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Dougherty - Reducing Responsibility - EJoP Proofs

Dougherty - Reducing Responsibility - EJoP Proofs

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Published by Trent Dougherty
Proofs for a forthcoming article arguing that the "Ethics of Belief" is not epistemology, but, rather, moral theory.
Proofs for a forthcoming article arguing that the "Ethics of Belief" is not epistemology, but, rather, moral theory.

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Published by: Trent Dougherty on Jul 05, 2010
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DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-0378.2010.00422.x
Reducing Responsibility: An EvidentialistAccount of Epistemic Blame
Trent Dougherty
This paper argues that instances of what are typicallycalled ‘epistemic irresponsibility’ are better understood as instancesof moral or prudenial failure. This hypothesis covers the data and issimpler than postulating a new sui generis form of normativitiy.The irresponsibility alleged is that embeded in charges of ‘Youshould have known better!’ However, I argue, either there is someinterest at stake in knowing or there is not. If there is not, then thereis no irresponsibility. If there is, it is either the inquirer’s interests—in which case it is a prudential shortcoming—or someone else’sinterests are at stake—in which case it is a moral shortcoming. In nocase, I argue, is there any need to postulate a form of normativity inepistemology other than the traditional epistemological norm thatone’s attitudes should fit the evidence one has.
It is not uncommon for epistemologists to seek greater unity between theirdiscipline and ethics. A common way to accomplish this goal is via analogy. Themost radical is via reduction. In this paper, I will be arguing for unification viareduction of a certain sort.
I aim to validate Feldman’s claim that anynormativity concerning belief that goes beyond fitting the evidence, and inparticular epistemic responsibility, is either moral or instrumental (Feldman 2004:189). The vast majority of those who have written on the subject of epistemicresponsibility have disagreed with this thesis. Theorists like Code (1987: 12) andMontmarquet (1993: 5–6) have argued at length that epistemic responsibility iscentral to epistemology, and their treatments imply that its nature goes beyondevidential, instrumental, or moral considerations to identify a unique, distinc-tively epistemic normativity. Kornblith (1980, 1983), DeRose (2000), and Baehr(2009) have also defended the thesis that epistemic normativity is not limited toevidential fit or practical considerations. More recently Nottelmann (2007) haschampioned this position, as has, most recently, Axtell (Axtell and Carter (2008),Axtell and Olson (MS), Axtell (forthcoming)). If my reductionist program issuccessful, this will require a serious redirection of much thinking on the subjectof epistemic responsibility. Also at stake is whether one very plausible traditionalview of epistemology is correct, namely evidentialism. For if the standard123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142434445
European Journal of Philosophy
ISSN 0966-8373 pp. 1–15
2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 9600 Garsington Road,Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
E J O P 4 2 2
Dispatch: 25.6.10
Journal: EJOP CE: Bindu
 Journal Name Manuscript No.
Author Received: No. of pages: 15 PE: Nasreen/Jay
EJOP 422
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responsibilists are right, evidentialism is false: the ethics of belief goes well beyond consideration of the evidence. I will begin with a brief review of theliterature to set my thesis in proper context and throw into relief its contrast withextant views.Concerning the normative disciplines of ethics and epistemology, Dancy notesthat ‘[t]he analogies between these two areas are many and various, andincreasingly explored’ (Dancy and Sosa 1992: 119). Axtell points out that there is anatural basis for the analogical use of ethical concepts by epistemologists: ‘Theavailability of useful analogies between ethics and epistemology has never ... been sharply divided from a substantial thesis of the structural parity orsymmetry between these two fields as the primary normative sub-disciplines of philosophy’ (Axtell 1997: 20). This naturally raises the question whether they can be unified in some way. Montmarquet is explicit about what he finds an‘intriguing goal—a unification of the two main normative disciplines of philosophy: ethics and epistemology’ (Montmarquet 1993: 108). Dancy alsospeaks of unification. In considering the more responsibilist parts of Sosa’s virtuetheory he says ‘It is raising in our mind analogies with the supposed advantagesof virtue ethics, and even the prospect of a unification of epistemology and ethics, built around the common notion of a virtue’ (Dancy 2000: 78/1995: 195).Nevertheless, the envisioned unification falls short of reduction in most cases.Hookway notes that there are many ‘parallel issues’ but still avows that ‘[e]thicsand epistemology deal with different parts of our normative practice’ (Hookway2000: 149). Axtell, after rehearsing the now commonplace notion than manyterms of current usage ‘entered epistemology through analogy with the long-standing use of those terms in ethics’ points out that ‘[t]he method for this carry-over is
analogical and not reductive
. The concern that it not be reductive is evident...’ (Axtell 1997: 1, emphasis added). One place in which this is evident is inMontmarquet. For though he says that normative notions in epistemology‘closely mirror their moral counterpartsand entertains a certain ‘normativelevel’ which is ‘at once and equally, ethical and epistemic’, he ultimately rejectsthis hypothesis concluding that ‘on a somewhat fuller analysis ... they do carry atag as more ethical than epistemic, or the reverse’ so that the distinction betweenmoral virtue and epistemic virtue ‘is
ultimate and irreducible
’ (Montmarquet 1993:108, 109, 110, emphasis added). Thus Montmarquet says ‘I want to treat theepistemic virtues as ... the
of the moral virtues’ (1993: x, emphasisadded).This is very different from the sort of approach taken by Linda Zagzebski. Sheadmits that her account ‘subsumes the intellectual virtues under the generalcategory of the moral virtues’ so that ‘[e]pistemic evaluation just
a form of moral evaluation ... it follows that normative epistemology is a branch of ethics’(Zagzebski 1996: 255, 256, 258, emphasis in original). This is the fulfilment of thepromise made at the beginning of the book: ‘I will argue that the intellectualvirtues are so similar to the moral virtues ... that they ought not to be treated astwo different kinds of virtue. Intellectual virtues are, in fact, forms of moralvirtue. It follows that intellectual virtue is properly the object of study of moral1234567891011121314151617181920212223242526272829303132333435363738394041424344452
Trent Dougherty
2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
EJOP 422
   (   B   W   U   K   E   J   O   P   4   2   2   W  e   b  p   d   f  :  =   0   6   /   2   5   /   2   0   1   0   0   4  :   0   6  :   0   8   3   0   2   1   9   5   B  y   t  e  s   1   5   P   A   G   E   S  n  o  p  e  r  a   t  o  r  =   K .   S  a  m  p  a   t   h   )   6   /   2   5   /   2   0   1   0   4  :   0   6  :   5   6   P   M
philosophy ... It will take most of this book to demonstrate that epistemicevaluation is a form of moral evaluation ...’ (Zagzebski 1996, xiv, 6). That‘epistemic evaluation just
a form of moral evaluation’ just
an identity thesis,which I take to be a form of reductionism.Though she protests ‘I think of this move as expansionist rather thanreductionist’, the fact is that in her view we ‘begin with a certain complex of concepts that uncontroversially belong to the sphere of the moral, and we maythen argue that these concepts are most naturally understood as having a widerscope than previously accepted’ (Zagzebski 1996: 255, 256). Thus, in the end, themoral persists as a distinctive category and the epistemic does not. So I doubt thereis a substantive difference between reduction and ‘expansion’ here. It is, after all,the distinctive nature of epistemic evaluation which is being done away with.At any rate, even if Zagzebski’s ‘expansion’ is indeed non-reductive in somesense, my intention is not to insist on the term ‘reduction’ but rather to bringepistemic responsibility under very different forms of non-epistemic evaluationthan Zagzebski does for knowledge. I too want to make an expansionist moveand bring epistemic responsibility under ethics and instrumental rationality (if the latter two are different). My position is that all instances of epistemicirresponsibility are in fact either forms of instrumental irrationality or moralirresponsibility insofar as there is anything amiss that goes
one’s beliefsnot fitting the evidence one has at the time (merely having a belief not fit one’sevidence can’t be sufficient for irresponsibility, of course, because that might becompletely beyond one’s control). Thus my position regarding epistemicirresponsibility (though not necessarily all so-called internal intellectual virtues
)is what Roberts and Wood call the ‘more traditional’ view (which they reject) of aso-called epistemic virtue as being ‘a moral virtue applied to an intellectualcontext’ (Roberts and Wood 2007: 60). Or as Feldman puts it, our judgmentsabout intellectual responsibility are ‘moral and prudential evaluations of  behavior related to the formation of beliefs’ (2004: 190). Thus there is nothingdistinctively epistemic about epistemic responsibility. I therefore reject the viewof those responsibilists mentioned above who assert that epistemic responsibilityand moral responsibility are only analogically related distinct notions, where both are equally fundamental.Recently, Nikolaj Nottelmann has presented a monograph on epistemicresponsibility that fits squarely in the camp which affirms the independence of epistemic responsibility. In his
Blameworthy Belief 
he speaks positively of ‘settingmoral and epistemic evaluations on an equal [but separate] footing’ (Nottelmann2007: 9). He begins with the locus classicus of Clifford’s ‘Ethics of Belief’ arguingthat ‘the text suggests that he simply took epistemic and moral evaluation to beequally basic dimensions of normative evaluation(Nottelmann 2007: 8).Nottelmann takes this to heart and makes it a goal in his treatise ‘[t]o keep itabsolutely clear that
the basis of epistemic blameworthiness is epistemic, not moral
...’(Nottelmann 2007: 10, emphasis added). This is just the sort of picture I’mopposing. After briefly considering Nottelmann’s rationale for this separation, Iwill commence my positive argument for my position.123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142434445
Reducing Responsibility
2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
EJOP 422
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