it adds that act-attaching ones are prior to person-attaching ones, and require no backing by character traits. Far from being an ad hoc retreat position, I argue that this view is independently attractive.
Abstract: According to ambitious responsibilism (AR), the virtues that are constitutive of epistemic responsibility should play a central and fundamental role in traditional projects like the analysis of justification and knowledge. While AR enjoyed a shining moment in the mid-1990s, it has fallen on hard times. Part of the reason is that many epistemologists—including fellow responsibilists—think it paints an unreasonably demanding picture of knowledge and justification. I agree that such worries undermine AR's existing versions. But I think the curtains have been prematurely drawn on the view. My goal is to show that the objections only threaten the periphery of certain versions of AR, and to develop a version that blocks them. With this goal in mind, here is the plan. I will begin in §2 by clarifying the core commitments of AR and explain how influential responsibilists have added to these commitments in optional ways. In §3, I will rehearse the standard objections to AR, explaining why they only impugn the add-ons. I'll then turn in §4 to develop a version I call Kantian Responsibilism (KR). KR is a two-level view consisting of (i) a high-level analysis of epistemic normativity in responsibilist terms, and (ii) a first-order account of the conditions under which these terms apply. According to KR's first tier, epistemically virtuous thought is thought that manifests respect for truth; because I hold that manifesting certain reasons-sensitive dispositions is necessary and sufficient for respecting truth, KR's second tier takes epistemic virtues to coincide substantively with reasons-sensitive dispositions. After unpacking KR in §4, I show in §5 how it answers the objections to AR. I close in §6 by making some broader points about KR's virtues, especially when compared with reliabilist views.
Abstract: According to a view I'll call Epistemic Normativism (EN), knowledge is normative in the same sense in which paradigmatically normative properties like justification are normative. This paper argues against EN in two stages and defends a positive non-normativist alternative. After clarifying the target in §1, I consider in §2 some arguments for EN from the premise that knowledge entails justification (the “Entailment Thesis”). I first raise some worries about inferring constitution from entailment. I then rehearse the reasons why some epistemologists reject the Entailment Thesis and argue that a non-normativist picture provides the best explanation of all the intuitions surrounding this thesis, favorable and unfavorable. On this picture, human knowledge is a structured non-normative complex that has as one of its parts a justification-making property, analogous in role to good-making properties like pleasurableness. After giving three arguments against EN in §3 and answering an objection in §4, I turn in §5 to further develop the positive view sketched in §2. In §6, I take stock and conclude.
Abstract: Some epistemologists and philosophers of mind claim that the perceptual acquaintance relation of which object-seeing and feature-seeing are special cases is the basis of perceptual knowledge. This paper argues that despite its externalist credentials, this view fails owing to problems resembling those for old-fashioned acquaintance foundationalism. After introducing the view in Section 1, Section 2 considers why its defenders deny that some apparent cases in which one has perceptual knowledge without having the required kinds of acquaintance are counterexamples, detailing their case for lurking inferential epistemology in some of these examples. Section 3 argues that this strategy fails in many other cases. While there is a computational tale that might be deemed `inferential' in these cases, there is no corresponding tale in epistemic structure, not even in a minimal sense compatible with rejecting what Siegel (2017) calls the `Reckoning Model' of inference. Section 4 offers a deeper argument, maintaining that this view faces a dilemma. Section 5 concludes that while non-epistemic perception might be part of some story about knowledge acquisition, its role will be merely technological.
Abstract: Ordinary thought recognizes many ways of knowing a fact: one can see, remember, intuit, deduce, or read online that some fact obtains, for example. But fundamentally speaking, how many ways of knowing are there? Most epistemologists are pluralists: they think several ways are equally fundamental. But I prefer a form of monism I call presentationalism. According to presentationalism, all ways of knowing a fact involve presentations of that fact, and the converse of the factive presentation relation is the sole fundamental way of knowing. I defend presentationalism on the basis of its simplicity and explanatory power in three stages. I begin by noting that it is already compelling about three central ways of knowing—viz., perceiving, episodically remembering, and intuiting. I then argue that it is consistent with common sense to extend presentationalism to knowledge by inference, testimony, and semantic memory. I admit this extension has surprising implications given common assumptions about presentations and the structure of justification. But in the final key stage, I show that resistance to these implications rests on questionable further assumptions about the relationship between the structure of knowledge and the structure of justification. I conclude by previewing how my defense of presentationalism doubles as a defense of an account of knowledge according to which it is that factive mental state which, when occurrent, presents one with a fact.
Abstract: Some say that rationality only requires us to respond to apparent normative reasons. Given the independence of appearance and reality, why think that apparent normative reasons necessarily provide real normative reasons? And if they do not, why think that mistakes of rationality are necessarily real mistakes? This paper gives a novel answer to these questions. I argue ﬁrst that in the moral domain, there are objective duties of respect that we violate whenever we do what appears to violate our ﬁrst-order duties. The existence of these duties of respect, I argue, ensures that apparent moral reasons are exceptions to the independence of appearance and reality. I then extend these arguments to the domain of overall reason. Just as there are objective duties of respect for moral reasons that explain moral blameworthiness, so there are objective duties of respect for reasons (period) that explain blameworthiness in the court of overall reason. The existence of these duties ensures that apparent reasons(period) are exceptions to the independence of appearance and reality. The result is a vindication of the normativity of rationality.
Reasons: Right, Wrong, Normative, Fundamental (with Errol Lord) Abstract: Reasons fundamentalists hold that reasons are the fundamental constituents of the normative. This paper discusses a neglected problem for reasons fundamentalists when it comes to solving the famous wrong kind of reasons (WKR) problem, which in its broadest form is a problem for fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists alike. We begin by noting that solving the WKR problem requires solving two further problems. These are particularly acute for reasons fundamentalists because their outlook imposes a tight constraint on an acceptable solution: in particular, the solution cannot appeal to anything normative (besides reasons). We argue that this constraint raises a dilemma for reasons fundamentalists. We consider three responses to the dilemma, arguing that only a form of constitutivism provides a somewhat promising solution. Whether the existence of this solution should comfort the reasons fundamentalist is, however, left an open question.
Abstract: This paper raises a dilemma for Skorupski’s meta-normative outlook in The Domain of Reasons and explores some escape routes, recommending a more thoroughgoing Kantianism as the best option. §1 argues that we cannot plausibly combine Skorupski’s spontaneity-based epistemology of normativity with his cognition-independent view of normative truth. §§2–4 consider whether we should keep the epistemology and revise the metaphysics, opting for constructivism. While Skorupski’s negative case for his spontaneity-based epistemology is found wanting, it is suggested that a better argument for keeping the epistemology and switching to Kantian constructivism can be given from a thesis he ﬁnds appealing—viz., ‘cognitive internalism’. While this premise is not, it is argued, obviously true, the view it supports does provide a good way to undergird Skorupski’s most interesting rationale for his reasons-ﬁrst approach.
Abstract: Recent writers have invoked the idea that epistemic rationality gives us options in an attempt to show that we can exercise direct doxastic control without irrationality. Specifically, they suggest that when the evidence for p is sufficient but not conclusive, it would be rational either to believe p or to be agnostic on p, and they hold that we can in these cases effectively decide to form either attitude without irrationality. This paper argues against the version of epistemic permissivism ('Discretion') invoked by these writers and shows that other defensible permissivisms do not support their cause. It proceeds as follows. §1 introduces the issue. §2 undermines two arguments for Discretion and uses some lessons from their failure to mount an argument against Discretion. §3 presents a further argument against Discretion. §4 offers an error theory to explain our misguided attraction to Discretion. §5 explains why other defensible permissivisms do not help to support the view that we can exercise direct doxastic control without irrationality.
Abstract: In Group Agency, List and Pettit (L&P) defend ‘non-redundant realism’ about group agency, a view on which (A) facts about group agents are not ‘readily reducible’ to facts about individuals, and (B) the dependence of group agents on individuals is so holistic that one cannot predict facts about group agents on the basis of facts about their members. This paper undermines L&P’s case in three stages. §1 shows that L&P’s core argument is invalid. L&P infer (A) and (B) from two facts: (1) that group agents must often believe what few members personally believe, and (2) that a group agent’s beliefs in certain propositions must often ‘depend on’ member attitudes to distinct propositions. I note that (2) is ambiguous, and that the only true reading of it is irrelevant to the status of (A). I argue further that (1) cannot support (A), since a group agent’s belief in P may neatly constitutively depend on member attitudes to P that are weaker than personal belief. §2 makes this idea concrete with a plausible toy theory of group belief that implies it. While this kind of theory is popular in the literature on joint belief, L&P never discuss it–a striking fact, since it explains why (1) is true. Having made these points, I turn to argue in §3 that (B) is either false or uncontroversial.