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The Orthodox Views
This chapter will build on two previous published papers. In the ﬁrst, “The Externalist’s Demon”, I explain how externalists can deal with the new evil demon objection. In the second, “Defeating Phenomenal Conservatism”, I explain why Huemer’s arguments for Phenomenal Conservatism are unsuccessful. In addition, I shall explain why the standard arguments for reliabilism and properfunctionalism should not persuade anyone to think of justiﬁcation in externalist terms.
In this chapter, we shall look at some of the ways in which considerations having to do with epistemic value might help shape a theory of justiﬁcation. Epistemologists have recently started to test competing accounts of knowledge by looking at the implications these accounts have concerning the value of knowledge.1 Everyone thinks that a theory of knowledge has to be extensionally adequate (i.e., if we do not know that Tom stole the book, Dick knows that he is a member of the executive branch, and Henry does not know that the building he saw was a barn, this is what our theory should say). They say that extensional adequacy is not enough. If by some miracle we were to hit upon an extensionally adequate theory only to discover that the theory implied that knowledge was no more valuable than a lucky guess, we should hope for a better theory. If we can rely on our evaluative intutions in formulating and testing our theories of knowledge, we should be able to do something similar when it comes to justiﬁcation. Let’s distinguish between two ways in which axiological considerations can help shape a theory of justiﬁcation. The ﬁrst role is modest. If we have views or intuitions concerning epistemic value, we should try to bring our theory of justiﬁcation into reﬂective equilibrium with these views or intuitions. Intuitively, it is always good to believe with justiﬁcation. In fact, it seems that it is better to believe with justiﬁcation than without it. These kinds of intuitions, I think, are intuitions that many of us share and so I think many of us would agree that it would be a mark against a view if it clashes with them. In appealing to these kinds of intuitions, we are not assuming that the good is conceptually, explanatorily, or metaphysically prior to the right. Appealing to these intuitions should appeal to consequentialist and non-consequentialist alike.2 A far less modest role for axiological considerations to play is as the basis of a theory of justiﬁcation. An epistemic consequentialist could argue that the
1 See 2 Below,
Kvanvig 2003, Pritchard 2007, and Riggs 2008. we shall look at Feldman’s 2000 value-driven argument for evidentialism.
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good is, in some sense, prior to the right, and try to derive an account of right believing from some prior conception of the epistemic good. Such a view has at least this much to recommend it. It provides a neat explanation as to why it is always better to believe with justiﬁcation. It is by realizing epistemically good states of aﬀairs that beliefs are justiﬁed. Goodness makes for rightness. One potential advantage of working from an account of the good to the right is that it might free us from relying on intuitions about justiﬁcation ascription we have already seen cannot settle the debate between the internalists and externalists. Although considerations having to do with epistemic value should play some role in constructing a theory of justiﬁcation, I doubt these evaluative considerations can really advance the internalism/externalism debate. Someone could try to argue, on broadly consequentialist grounds, for an externalist theory of justiﬁcation.3 The move from epistemic consequentialism to externalism might make sense, but the argument would fail because of its consequentialist underpinnings. For reasons discussed below, we should be epistemic non-consequentialists and deny that right or justiﬁed believing can be understood simply in terms of promoting something of value. While there is nothing wrong with trying to bring a theory of justiﬁcation in line with the intuitions you have, these intuitions about value will not tell us whether justiﬁcation is an internalist or externalist notion. At best, such intuitions suggest that there are internalist elements required for justiﬁed belief. Since this is a view few externalists will deny, we will need to look at other strategies for determining whether justiﬁcation is an internalist or externalist notion.
Epistemic consequentialism could take many forms, but in this section we shall primarily focus on two, epistemic belief-consequentialism and epistemic ruleconsequentialism: There is suﬃcient justiﬁcation for you to believe p if there is no alternative to believing p in which a greater amount of epistemic value is realized (EBC). There is suﬃcient justiﬁcation for you to believe p if there is a set of J-rules that permits believing p and there is no alternative set of rules that prohibits believing p such that a greater amount of epistemic value is realized by following this alternative set of rules (ERC).4 EBC and ERC are intended to be the epistemic analogues of act- and ruleconsequentialism in ethics. One reason to focus on ERC is historical. Alvin
3 Goldman 1986 defends an externalist account of justiﬁcation that is modeled on a ruleconsequentialist approach to right action. 4 These views are both impure. They are formulated in such a way as to allow the addition of a no-defeater clause. I doubt that the addition of such a clause is in the spirit of consequentialism, but I wish to be generous to the epistemic consequentialists.
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Goldman defends something similar to ERC in his work.5 To my knowledge, no one defends EBC but I think it is worth discussing its merits. First, some have tried to pin EBC on epistemic consequentialists on the grounds that indirect consequentialism is not a genuine alternative to direct consequentialism. We should ask whether EBC truly is a view we ought to avoid.6 Second, it is easy to imagine how someone could try to argue from either ERC or EBC to some form of externalism. One kind of internalist will say that the factors that determine whether a belief can be justiﬁably held strongly supervene upon a your non-factive mental states. Another might say that the reasons that bear on whether to believe all have to be accessible to you. ERC and EBC seem to be in tension with both views. The facts accessible to you do not seem to be the sort of facts that determine whether it would be optimiﬁc for you to believe a proposition at that time. The facts that determine whether it would be epistemically optimiﬁc for you to believe p do not seem to strongly supervene upon your non-factive mental states. The clash between standard versions of internalism and EBC is rather obvious, but ERC is no friend to internalism, either. Depending upon how J-rules are formulated, facts accessible to you or facts that supervene upon your non-factive mental states might determine which rule you conform to in forming a belief without determining whether that rule is among the genuine epistemic rules or the rules that confer justiﬁcation. After all, what distinguishes J-rules from spurious epistemic rules has to do with what results from following those rules and, depending upon how the rules are formulated, it seems to be conceivable that two subjects in two diﬀerent possible worlds could follow the same rules with very diﬀerent results. Admittedly, the argument is sketchy and it ignores those versions of epistemic consequentialism that might seem more friendly to internalism.7 It is an interesting question as to whether this an argument of this kind could be developed into a plausible rationale for externalism. Below, I shall argue that it cannot.
In Epistemology and Cognition, Goldman said that we should think of epistemic justiﬁcation in terms of epistemic rules: I approach justiﬁcation in terms of a rule framework. This is warranted by purely semantic connotations. Calling a belief justiﬁed implies that it is a proper doxastic attitude, one to which the cognizer has an epistemic right or entitlement. These notions have a strong deontic ﬂavor . . . They are naturally captured in the language of “permission” and “prohibition”, which readily invite the rule formulation.8
Goldman 1986 and 1999. Maitzen 1995. We shall discuss his objections to EBC and ERC below. 7 I have in mind more “subjective” objectivist views, such as the account found in Jackson (1991). 8 Goldman 1986, pp. 59.
6 See 5 See
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On his view, a belief is justiﬁed if it is formed in accordance with a right system of epistemic rules, provided that the permission to believe is not undermined by the believer’s cognitive state. He also defends the view that the justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon whether the processes that produce that belief are suﬃciently reliable. These claims are not obviously in tension, but it is also not immediately obvious why we should combine them into a single account. Why link rule conformity and reliability in this way? Goldman’s answer is that he thinks we can model an account of epistemic justiﬁcation on a ruleconsequentialist approach to right action.9 Perhaps the idea is this. Many of us are already inclined to think that if we follow the right rules for belief formation and revision, we will believe with justiﬁcation. His account tells us how to distinguish J-rules from spurious rules. The right rules are right because these rules reliably lead to the truth. Spurious rules are spurious because nothing good comes of following them. Consequentialists say that the moral status of an action is determined by the value of the consequences where those values are characterized in something other than deontic terms. Act- and rule-consequentialism agree on this much and so uphold the basic idea that goodness makes for rightness. Their accounts diﬀer in that the act-consequentialism has a one-level structure according to which the moral status of a particular action is determined by comparing the value realized by that action’s consequences to the values that could or would have been realized by alternative actions.10 Rule-consequentialism has a twolevel structure. On this view, the moral status of a particular action is not determined directly by its eﬀects but the value of the eﬀects of following or internalizing some set of rules that permit the action. If the rules that would be optimal to follow sanction the act, the act is permissible.11 Otherwise, it is not, even if that action would bring about better results than its alternatives. One of the apparent advantages of rule-consequentialism is that its verdicts do not necessarily deviate from the verdicts of intuitive forms of nonconsequentialism as radically as the verdicts of act-consequentialism do. Nonconsequentialists and rule-consequentialists, for example, might agree that there is a plurality of rules that determine whether an action is right and might agree on which rules are genuine. Their disagreement is not always at the level of the proper formulation of rules. It emerges when we look to see what justiﬁcation can be given for the rules. A non-consequentialist might say that the rules confer justiﬁcation but need no justiﬁcation in turn. The rule-consequentialist will likely say that rules only confer justiﬁcation because they can be given a valuetheoretic justiﬁcation. Rule-consequentialism thus might display the virtues that attract some to rival non-consequentialist and consequentialist views. On
1986, pp. 97. actualists think that the consequences that would have been realized are the consequences that matter. The possibilists think we should focus on the consequences that could have been realized. The diﬀerence between these formulations emerge when we think about the ways in which present obligation depends upon future choices. The diﬀerences between actualism and possibilism are interesting, but for our purposes it would be an interesting distraction. For a discussion, see Zimmerman 1996. 11 See Hooker 2000 for a discussion of diﬀerent formulations of rule-consequentialism.
10 The 9 Goldman
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the one hand, it has explanatory virtues that consequentialist views have that non-consequentialist views seem to lack insofar as it supplies an independent rationale for the rules it recognizes. On the other, it conforms to commonly held intuitions that act-consequentialists have to try to explain away. Of course, the critics of rule-consequentialism in ethics and epistemology will say that this is all too good to be true. Here, I want to look at two kinds of criticism. One kind of critic will say that we should adopt a non-consequentialist view that recognizes a plurality of epistemic rules and denies that these rules can be given a value-theoretic justiﬁcation. Recently, a few authors have defended accounts of epistemic justiﬁcation modeled on Ross’ pluralist account of right action and I want to see here whether it would be better to understand J-rules in the way that Ross understood his principles of prima facie duty.12 Another kind of critic will say that ERC is not a viable alternative to EBC. They say that the consequentialists should follow the value-theoretic arguments where they lead and, our critic says, they lead towards a direct form of consequentialism such as EBC. Myself, I am not entirely convinced by these kinds of criticisms. In the end, I think the critics of ERC are right to reject the view. After oﬀering a partial defense of the view, I shall try to explain where precisely ERC goes wrong.
Can We Unify the J-Rules?
For Goldman, J-rules have conditions of application that make reference to an individual’s cognitive states and say that there is a defeasible permission for the subject to believe some proposition.13 So, he might recognize rules like these: If it perceptually seems to S as if some object x is F (where F is a perceptible property), and this causes or sustains in the normal way S’s belief of x that it is F, than that confers prima facie justiﬁcation on S’s belief (PER). If S seems to remember that p and this causes or sustains in the normal way S’s belief that p, then that confers prima facie justiﬁcation on S’s belief that p (MEM). If it introspectively seems to S as if S is occurrently having a sensory or perceptual experience such and such and this sustains in the normal way the belief that S is experiencing such and such, then that confers prima facie justiﬁcation on S’s belief (INT). On ERC, a belief is justiﬁed (and not just prima facie justiﬁed) if it is formed in conformity to some J-rule and the justiﬁcation provided by the rule is not defeated. These rules were lifted not from Goldman, but from Graham. He defends an internalist and non-consequentialist approach to justiﬁcation modeled on Ross’ pluralist account of moral duty.14 According to pluralist epistemic
Graham 2010 and Nelson 2002. 1986, pp. 77. 14 Graham 2010. A similar view was defended by Nelson 2002.
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non-consequentialism (PENC), a belief is jusitifed if it is formed by someone who conforms to a J-rule and the justiﬁcation provided by the rule is not defeated. The view is internalist because it says that the application conditions of these rules make reference to internal states of the subject (e.g., the subject’s non-factive mental states) and it denies that factors that do not supervene upon those states can defeat the justiﬁcation of the subject’s beliefs. Assuming the rules listed are genuine J-rules, ERC says there is a valuetheoretic justiﬁcation for these rules. These rules confer justiﬁcation because they reliably lead to truth. PENC denies this. Following these rules might reliably lead to truth, but this is a contingent feature of these rules and inessential to their status as J-rules. The version of PENC we will look at in this section models its account of justiﬁcation on Ross’ pluralist theory of justiﬁed action. Ross thought that principles of prima facie duty identiﬁed features of the situation that go towards justifying an action and denied that these principles shared anything in common apart from the fact that they speciﬁed features that go towards making right acts right. He explicitly rejected the view that a principle’s status as a principle depended upon whether it pointed to a feature that all right acts shared in common, such as bringing about good states of aﬀairs. In a similar vein, the version of PENC we are interested in says that each of J-rules identiﬁes a diﬀerent kind of justifying reason and denies that there is any feature that all right beliefs share in common apart from the fact that they conform to some J-rule or other. If these views agreed on the rules, you might think that this gives us some reason to prefer ERC. After all, it seems reasonable to prefer a theory that explains the diﬀerence between J-rules and spurious rules to one that does not. However, if ERC and PENC disagreed about whether some (putative) epistemic rule was an actual J-rules, this might give us some reason for preferring one view to the other. If ERC’s list of rules is wrong, it is either too long or too short. If you say that it is too short, you have to say that there is a rule that is unreliable that is nevertheless a genuine J-rule. If you say that it is too long, you have to say that there is a reliable rule that does not confer justiﬁcation. Since you should not assert or believe without evidence, it seems that the defensibility of your position depends upon having evidence that an unreliable rule justiﬁes or that a reliable rule fails to justify. But, it seems that if you have evidence that a rule is unreliable, it cannot justify. If you have evidence that a rule is reliable, it can justify. So, ERC avoids the objection. Not quite. Rather than focus on actual rules and the actual consequences of following them, we should focus on possible rules and possible situations in which epistemic rules are mistakenly taken to be reliable by the denizens of these worlds. Or, we could imagine situations in which rules that are actually unreliable are reliable and relied on by the denizens of these possible worlds. If ERC does not cohere with our intuitions about these possible but non-actual circumstances, maybe this gives PENC an advantage over ERC. Recall our earlier discussion of Norman, one of BonJour’s clairvoyants.15 Norman could
his 1980, pp. 21.
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reliably determine the locations of various individuals using clairvoyant powers even though he had no evidence that he had this ability. While he also had no evidence that he did not have this ability, BonJour thought that Norman’s beliefs were not justiﬁed. Here, a proponent of PENC could say that ERC has to classify Norman’s beliefs as justiﬁed because he forms his beliefs by conforming to a rule as reliable as the rule we follow when we form perceptual beliefs, PER. However, intuitively, his beliefs are not justiﬁed. This objection has little bite. There has be a reason why Norman’s visions do not justify his beliefs. ERC denies that it could be a brute fact that there is a J-rule for perceptual experience and not for these visions and it seems right for it to do so. If someone says that the reason that his apparent perceptual experiences can justify his beliefs but his clairvoyant visions cannot is that he has evidence that his apparent perceptual experiences reliably lead to truth, then the problem is not really with the ERC approach to J-rules but that it does not require evidence of reliability as one of the conditions necessary for justiﬁcation. If it simply added one in, the alleged diﬀerence between apparent perceptual experience and clairvoyant vision would be lost. If the force of the objection is supposed to be that it is intuitive to say that clairvoyance cannot justify even in possible worlds where it is as reliable as perception and we have the same evidence of its reliability we do for perception, the objection rests on an intuition that is little more than an irrational prejudice against belief forming processes that are not our own. The problem with this kind of objection to ERC is perfectly general. A proponent of PENC might instead try to argue that there is something wrong with the consequentialist justiﬁcation of the J-rules. On this front, ERC faces two related objections. The ﬁrst is a modal objection. PER says that if you believe that some visible object has such and such perceptible quality on the basis of an experience that represents that object as having that quality, your belief is prima facie justiﬁed. Absent any defeaters, your belief just will be justiﬁed. Perceptual experience is a reliable guide, but this is a contingent fact about our experiences. We can easily imagine creatures with experiences indistinguishable from ours having experiences that are an unreliable guide to their surroundings. Just imagine that these creatures are deceived by a Cartesian demon. Intuitively, it seems these subjects are just as justiﬁed as we are if they form their beliefs in accordance with PER, but ERC has to say that their beliefs are not justiﬁed. So, ERC can say that there is a contingent connection between forming justiﬁed beliefs and conforming to PER owing to the contingent connection between following PER and reliably forming true beliefs. The second objection is epistemic.16 We know apriori that even in epistemically inhospitable environments, subjects that follow PER are justiﬁed in their beliefs. We do not know apriori, however, that following PER will result in good epistemic outcomes. Indeed, it seems we know apriori that following PER can lead to epistemically disastrous outcomes and still confer justiﬁcation. So, not only does ERC say that J-rules have that status contingently when they seem
Graham 2010 for a version of this objection.
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to have their status necessarily, they say that we cannot know apriori whether these rules confer justiﬁcation when in fact it seems we do know apriori that some J-rules have that status. These objections are two sides of the new evil demon objection, and since we have already discussed that objection, my response can be brief. Even if it is necessarily true that subjects that conform to rules like PER are justiﬁed in their beliefs, all that follows is that persons are justiﬁed in their beliefs, not that their beliefs are adequately justiﬁed. Intuition does not support the further claim that these subjects have justiﬁed beliefs and so intuition does not support the further claim that forming beliefs in conformity to PER confers doxastic justiﬁcation even if it does not reliably lead to truth. And, since we do not know apriori that PER confers justiﬁcation even in epistemically hostile environments, it is not obviously wrong to say that we cannot know apriori if PER confers justiﬁcation. So far, ERC remains unscathed. At this point, defenders of ERC should go on the oﬀensive. One problem with PENC is that it seems unmotivated. Intuition does not seem to support the modal or epistemological objections to ERC, but intuition does seem to support the Rossian view that principles of prima facie duty can confer justiﬁcation upon actions that do not bring about the best consequences. Intuitively, if you have to choose between two options where one is not better than the other but one involves keeping a promise and one involves breaking it, you ought to keep your promise rather than breaking it. If the consequences of keeping a promise are dire enough, you should break it, but you still regret that you had to break your promise. PENC is not supported by similar intuitions. This is worrisome. A second worry is that the speciﬁc reasons Ross had for adopting a pluralist account of justiﬁed action do not support PENC. Why was Ross a pluralist? Here, Ross explains why he is dissatisﬁed with the monism exempliﬁed by utilitarian theories: . . . the theory of ‘ideal utilitarianism’ . . . seems to simplify unduly our relations to our fellows. It says, in eﬀect, that the only morally signiﬁcant relation in which my neighbors stand to me is that of being possible beneﬁciaries by my actions. They do stand in this relation to me, and this relation is morally signiﬁcant. But they may also stand to me in the relation of promisee to promiser, of creditor to debtor, of wife to husband, of child to parent, of friend to friend, of fellow countryman to fellow countryman, and the like; and each of these relations is the foundation of a prima facie duty.17 A simple example should help illustrate Ross’ point. You could feed your hungry child or you could feed an equally hungry stranger, but there is not enough bread for both. In explaining why it would be right for you to help your child rather than the stranger, we can say that there is a morally signiﬁcant relation between you and your child that justiﬁes giving the child priority (You created that child
1930, pp. 19.
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and so you put them in need of assistance. You did this without their consent. So, you owe the child something you do not owe the stranger even if you owe a stranger assistance when you are able to assist without failing to live up to some other obligation.) In other situations, it might be wrong to use a second bit of bread to feed your child rather than, say, save the lives of sixteen strangers. Here a second kind of morally signiﬁcant relation determines what you should do. In the ﬁrst case, the overriding reason is a reason is a reason you have because you stand in some prior relation to someone. In the second, the reason is a reason you can have to help a stranger. Helping the stranger is beneﬁcent, but it is no mere act of beneﬁcence to feed your child. For evidence that the reasons diﬀer in kind, notice that morality does not require you to ﬂip a coin when the needs of your children and strangers are equally strong and can be met equally well. Modifying Ross’ rationale for pluralism in ethics does not provide us with a suitable rationale for PENC. Maybe perceptual experience justiﬁes because it puts beliefs in the right relation to truth to be justiﬁed (whatever that is). A belief that is not put in the right relation to truth (whatever that is) by perception cannot be justiﬁed by memory or testimony unless memory or testimony makes up for this deﬁciency by putting the belief in the right relation to truth (whatever that is). No one really thinks that perception or memory justiﬁes without putting a belief in the right relation to truth (whatever that is) or thinks that we can justify a belief that cannot be put in the right relation to truth (whatever that is) by putting it in the right relation to something else (e.g., fame, beauty, a pleasant illusion). Finally, note that the evidence that seems to conﬁrm Ross’ view seems to disconﬁrm PENC. Remember that Ross thought that when duty compels us to act against some defeated moral reason, that reason continues to exert a force on us: If, as almost all moralists except Kant are agreed, and as most plain men think, it is sometimes right to tell a lie or to break a promise, it must be maintained that there is a diﬀerence between prima facie duty and actual or absolute duty. When we think ourselves justiﬁed in breaking, and indeed morally obliged to break, a promise in order to relieve some one’s distress, we do not for a moment cease to recognize a prima facie duty to keep our promise, and this leads us to feel, not indeed shame or repentance, but certainly compunction, for behaving as we do; we recognize, further, that it is our duty to make up somehow to the promisee for the breaking of the promise.18 According to Ross, one mark of genuine pluralism is the possibility of a kind of rational regret. You can rationally regret a choice even if you know that this choice is right. The regret is an indication that the agent faced a choice between competing concerns where the goods contained in one of these options is not
1930, pp. 28.
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contained in the other.19 You can rationally regret doing the right thing because you can see in the neglected option something that is not contained in the option chosen. To see this, notice that acting on the strongest reason and acting against a defeated prima facie duty is importantly diﬀerent from choosing between two goods that do not diﬀer in kind. Suppose someone oﬀers you a choice between a large and a small coﬀee on the house. There is nothing of value in the smaller cup not contained in the larger cup. In this sort of situation where there is not a plurality of goods, the right choice is not regrettable. In choice situations where the right choice is regrettable, the regret registers that there was a kind of good in the neglected option not contained in the right option. There is nothing like the phenomenon of rational regret in the theoretical domain and this seems to count against PENC. It posits a plurality of epistemic principles each of which supplies a unique kind of justifying reason for belief while denying that there is a common value these reasons all serve. This is a point that should be credited to Williams. He observed that if you are trying to decide what to believe and you weigh the evidence for and against some proposition, you cannot judge that some proposition is the one you should believe while also thinking of the evidence against that proposition as anything but misleading evidence.20 The point is not that we cannot regret losing a belief upon discovering (what we take to be non-misleading) evidence against it. If you regret reasonably the loss of belief, this will always be due to some desire of yours that is ill served by losing the belief (e.g., that you have to abandon a pet theory, that you are caused pain by recognizing the facts that falsify the belief, etc. . . ). The point is that there is nothing in the reasons that seemed to support the belief that you think you lose out on by abandoning that belief whereas there can be something in the reasons that you act against that you see as attractive even when those reasons are pitted against stronger reasons. A defeated practical reason to act might constitute a compelling reason to act at another opportunity should it arise, but defeated reasons to believe p that constitute misleading evidence do not later constitute compelling reasons to believe p at another occasion. Now, this point has been contested. Nelson has claimed that there are epistemic residues: [M]any of us will be familiar with such epistemic residues in the form of perplexity. After searching fruitlessly through that article for the passage I remember, I wonder, ‘I clearly recall reading that quote from Flaubert in this article, but now I can’t ﬁnd it anywhere. How can this be!?’21
19 To be sure, if you had to choose between retriving the ﬁve dollar bill that fell from your pocket and the ten dollar bill that fell from your pocket, this might be regrettable. What seems regrettable, however, is not responding in the right way but that you had to respond to the situation at all. For a useful discussion of the distinction between choice- and option-regret, see D’Agostino 1988, pp. 32. 20 See Williams 1965, pp. 107. 21 Nelson 2002, pp. 273.
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If epistemic residues were anything like moral residues, you could know that a reason is defeated by an overriding reason and it would still continue to exert a kind of rational force. For reasons sketched above, the phenomenon of rational regret is supposed to require a plurality of kinds of justifying goods and so would point in favor of PENC. I doubt perplexity involves epistemic residue. I suspect that perplexity is due to the fact that the evidence you take to be misleading is so robust. In taking the passage to be in those pages, you expect not to ﬁnd such strong evidence that it is not there. So, perplexity is due just to the fact that the appearances you take to be misleading hold up so well upon examination. To see that perplexity does not require pluralism and so does not involve epistemic residue, notice that perplexity does not require a plurality of kinds of sources of justiﬁcation and so does not require a plurality of J-rules. In cases of perceptual illusion, for example, there might be an object that you visually attend to that appears to have properties it could not have simultaneously. If the illusion is robust, you might be perplexed, but as the case involves one source of justiﬁcation only, we do not need to assume that there is an irreducible plurality of J-rules to understand why this is. To sum up, we have seen no reason to think that there is anything wrong with oﬀering a consequentialist justiﬁcation for J-rules. Indeed, it seems to be a mistake to deny that there could be a unifying explanation of these rules. So far, ERC seems to favor reasonably well. Above I said that we should be epistemic non-consequentialists. This is not because we should model epistemic non-consequentialism on Ross’ view. In later chapters, I shall defend a nonconsequentialist account of justiﬁcation. Before we get to that, I need to explain why epistemic justiﬁcation cannot be understood in consequentialist terms.
The Case Against Epistemic Consequentialism
It should come as no surprise ERC compares favorably to a pluralist view that denies that J-rules share some common feature by virtue of which they can confer justiﬁcation. When the morally conscientious agents ask, “What should I do?” there is not some common aim that they share in common apart from responding appropriately to the diverse competing moral considerations they are faced with. When the epistemically conscientious subjects ask, “What should I believe?” there is something that they aim at in common. They aim to get things right. There are many ways to aim to act rightly, but the only way to believe rightly is to believe the truth. ERC compares favorably to PENC, but I do think it fares quite poorly overall. To see why, it will be useful to ﬁll in some further details of Goldman’s view. ERC tells us something about the relation between the right and the good, but it does not tell us what the fundamental epistemic goods are. According to Goldman, true beliefs are intrinsically good, false beliefs are intrinsically bad, and these are the only values that matter in inquiry.22 This view, which he dubs “veritism”, tells us what the bearers of epistemic value and disvalue are,
Goldman and Olsson 2009, pp. 24.
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but it does not tell us how to compare the value of true belief to the disvalue of false belief. So, our account is still incomplete because it does not yet tell you how to compare the value of the available alternatives. Goldman suggests that the absolute value of true belief is the same as the absolute value of false belief.23 Epistemically speaking, you are as well oﬀ believing nothing, as you are forming beliefs on the basis of a process that gets things right half of the time. This last feature of his view is not essential to veritism or ERC, so if the need arises to adjust it, he can adjust it as need be. Remember that the evaluative consequences of ERC and EBC might diﬀer because of ERC’s two-level structure. Initially, this seems to be a reason to prefer ERC to EBC. EBC seems to say that no belief is justiﬁed unless that particular belief promotes something of value. Suppose we were to say that true beliefs are the bearers of epistemic value. Given this assumption, EBC seems to imply that you cannot justiﬁably believe p unless in believing p you believe something true. ERC avoids this implication. It denies that the justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon the value of the consequences of forming that particular belief. So, while EBC suggests that there is too tight a connection between justiﬁcation and truth, ERC allows for a looser connection. You can justiﬁably believe p even if in coming to believe p, you do not form a true belief. Initially, it might seem that ERC enjoys an advantage over EBC because of its two-level structure. In fact, it is a liability for ERC. To see why, consider one of Rawls’ example: In a game of baseball if a batter were to ask “Can I have four strikes?” it would be assumed that he was asking what the rule was; and if, when told what the rule was, he were to say that he meant that on this occasion he thought it would be best on the whole for him to have four strikes rather than three, this would be most kindly taken as a joke.24 Suppose that when Bill Baseball drew up the rules for baseball, he did so in the hopes of making the game as enjoyable for the fans as possible. He knew, never mind how, that fans would enjoy the game more if batters were given three strikes and umpires were not given any discretion in awarding more strikes or depriving batters of a second or third strike. At one level, what justiﬁed adopting the three-strike rule were facts about the fans and their preferences. At a second level, particular calls are justiﬁed by the rule. The justiﬁcation of an umpire’s call depends upon whether it conforms to the rules and not upon whether the fans would have been happier if the umpire made a diﬀerent call. On this model, if the value that justiﬁes adopting the rule is not mentioned in the speciﬁcation of the rule’s application condition, the justiﬁcation of the calls governed by those rules do not depend upon how well any particular call serves those values. This has nothing to do with the umpire’s epistemic predicament. If everyone despises the Yankees, the umpire might know that calling one of
23 Goldman 24 Rawls
1999, pp. 89. 1955, pp. 26.
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their batters out after two strikes would please everyone and still know that there is no justiﬁcation for making this call. One lesson to draw from the example is this. If Goldman takes seriously the parallels between ERC and rule-consequentialism, he should say that a particular belief that does not serve the values that justify the J-rules could nevertheless be perfectly justiﬁed, provided the belief conforms to the J-rules. Indeed, this is what he says. Think about the umpire’s call. Suppose the umpire’s call conformed to the rulebook—he called the Red Sox batter out upon correctly calling a third strike. Suppose this upsets everyone tremendously. Is there any sense in which the umpire’s call was mistaken? It seems not. Or, to change examples, suppose you have to choose between keeping a promise and breaking it. You know that if you break the promise, you can produce a smidge more happiness than you can if you keep it. This is perfectly consistent with the ruleconsequentialist saying that you are obliged to keep the promise. So, let us assume that this is what the rule-consequentialist says. On rule-consequentialism, there is no sense in which it is correct to say that it was a mistake to keep your promise. There is no sense in which this view implies that you chose incorrectly if you chose to keep your promise. The rule-consequentialist does not say that the choice to perform the suboptimal action was justiﬁed if it conformed to the rules but mistaken because it was suboptimal. Now, let’s switch from action to belief. Suppose someone believes p in conformity with the J-rules but p is false. ERC implies that the belief is justiﬁed. It also seems to imply that there is no sense in which forming the belief was a mistake. Not if the analogy holds true. But, this is why ERC is mistaken. It is essential to the state of belief that every false belief is mistaken and every time you form a false belief you make a mistake. Just to be clear, the problem is not that ERC implies there are false, justiﬁed beliefs. Nearly everyone agrees that there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs.25 The objection is that the rule-consequentialist says that you can know that you ought to perform a suboptimal action if that action conforms to the right system of rules. When this happens, you know that the correct way to deal with the situation is precisely by doing what you know you should always do—follow the rules. The valuetheoretic considerations that determine which rules are genuine are not among the considerations that determine whether you make the correct choice or make a mistake in acting apart from selecting the rules. These values are screened oﬀ, if you like. The worry is that in asserting that justiﬁcation and truth are connected only indirectly by means of J-rules, ERC asserts that if you follow the rules you can form a false belief without making a mistake and denies that there is any sense in which the right response to the rules is mistaken. This is false to our concept of belief. How might Goldman deal with this objection? Might he say that there is a sense in which a false belief is a mistake and another sense in which it is not? He might, but the objection does not assume that “mistake” is not ambiguous.
25 For dissent, see Sutton 2005 and Unger 1975. To come clean, I will argue that there are no false, justiﬁed beliefs in later chapters.
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It rests on the intuition that there is no sense in which the umpire’s call is mistaken if the umpire calls the batter out upon correctly calling a third strike. So, to press the analogy, the worry is that there would be no sense in which ERC can say that a belief is mistaken if it conforms to the J-rules. Could Goldman instead deny that it is always a mistake to form a false belief? Of course he could say this, but the response is both inherently implausible and damaging to his veritism. If there can be false beliefs that are correct and true beliefs that are incorrect, why would true beliefs be invariably intrinsically good and false beliefs invariably intrinsically epistemically bad? What could be bad about believing a false proposition if the false belief is both correct and justiﬁed? What could be good about believing a true proposition if the belief is neither justiﬁed nor correct? The ﬁrst problem arises precisely because of ERC’s two-level structure and the way that truth is relegated to the role of selecting J-rules. The second problem has more to do with the way that epistemic consequentialists understand the relation between the good and the right. In practical reasoning when options are tied, you cannot go wrong in picking between them. In theoretical reasoning, if there is equally good evidence to believe both a proposition and its negation, there is a conclusive reason to refrain from believing until you can break the tie and ﬁnd stronger evidence for believing one of these propositions instead of the other.26 This is a familiar point and it points to a problem with ERC. Suppose that the total epistemic value that results from following R1 is the same as the total epistemic value that results from following R2. ERC should say that it is permissible to follow R1 iﬀ it is permissible to follow R2 even if following these rules leads you to form diﬀerent sets of beliefs. According to Goldman, there is no obligation to form beliefs.27 J-rules give us permissions to believe and determine which beliefs we are prohibited from having, but they do not generate obligations to believe. So, suppose R1 forbids belief across a wide range of cases (e.g., it forbids believing or disbelieving any proposition about the past, the future, or the external world). In eﬀect, if you follow R1, you will believe nothing at all about the external world. Now, consider a rule that permits you to form beliefs about the external world but only gets things right half of the time. For example, suppose R2 says that for any p such that p is a proposition about the external world, you are permitted to form a belief about whether p by ﬂipping a fair coin (i.e., believe p if heads or believe ∼p if tails). In such cases, you know you have no better evidence to believe p or its negation and that is why you know that you have conclusive reason to believe neither. If you are permitted to follow R1 by believing nothing, you are permitted to believe whatever you like about the external world by ﬂipping a fair coin. Consider another rule, R3. According to R3, you are permitted to believe that the number of Fs is odd if you know that there is a ﬁnite number of Fs and too many Fs to count. I am not in any position to judge that the number
26 Adler 27 Goldman
2002, pp. 25. 1986, pp. 77.
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of koalas is odd, but it is just as likely to be odd as even given what I know about koalas. We should reject any theory that says that you are permitted to believe p when the evidence supports p and ∼p equally well. We should do the same for a theory that says that you are permitted to believe p by following a rule you know is as likely to lead you to form a true belief as it will lead you to form a false one.28 What can Goldman say to deal with the 50/50 problem? As stated, the objection assumes that the J-rules state permissions or prohibitions only, which implies that you are not obliged to believe anything at all. This is a strange position for the epistemic consequentialist to defend. As a rule, consequentialists are not terribly keen on the doing/allowing distinction. Suppose we revise the view so that its J-rules generate positive obligations to believe in ways that promote epistemic value.29 Notice that this assumption is inessential to the objection. Suppose the J-rules oblige you to do the best you can in promoting veriﬁc consequences. If the number of Fs is ﬁnite and too large to count, you can do no better than to either believe that the number of Fs is odd or the number of Fs is even. If the aim is to maximize epistemic value, the rule that permits believing the number of koalas is even should be expected to do just as well as the rule that forbids this. Since there can be ties for ﬁrst and consequentialism denies that there is a normative diﬀerence between options of equal value, you are permitted to believe both or permitted to believe neither. The problem remains. Someone could say, plausibly, that you cannot justiﬁably believe on the basis of a rule that is just as likely to get things right as it is to get things wrong, but this misses the force of the objection. Why would ERC say that J-rules only confer justiﬁcation when you are ignorant of the chance of success? In knowing that some particular J-rule leads you to form as many true beliefs as false beliefs, you might know that following this rule is not suboptimal. So, there is nothing available to the consequentialist to say that knowledge of the low chance of success defeats the justiﬁcation otherwise provided by the rule. A diﬀerent strategy would be to modify Goldman’s view concerning the absolute values of true and false belief. Up to this point, we have assumed that the magnitudes of the absolute value of true and false belief are the same (i.e., |VTB | = |VFB |). If you think that it is worse to believe a false proposition than it is to fail to believe a true proposition, the way for the consequentialist to try to capture this intuition is to say that |VTB | < |VFB |. If |VTB | < |VFB |, you are better oﬀ not believing in accord with a rule that gets things right only half of the time than you are by getting things right half of the time. Consider a new rule. If you know that the number of Fs is ﬁnite but too large to count, you have permission to believe that the number of Fs is not divisible by three. It is likely that the number of koalas is not be divisible by three, but it also seems that you are not in a position to justiﬁably believe that the number of
2004 discusses a version of this problem. Sutton 2005 and Nelson 2010, I think there are no positive epistemic duties to believe. I cannot imagine any reasonable consequentialist rationale for denying that there are any positive epistemic duties to believe. Add this to the list of complaints about epistemic consequentialism if you are so inclined.
29 Like 28 DePaul
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koalas is not divisible by three. Consider yet another rule. If you know that the number of Fs is ﬁnite but too large to count, you have permission to believe that the number of Fs is composite. It is likely that the number of tealeaves is composite rather than prime, but you are not in a position to justiﬁably believe this. Why not? On the present view, it has to be because the diﬀerence in the absolute values of true and false belief are so great that you are worse oﬀ believing on the rule in spite of the high probability of success. Any rule that comes with a greater risk of leading to error cannot confer justiﬁcation on your beliefs. One worry about the present view, then, is that in dealing with the 50/50 problem, it implies that only very reliable rules can confer justiﬁcation. Consider yet another rule. For any lottery ticket you buy, believe that it is a loser. Some have the intuition that you know you cannot know the ticket will lose. It seems that if you know you cannot know p, your belief in p cannot be justiﬁed.30 To accommodate these intuitions on the present view, there must be a vast diﬀerence in the absolute values of true and false belief. The skeptical implications of this view are straightforward. There are few things we believe on the basis of rules that are more likely to get things right than the lottery rule just described. The third and ﬁnal objection to ERC is the most serious. Unlike the previous objection, it rests on no assumptions about the absolute values of true and false belief. Unlike previous objections, it has implications for all version of epistemic consequentialism. According to EBC, the justiﬁcation of a particular belief depends upon the value it promotes. According to ERC, the justiﬁcation of a belief does not depend upon the value the belief promotes but whether it conforms to the right system of rules. By virtue of its two-level structure, it seems that the evaluative consequences of ERC and EBC should diﬀer. But, some say that these views in the end really must come to the same thing. Inspired by Lyon’s collapse objection to rule-consequentialism in ethics, Maitzen argues that ERC faces a dilemma.31 Either it is extensionally equivalent to EBC or it is incoherent. Why is that? Suppose you say that some rules are J-rules only if there is not some alternative set of rules that you could follow and thereby produce better outcomes. The best you could do is to follow the rule EBC identiﬁes as the fundamental epistemological rule. That rule simply says we should believe in such a way as to bring about the best epistemic consequences. According to EBC, in forming beliefs, you ought to believe p if believing p is better than the alternatives and are permitted to believe p if there is no better alternative in which you do not believe p. There are no beliefs that ERC would classify as justiﬁed that EBC would classify as unjustiﬁed (or vice versa) because ERC would say, in eﬀect, that in cases where the views diﬀered it would defer to EBC. Suppose this is right. What is wrong with EBC? Maitzen remarks:
30 Trivially, this is so if you cannot justiﬁably believe what you do not know. Even those with internalist sympathies often defend the view that you cannot justiﬁably believe what you know you are not in a position to know. See Huemer 2007. 31 See Maitzen 1995. For discussion of the collapse objection, see Lyons 1965 pp. 62-119.
CHAPTER 3. EPISTEMIC VALUE If the nominal aim is the reason for having, or pursuing, justiﬁcation, then it ought to follow that beliefs are justiﬁed insofar as they serve the nominal aim and unjustiﬁed insofar as they do not. But this consequence gives rise to an obvious problem. If justiﬁcation is essentially a matter of serving the nominal aim [i.e., to maximize true belief and minimize false belief], then it seems we would evaluate no true belief as unjustiﬁed and no false belief as justiﬁed . . . The reason is straightforward. If one seeks, above all else, to maximize the number of true (and minimize the number of false) beliefs in one’s (presumably large) stock of beliefs, then adding one more true belief surely counts as serving that goal, while adding a false belief surely counts as disserving it.32 We can sum up his argument as follows: (1) Upon pain of incoherence, ERC must deliver the same verdicts as EBC. (2) EBC classiﬁes each true belief as justiﬁed and each false belief as unjustiﬁed. (C1) Unless ERC is incoherent, it must classify each true belief as justiﬁed and each false belief as unjustiﬁed. (3) It is possible for true beliefs to be unjustiﬁed and false beliefs to be justiﬁed. (C2) ERC is either incoherent or delivers the wrong verdicts in just the way EBC does.
One response to the argument is simply to deny (1). Rather than get bogged down in a lengthy discussion about the coherence of rule-consequentialism, I shall argue that (2) is false.33 Once we see why this is and and Maitzen’s objection to ERC fails, we can see why Maitzen was right to reject both views. Maitzen’s argument for (2) suggests that he thinks (2) is a straightforward consequence of veritism. It is not, and this is why his argument fails. In ethics, consequentialists do not think that the moral status of an action is determined by the value of the action taken in isolation. Indeed, consequentialists will likely be skeptical of the very idea of the value of the action taken in isolation. Consequentialists endorse totalism, the thesis that total intrinsic value determines normative status.34 Denying totalism is the equivalent of saying we should prefer an acknowledged lesser good to a greater one. (To be sure, it might make
1995, pp. 870. Hooker 2000, pp. 93-108 for a response to Lyon’s collapse objection to ruleconsequentialism. While someone could say that Maitzen’s argument is outdated because there are versions of rule-consequentialism that avoid the collapse objection, it should be noted that Hooker’s speciﬁc reasons for denying that rule-consequentialism collapse into actconsequentialism seem to have no obvious application to ERC and EBC. Also, Hooker’s ruleconsequentialism is not motivated by purely value-theoretic considerations and so diﬀers from the versions of consequentialism under consideration here. 34 Carlsson 1995, pp. 10.
33 See 32 Maitzen
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sense to pick an acknoweldged lesser good over a greater good if you do so because of some non-consequentialist consideration that constrains choice, but we are trying to use consequentialist considerations to determine what constraints there are.) The problem with Maitzen’s objection to EBC is that he neglects the fact that on EBC it is the total epistemic intrinsic value that determines the justiﬁcatory status of a belief. If the belief is true, the true belief contributes some positive value. If the belief is false, the false belief contributes some disvalue. Beliefs also have consequences and come with opportunity costs. Epistemic consequentialists should care about this. EBC implies that all and only true beliefs are justiﬁed only on the assumption that it is impossible to form a true belief without maximizing total epistemic value and impossible to form a false belief while maximizing total epistemic value. Both assumptions are false, however. It is possible that in forming the true belief that p the total value that results is less than or equal to the value that would have resulted if you had instead either formed the false belief that ∼p or believed neither p nor ∼p. It is possible that in forming the false belief that p the total value that results is equal to or greater than the total value that would have resulted if you had instead either formed the true belief that ∼p or believed neither p nor ∼p. So, on straightforward veristic grounds, it looks like (2) is false. What might be true on EBC is that every time you justiﬁably believe a proposition you also believe a true proposition, but these need not be the same proposition.35 Believing p when p is true could trigger a chain of events that causes the formation of large numbers of false beliefs. The result could be that it would have been better not to believe p in the ﬁrst place. Believing p when p is true could set events in motion that prevent you from forming a large number of true beliefs you would have formed otherwise. Given totalism, EBC says that in these kinds of situations, p is true, but you should not believe it. If you should not believe p, you cannot justiﬁably believe p. We can break the link between false and unjustiﬁed beliefs constructing structurally similar cases. Maitzen’s argument against epistemic consequentialism fails, but we can now see why epistemic consequentialism is so deeply implausible. Our ordinary practice of epistemic assessment is not just non-consequentialist. It is deeply anti-consequentialist because we reject totalism. You can know that p is true even if forming a belief in p brings about less overall epistemic value than believing ∼p or suspending judgment. You can knowingly infer that p is true even if you know that the result of forming this belief is that you will bring about less overall epistemic value than believing ∼p or suspending judgment. You cannot know p unless you justiﬁably believe p, so the justiﬁcation of a belief does not depend upon the total epistemic value of forming that belief.
35 Indeed, these need not even be believed by the same person. I do not think anyone believes that the justiﬁcation of your belief depends upon the value realized by the beliefs of others as a result of your coming to believe what you do. My own intuitions strongly favor views on which the justiﬁcatory status of my beliefs are not threatened by facts about what others believe as a result of my beliefs. For a helpful discussion of the separateness of persons, see Norcross 2008.
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We should reject EBC because the totalizing assumption is at odds with the anti-consequentialist nature of epistemic assessment. Even if ERC does not collapse into EBC, it does not avoid the objection. There is nothing internal to ERC that rules out the possibility of J-rules that classify beliefs as unjustiﬁed by virtue of the value of the belief’s eﬀects just as there is nothing internal to rule-consequentialism that rules out the possibility of moral rules that classify actions as unjustiﬁed by virtue of the value of the action’s eﬀects. (Remember, rule-consequentialists tend to agree with Ross that there are prima facie duties of non-maleﬁcence and beneﬁcence.36 Their disagreement with Ross is about whether there is an underlying rationale that explains why these rules are rules and why there are more rules besides just these.) However, it is not just some contingent fact about genuine epistemic principles or rules that they determine the justiﬁcatory status of a belief apart from the belief’s consequences. So, while we know it is impossible for a belief to count as unjustiﬁed simply in virtue of the value of its eﬀects, we know ERC does not rule this out and so ERC cannot provide an adequate foundation for a theory of justiﬁcation.37 Epistemic consequentialism can come in many forms. So far, we have assumed the combination of consequentialism and veritism. Suppose true belief is not intrinsically valuable. Suppose instead that knowledge is epistemically valuable and any status short of knowledge is disvaluable. Or, suppose that believing on the basis of evidence is intrinsically valuable and any irrationally held belief is disvaluable. Modifying the value theory will not help. If the justiﬁcation for believing p depends upon whether the total value of forming that belief is at least as good as not forming that belief, we can construct examples just like the examples described above to show that believing p on the evidence or knowingly inferring that p is true prevents you from maximizing epistemic value. So far we have focused on objective forms of consequentialism. The move to a subjective form of consequentialism will not help. The examples do not assume that the epistemically disvaluable eﬀects of forming a belief are eﬀects the subject knows nothing about. Even if the subject is absolutely certain that the cost of coming to believe the truth about p is a penalty of thousands of false beliefs or irrationally formed beliefs, she knows this is irrelevant to the question as to whether to believe p.
Evidentialism and Epistemic Value
In this section, I want to consider a value-driven argument for an internalist version of evidentialism. On the view in question, the justiﬁcation of your beliefs is determined by relations between your beliefs and the evidence you have, not on further relations between your beliefs and the states of aﬀairs that
Hooker 2000. with a taste for beating dead horses might also think about the separateness of persons. Can epistemic consequentialists account for the fact that the justiﬁcatory standing of yours beliefs does not depend upon how many “bad” beliefs others will form if you believe the truth?
37 Those 36 See
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your beliefs concern.38 The view is an internalist view in that it says that your evidence supervenes upon your non-factive mental states. Instead of working from a theory of the epistemic good to a theory of right believing by means of some consequentialist assumptions about the priority of the good to the right, the argument we shall consider here appeals to intuitions about epistemic value that many of us likely share. The argument is intended to support an evidentialist view that upholds these claims about epistemic wrongs and the right to believe: It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe without suﬃcient evidence (EW). It is right always, everywhere, and for anyone to believe upon suﬃcient evidence (ER). EW is perfectly harmless. This is the sort of claim that internalists and externalists alike can and should accept. ER might at ﬁrst seem trivial, but evidentialists do not deal in trivialities. If all ER said was that it is right to believe upon evidence that is suﬃcient to provide a permission to believe, no one could sensibly deny ER. So understood, if you did not have suﬃcient evidence for your beliefs, you would not have whatever evidence is necessary, if any, to to permissibly believe. Evidentialists defend something more contentious. They defend the view that if you have just the same evidence as someone who justiﬁably believes p, you also have suﬃcient justiﬁcation for believing p. The idea is that two individuals cannot have precisely the same evidence but then diﬀer in that on individual lacks suﬃcient evidence. This does not tell us what suﬃciency amounts to, but I do think that this is probably right to say that if you know p, you have suﬃcient evidence for believing p is true. Why think that? If you have knowledge, you have justiﬁed belief.39 You should never believe without suﬃcient justiﬁcation in the relevant sense. This is what EW tells us. So, if you do justiﬁably believe, you have suﬃcient evidence in the relevant sense (i.e., evidence suﬃcient to satisfy whatever requirement must be satisﬁed so that your belief does not fail to be justiﬁed for a lack of evidence).
unless those states of aﬀairs are themselves the sorts of things that obtain by virtue of facts about your own non-factive mental states. 39 Does knowledge require justiﬁed belief? This is controversial, but I ﬁnd Williamson’s argument persuasive. Suppose S reasons competently from p and if p then q to q. If knowledge does not require justiﬁed belief we should be able to suppose that S knows p without justiﬁably believing it and justiﬁably believes the conditional without knowing that it is true. What should we say about S’s belief in q? We cannot say that S’s belief in q constitutes knowledge because an essential premise in the deduction was not known to be true. We cannot say that S’s belief in q is justiﬁed because an essential premise in the deduction was not justiﬁably believed. Surely, there is something going for believing q. It seems that it is reasonable for S to believe q and it seems we would not say that S should suspend judgment rather than have formed her belief in q. Would anyone ever say, “While she knew p and was not wrong to think that p is true only if q, she should not have believed q until she had better reasons to do so”? I think not, not with any plausibility, at any rate. If not, her belief was permissibly formed. But that just is the mark of the justiﬁed belief. Knowledge is more than you need for justiﬁed belief, so justiﬁed belief is required for knowledge. See Williamson 2007, pp. 111
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Arguably, two individuals can have the same bodies of evidence but know different things.40 Given the conception of evidence our evidentialists are working with, this is certainly so. If having the same evidence as someone in the know is suﬃcient, ER says that if you have this evidence but fail to know for reasons “external” to your evidence, you still can justiﬁably believe what you do. You might have the same evidence as someone who could have known p while you yourself fail to know p because p is false. You might have the same evidence as someone who could have known p while you yourself do not know p because your belief concerning p is Gettiered. Hopefully, the connection between EW, ER, and this evidentialist supervenience thesis is clear: If you and another individual have precisely the same evidence, you have suﬃcient evidence for believing p iﬀ this second individual has suﬃcient evidence for believing p (EEJ). Let us now turn to the argument for EEJ. Feldman says we should accept evidentialism because, “following one’s evidence is the proper way to achieve something of epistemic value”.41 Expanding on this, he remarks: While true beliefs may have considerable instrumental value, a person who irrationally believes a lot of truths is not doing well epistemically. In contrast, a person who forms a lot of rational but false beliefs is doing well epistemically . . . Consider a person who is contemplating a particular proposition. To carry out the role of being a believer in an epistemically good way, in a way that maximizes epistemic value, the person must adopt a rational attitude towards a proposition . . . To achieve epistemic value one must, in each case, follow one’s evidence.42 We can restate his argument as follows: (1) If you form the belief that is supported by the evidence, you form the epistemically rational attitude towards a proposition. (2) If you form the epistemically rational attitude towards a proposition, you maximize something of epistemic value. (3) In maximizing something of epistemic value, it is not wrong for you to believe what you do. (C1) Thus, it is right always and everywhere for you to believe upon suﬃcient evidence.
40 This is controversial. We shall discuss Williamson’s account of evidence in the next two chapters. For now, let us assume that two individuals in the same non-factive mental states have the same evidence. This is Feldman’s conception of evidence and it is his argument for an internalist conception of epistemic justiﬁcation. 41 Feldman 2000, pp. 682. 42 Feldman 2000, pp. 685.
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Feldman is probably right that some epistemic good is realized when you believe in accordance with the evidence. He seems to assume that the value realized either provides you with the right to believe or indicates that you have it. While every value might call for some sort of response, it is not obvious that the value realized by believing in accordance with the evidence calls for that response or justiﬁes it, come what may. Some values call for responses that do not involve promoting the value in question (e.g., they might give us reasons to respect or admire something without giving us reasons to try to bring about more of this value).43 Some values call for promotion but provide only pro tanto reason to bring these values about. So, even granting that it is always good to believe in accordance with the evidence, it might also always be good in some sense to do something that falls sort of being the right thing to do and something might be good in some sense without giving any reason at all to bring that value about. To see what the problem is, it might be useful to consider an argument against ER and consider what Feldman could say in response: (4) An agent can φ and her φ-ing can have moral worth even if it was not right for the agent to φ.44 (5) If an agent’s φ-ing has moral worth, her normative judgment that rationalizes her φ-ing has to have epistemic worth. (6) If the normative judgment that justiﬁes the agent’s φ-ing is justiﬁed, the agent’s φ-ing is justiﬁed if she φ’s accordingly. (C2) Thus, a judgment can have epistemic worth without being justiﬁed. (7) Any judgment that has epistemic worth has the value that attaches to reasonably held beliefs formed in response to the evidence in a responsible way. (C3) A judgment can have the value that attaches to reasonably held beliefs formed in response to the evidence in a responsible way without being justiﬁed. Once we see what Feldman’s response to this argument is, we can start to see how to blunt the force of his argument for EEJ. Can an agent fail to do the right thing and still act in such a way that it is creditable to her or laudable? I believe so, and Feldman seems to agree. He thinks, for example, that an action can be wrong by virtue of its untoward eﬀects even if the agent happened to be non-culpably ignorant that the action would have these eﬀects. If the ignorance is “hard earned” in the sense that the agent’s belief that the action would be for the best is based on suﬃciently good evidence, it is hard to deny that it is possible for the agent’s action to have just as much moral worth as it would have had if only by some miracle those events had not transpired and things really did turn out for the best. As Kant would
43 For a discussion of diﬀerent modes of response to value, see Baron (1997) and Swanton (2003). 44 This is controversial, but for defense, see Sverdlik 2001 and Zimmerman 1988, pp. 50.
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stress, there is nothing in the production of those eﬀects that shows that there is anything at all defective in the agent’s will. The agent could have acted for an appropriate moral motive and taken all the care in the world, but mother nature likes bad things to happen because of good people. To be sure, Kant would say that the permissibility of the action does not depend upon these eﬀects, but on this point, Feldman and I seem to be in agreement that Kant is wrong. I will oﬀer arguments against the sort of anti-consequentialist view associated with Kant in the later discussion of norms of assertion and practical reason. Let us bracket them for now and see if the rest of the argument holds up. In (5), I introduce this notion of epistemic worth, a notion that is supposed to parallel the notion of moral worth. According to Kant, an action has moral worth only if it is done from a suitable motive. If that motive is taken to be the motive of duty, many commentators take Kant’s view to be objectionable insofar as it seems commendable for others to act from other kinds of motives and it is not at all clear that there is anything admirable about the agent who acts from a reverence for the law as opposed to the values that the moral law is concerned with and directs us to respect, care for, produce, etc... For our puposes, let us say that an action has moral worth iﬀ it is creditable or laudable. As Zimmerman stresses, it is probably best to acknowledge that while we speak as if actions have moral worth, they do only because of the qualities of the agents who perform them.45 What then is epistemic worth supposed to be? A belief is supposed to have epistemic worth if the agent is motivated to hold it because the agent both respects the right kind of reasons for holding a belief and has exercised suﬃcient care in trying to respond to these reasons. Given that the right kind of reasons for belief consist of truth-related considerations (i.e., evidence), there is something plausible to the idea that epistemic worth can be cashed out in broadly evidentialist terms. My objection to Feldman’s argument is not so much that there is not something for the evidentialist to be right about, it is that the thing that the evidentialist is right about is not the standards that determine right or justiﬁed belief. The thought, then, behind (5) is this. Suppose that the agent’s judgment about how to deal with a situation is epistemically defective in some way that is a discredit to her as a person. This would seem to indicate a lack of concern for considerations of moral importance on the agent’s part. Surely, if I did not live up to my responsibilities in trying to settle the question as to whether to believe I ought to φ, I cannot have lived up to my responsibilities in trying to settle the question as to whether to φ since the ﬁrst question is transparent to the second. I do not think that Feldman will deny (7), so by process of elimination, it seems he must deny (6). In so doing, he needs to deny that there is a principled connection between the normative standing of normative judgments and the actions that these judgments rationalize. We, then, need to see if there are counterexamples to the following principle: If you judge that you must φ and your judgment is justiﬁed, you cannot be obligated not to φ (EPJ).
1988, pp. 38.
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As we saw earlier in our discussion of phenomenal conservatism, there seem to be a variety of counterexamples to EPJ. Suppose, for example, that you think that if it seems to you that you ought to φ based on your own moral intuitions and you have no reason to suspect that they are unreliable, you can justiﬁably judge that you ought to φ. Given this understanding of justiﬁed judgment and EPJ, we would have to sanction all manner of morally abhorrent behavior. (We would, for example, have to say that the cannibals and terrorists discussed earlier acted rightly if they followed their conscience and were isolated from the kinds of defeating considerations that we take to show that their actions are morally abhorrent). Or, suppose you think that you justiﬁably judge that you should φ if you are the same on the inside as someone who knows she ought to φ. Such a view might not imply that it is consistent with your moral obligations to eat strangers or kill innocents in an attempt to live up to your religious obligations, but such a view implies that the unknown and untoward eﬀects of your actions have no bearing on their justiﬁcatory status.46 Someone might say that she lacks the intuitions about these kinds of cases to be moved by the argument, but this was not Feldman’s reaction. At one point, he agreed that some of these cases constitute counterexamples to EPJ. Because of this, he has to reject (6). He oﬀers this rationale for adopting a view on which EEJ is true but EPJ is false: With regard to ethical justiﬁcation, it is clear that there are cases in which what is moderately subjectively justiﬁed diﬀers from what is objectively justiﬁed. Such cases occur when a person has reasonable but incorrect beliefs about what action is morally best. One may have reasonable but incorrect beliefs about what the consequences of an action will be or about the values of correctly identiﬁed consequences. In such cases, one may have a good reason to believe that an action is best when it actually is not best. Thus, there can be actions that are subjectively justiﬁed, but are not objectively justiﬁed.47
46 Someone might object to this on the grounds that they reject the idea of an obligation an agent non-culpably knew nothing about. Unknowable obligations, I take it, if there are such things, are good candidates for obligations we know nothing about. There are good reasons to believe in such obligations. Think of cases of conﬂicting pro tanto duties. Parents have to decide when to let their children out to play. They might know that if they let them out too often, they expose them to too much danger. If they let them out too little, they shelter them. We can imagine a series of neighborhoods. At one end is the perfectly safe neighborhood and at the other is an exceptionally dangerous neighborhood. Any parent who keeps their kids in in the ﬁrst is clearly sheltering them. Any parent who keeps their kinds in in the second is probably letting them out to collect the insurance. There will be neighborhoods in the middle where it is impossible to know whether it is too dangerous to let the kids play unsupervised. This is not ignorance that can be remedied by giving the parents more crime statistics, more reports of strangers in the area, a second look at the pollen count or the numbers of bees. I am tempted to say that parents forced to decide will often make the wrong decision but be nothing less than perfectly reasonable in their decision. Their acts, we might say, have just as much moral worth as the permissible acts of parents in ever so slightly safer neighborhoods who act from a similar sense of concern for their children. Both Jussi Suikkanen and Ralph Wedgwood have made similar points in conversation. Also, see Sorensen (1995). 47 Feldman 1988, pp. 415.
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On his view, when it comes to action, the evidence oﬀers a kind of subjective justiﬁcation. Objective justiﬁcation or permissibility depends upon further factors beyond the subject’s evidence. He says that this is not so for belief: [A]ll subjectively justiﬁed beliefs are also objectively justiﬁed. Whenever one is subjectively justiﬁed in believing p, then one is objectively justiﬁed in believing that one’s reasons for believing p are good ones. But then the evidence for this [second-order] belief together with the reasons for thinking that those are good reasons constitute an objectively good reason for believing p. Hence, . . . moderate subjective justiﬁcation implies objective justiﬁcation.48 Let me register two concerns. His position seems to be that evidence constitutes a reason for belief without constituting a reason for action. This might be so, but someone who accepts EPJ does not need to say that evidence for forming a belief provides reasons for action. Instead, someone who accepts EPJ can say that the reasons there are not to act also constitute reasons not to believe. If those reasons include reasons that the subject is unaware of, someone who accepts EPJ can accept everything that Feldman says and simply add that the reason EPJ is true is that when you ought not φ but reasonably believe that you must φ the very same reasons that Feldman agrees prevent your action from being justiﬁed (or, as he puts it, “objectively justiﬁed”) prevent your belief from being justiﬁed. While some could object to the suggestion that a reason can be decisive even if the subject is not aware of it, this is not just my view. This is Feldman’s view. He thinks that there can be a decsive case against acting even if the reasons not to act are inaccessible to the agent at the time of action. Given that this is his view, it is reasonable to ask (again) why this is not so for reasons that bear on whether to believe. Dialectically, this puts him in an awkward spot. With very little honest toil, we can construct an argument for EPJ that parallels his argument for EEJ: (8) If you form the belief you must φ and the evidence supports this belief, you form the epistemically rational belief and you perform a practically rational action if you φ in accordance with your own justiﬁed judgment. (9) If you perform a practically rational action by φ-ing, you thereby maximize something of practical value. (10) If you maximize something of practical value, it is not wrong for you to φ. (C4) Thus, it is right always and everywhere for you to act on the belief that is based on suﬃcient evidence. Now, we can now get down to the theft. If Feldman thinks EPJ is false, he has to reject one of the premises. (8) and (9) are perfectly sound. If it is epistemically rational to believe that you must φ, it cannot be practically irrational for you to act on that very judgment. Here, I agree with Foley who maintains:
1988, pp. 416.
CHAPTER 3. EPISTEMIC VALUE A plan (decision, action, strategy, belief, etc. . . ) is rational in sense X for an individual if it is epistemically rational for the individual to believe that it would acceptably contribute to his or her goals of type X.49
The argument’s weakest link is (10). The value realized by acting reasonably, rationally, responsibly, etc..., is a good, but either the good in question does not oﬀer a pro tanto justiﬁcation for performing the act in question or it provides merely a pro tanto justiﬁcation for performing the act in question. Either way, such a value does not indicate that you act rightly when you act reasonably. Since this value is the practical analogue of the value Feldman says signiﬁes that the belief that has that value is justiﬁed, there is the very real possibility that that value either does not provide a pro tanto justiﬁcation for belief or provides nothing more than a pro tanto justiﬁcation. Since ER asserts that you have all things considered justiﬁcation in believing on the evidence, not just some pro tanto justiﬁcation. While it is true that you should never believe without suﬃcient evidence, arming yourself with suﬃcient evidence still leaves you exposed to moral luck. Arguably, it also leaves you exposed to epistemic luck. Owing to bad luck, you can believe on the evidence, act on your conscience, and just as Feldman thinks that your practical conscience can lead you astray, your epistemic conscience can lead you astray. By following the evidence and failing to live up to your practical obligations, you did not live up to your epistemic obligations. We know why Feldman rejects that last bit. He rejects that because it is reasonable to believe on the evidence, there is something good about believing on the evidence, and if something is so good, it cannot be wrong. It is not clear what is doing the work for Feldman here. It cannot be the mere fact that there is something good about forming the belief. There is something good about doing the wrong thing if you reasonably thought it was right. Whatever that was, it was not a value that called for you to act as you did and therein justiﬁed the action. In the epistemic case, someone opposed to evidentialism can say that it is not true in general that the rational is the mark of the permissible and so it is not true in general that the value that attaches to the reasonable or the rational response to the situation justiﬁes that response. This has to be some special feature of the epistemic realm. If Feldman concedes that this is a brute fact, this just is to concede that the arguments for evidentialism fail. If Feldman is going to oﬀer evidence for ER, he has to explain what is special about epistemic rationality. While I shall argue in later chapters that the evidentialist view of epistemic rights and wrongs is wrong, at this stage I think it is safe to say that the valuedriven argument for evidentialism has been undermined. No justiﬁcation has been given for the argument’s crucial premises (2) and (3) and we are left with an argument by analogy that suggests that they are false. One possibility is that Feldman thinks the epistemic case diﬀers from the practical case in that in the practical case, there can be reasons not to act that do not supervene upon your evidence but in the epistemic case, everything of epistemic value supervenes
2001, pp. 218.
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upon the evidence. Stated crudely, the idea is that bad things can happen when good people follow the evidence and act on the available intelligence. Iraq is a bad example of this, but we knew what people were up to when they conceded that mistakes were made. When people follow the evidence and believe on it, however, nothing bad can come of it because facts that do not supervene upon the evidence have no epistemic value whatsoever. Developed in this way, the view is not that a justiﬁcation does not aspire to show that there are not decisive reasons not to believe or that a belief can be justiﬁed even if a justiﬁcation fails in its aspirations. Instead, the idea is that there is nothing outside the head of epistemic value that could threaten the normative standing of a belief whereas there are things outside the head of practical value (e.g., facts about the needs of others and what would serve our needs) that threaten a justiﬁcation. Developed in this way, the evidentialist would have to deny the veritist claims that false belief is epistemically bad and true belief is epistemically good. The truth or falsity of most of what we believe does not supervene upon the evidence. The evidentialist would have to say that false beliefs have no epistemic disvalue, per se. And, they would have to say that true beliefs have no epistemic value, per se. Evidentialists would need to explain away the intuitions that seem to support the veritist’s claims to the contrary. This would also create a problem internal to the evidentialist view. Truth is an essential goal of doxastic deliberation. This is why following the evidence concerning the truth value of a belief is the appropriate way to pursue your epistemic goals and following the evidence that a belief has other desirable features not related to truth is an inappropriate way to pursue your epistemic goals. If no good can come of achieving your epistemic goals, why would it be good to pursue them in the right way? If nothing bad can come of failing to achieve your epistemic goals, why would it be bad to pursue them in the wrong way? The only way I can see to ﬁx Feldman’s argument is to assert that the rational is the mark of the permissible in both the practical and theoretical domain. I do not explore this option in this chapter, but we shall return to it later. Insofar as he denies that the rational is the mark of the permissible in some domains, Feldman leaves his argument susceptible to the objection that he is wrong about the proper mode of response to the value that attaches to rational belief. Anyone who agrees that the value of rational action does not justify the rational action when there is a case to be made against acting that the agent is ignorant of has to say that the value that attaches to rational action calls for a response other than performing the action. Why? Because every value calls for some response or other and the value in question is a value that impermissible actions can have. When the morally conscientious agent tries but fails to live up to her obligations because she is non-culpably ignorant of what it would have taken to meet her obligations, we can say that her actions had moral worth. If an agent’s actions have moral worth, the action might have only seemed to be justiﬁed and so only seemed to have the values that justiﬁed it. That does not mean that the action was valueless, only that the values the action had call for
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a diﬀerent response, such as honoring, commending, respecting, and forgiving. Intuitively, actions that call for these responses are good in some way. These actions are better than overtly similar actions that were carried out recklessly, maliciously, irresponsibly, etc. . . And, it seems that the value morally worthy actions have is not purely instrumental. If the value were purely instrumental, we would not say that it was better for an agent to φ responsibly than for an agent to φ with indiﬀerence, or from the motive of proﬁt, or from fear, etc. . . If this much is right, perhaps we should say something similar for belief.
The Right and the Good
Epistemologists interested in epistemic value have focused primarily on the value of knowledge and most of what has been said about the value of justiﬁcation has been said in the context of this discussion. The reader is probably familiar with the basic contours of the discussion surrounding the Meno Problem.50 Knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief. It seems that way to many of us, at least. We look for an explanation as to why this is. Could it be that knowledge is tied down in such a way that it serves as a better basis for action than true belief? Possibly, but if it is, this only shows that knowledge has an instrumental and a practical value that true belief does not. This is the wrong kind of value twice over. A second explanation seems more promising. Knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief because the former involves justiﬁcation and the latter need not. Unlike the previous attempt at explanation, this one at least involves something of epistemic value. The explanation rests on three assumptions. The ﬁrst is that justiﬁcation is not necessary for true belief but it is necessary for knowledge. The second is that justiﬁcation is always valuable from the epistemic point of view. The third is that it is something we value for its own sake. So, justiﬁcation seems to be the thing we are after, the thing that explains why knowledge is epistemically better than mere true belief. We know that the discussion does not end here. Even if this explanation works, we still do not know why knowledge is distinctively valuable (i.e., more valuable than any of its proper parts). If we try to solve our ﬁrst value problem by appeal to the value of justiﬁcation, a second problem crops up because there is more to knowledge than just justiﬁed, true belief and (allegedly) more value in knowledge than contained in justiﬁed, true belief. Even if we bracket this second value problem, the assumptions we need to solve our ﬁrst value problem are controversial. Does justiﬁcation have a non-instrumental epistemic value? It is hard to say. Why do we value justiﬁcation? The obvious reason is that justiﬁcation is supposed to be connected to truth and the truth is something we value. The nature of this connection is hard to specify, but it is the connection to truth that distinguishes epistemic justiﬁcation from other kinds of justiﬁcation.51 The problem we now face is that if we cash out the value of justiﬁcation in terms of
50 See 51 For
Kvanvig 2003 for an introduction. discussion, see Cohen 1984.
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the value of the truth-connection, we might spoil our explanation of the value of knowledge. To see what the worry is, suppose the value of knowledge, VK , is greater than the value of true belief, VTB . We can appeal to the value of justiﬁed belief, VJB , to explain this, but only if VJB is not itself contained in VTB . On its face, it does seem plausible to maintain that VJB is not contained in VTB . There can be unjustiﬁed, true beliefs, after all. It seems better to believe with justiﬁcation than without it. While these claims seem plausible, they can be contested. Should we say that justiﬁed belief is valuable because of the value of the truth-connection (i.e., the connection between a belief and the truth that must be in place for the belief to be justiﬁed), VJTC , or should we say that there is more to VJB than VJTC ? BonJour seems to think we value justiﬁcation precisely because we value the truth, and this suggests that VJB might just be VJTC : Why is such justiﬁcation something to be sought and valued? Once the question is posed this way, the following answer seems obviously correct . . . We want our beliefs to correctly and accurately depict the world . . . The basic role of justiﬁcation is that of a means to truth . . . We cannot, in most cases at least, bring it about directly that our beliefs are true, but we can presumably bring it about directly . . . that they are epistemically justiﬁed. And, if our standards of epistemic justiﬁcation are appropriately chosen, bringing it about that our beliefs are epistemically justiﬁed will tend to bring it about . . . that they are true . . . It is only if we have some reason for thinking that epistemic justiﬁcation constitutes a path to truth that we as cognitive beings have any motive for preferring epistemically justiﬁed beliefs to epistemically unjustiﬁed ones. Epistemic justiﬁcation is therefore in the ﬁnal analysis only an instrumental value, not an intrinsic one.52 If he is right and VJB = VJTC , we face a problem that is structurally similar to the swamping problem.53 VJTC appears to be an instrumental value. Unless VJTC is also a non-instrumental value, we cannot explain how VJB could be a non-instrumental value. If VJTC is merely instrumentally valuable (i.e., valuable only because of the connection to truth), then when a belief is false, that belief will not have some positive value by virtue of having VJTC . (Plausibly, if the only value Fs ever have is instrumental value, on those occasions where nothing of intrinsic value is realized, F has no value at all. To borrow an example, if a horrible shot of espresso is made using the ﬁnest equipment, this shot is not better for this reason than a qualitatively indistinguishable shot you could get at the gas station.54 ) If VJTC is merely instrumentally valuable, then when a belief is true, it should not have some additional value by virtue of possessing VJTC , a value that unjustiﬁed, true beliefs lack. (If the only value the Fs ever
52 BonJour 53 See
1985, pp. 7-8. Swinburne 1999 and Pritchard Forthcoming for discussion. 54 Zagzebski 2003, pp. 13.
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have is instrumental value, when something of intrinsic value is realized, the presence of an F does not increase the total value. If a fantastic shot of espresso is made using the poorest equipment, it is not less valuable than a qualitatively indistinguishable shot of espresso made using the ﬁnest equipment.) So, if VJB = VJTC , it seems we cannot explain VK > VTB in terms of VJB . So, it seems we are under some pressure to explain how it could be that VJB > VJTC in order to properly explain how it is that VK > VTB in terms of VJB and also under some pressure to concede that VJB = VJTC . It is always good to believe with justiﬁcation. It is always better from the epistemic point of view to believe with justiﬁcation than to believe without it. Both claims strike me as intuitive, but BonJour seems to suggest they are mistaken. Perhaps he would argue as follows: (1) The value of justiﬁcation derives entirely from the connection between justiﬁcation and truth. (2) On those occasions where a justiﬁed belief is false, the justiﬁed belief is valueless. (C) It is not always good to believe with justiﬁcation. For reasons that will emerge later, I reject (2). Justiﬁed beliefs do not lack epistemic value when they are false because false beliefs are never justiﬁed. So, even if (1) is true and the justiﬁed belief derives its value entirely from its connection to truth, (1) does not compel us to accept the argument’s conclusion. Having said that, if you accept (1) and reject (2) on these grounds, you face a diﬀerent problem. Does my view imply that unjustiﬁed, true beliefs have the same value as justiﬁed, true beliefs? If so, the view implies that it is not better to believe with justiﬁcation than without it. In terms of their epistemic value, true beliefs are on par whether they are justiﬁed or not. In responding to BonJour’s argument, I want to expand on some remarks from the previous section. Suppose that the conditions that justify believing justify reasoning from that belief. In justifying a subject’s belief, these conditions justify her treating what she believes as a reason for further beliefs and, possibly, actions rationalized by these beliefs. Our agent’s action could have had moral worth even if she did not live up to her obligations, provided that she was suitably motivated in acting. To be suitably motivated in acting, the agent had to exercise suﬃcient care in reasoning about what to do. To exercise suﬃcient care, it had to be epistemically rational for the agent to believe that she was dealing with her situation in the way she should. If the value that attached to rational belief justiﬁed belief, it would justify acting on the belief, but we are assuming that there is nothing that justiﬁed the agent’s actions, and so this value did not provide suﬃcient justiﬁcation. So, the value that attaches to rational belief is an essential component of moral worth but it is not suﬃcient for the moral permissibility of the action or the epistemic permissibility of the beliefs that rationalize the action. The argument suggests that the value of reasonable belief is an essential component of moral worth. Combined, the value of reasonable belief and moral
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worth do not constitute a justiﬁcation for action or belief, but both intuitively seem valuable in their own way even on occasions where the agent failed to live up to her obligations, moral and epistemic. Because of this, it seems we do not conceive of these values as purely instrumental. However, these values are clearly connected to further ends. An action has moral worth only if an agent is pursuing her moral ends responsibly and a belief has epistemic worth only if the subject is pursuing her epistemic ends responsibly. Above, we saw that BonJour’s remarks supported the view that VJB is really nothing over and above VJTC . We deﬁned VJTC in such a way that no justiﬁed belief can lack VJTC . It is a value accrues to a belief if it stands in the connection to truth necessary for the belief to be justiﬁed. While BonJour seems to think that this means that VJTC has to be purely instrumental and that the same would hold true for VJB , the examples of moral worth and epistemic worth should give us pause. Could epistemic worth be a component of VJTC ? It seems so. Epistemic worth is a necessary condition on justiﬁed belief and any belief that lacks epistemic worth is not related to truth in the way it must be to be justiﬁed. It also seems to be but one component of VJB since beliefs can have epistemic worth even if they are unjustiﬁed. In making his case for the claim that VJTC is a merely instrumental value, BonJour explained why you seek and value justiﬁcation in instrumentalist terms. You seek and value justiﬁcation as a means to truth, he said. He is right. I would add that from the perspective of ﬁrst-person deliberation, your primary concern seems to be the truth of your beliefs. However, it is one thing to say that the aspect of justiﬁcation you care about when trying to settle the question as to whether p is whether the considerations you have in mind correctly settle the question. It is another thing entirely to say this is the only aspect of justiﬁcation you care about. When you settle to your satisfaction the question as to whether p only to later discover that ∼p, you might not value the justiﬁcation you had because you see know that it misled you. Contrast this case with the case in which you settle to your satisfaction the question as whether p only later to be told that while technically you were correct, you were unreasonable or irresponsible in concluding that p is true given the reasons that were available to you. On the instrumentalist picture, what concern would that be to you? If the instrumentalist picture is right, it would be of no value at all, but this does not ring true. In trying to settle the question as to whether p, you might settle it to your satisfaction without shifting your focus from the truth to you to consider how well you live up to your responsibilities, but in retrospect if someone says that your beliefs lack epistemic worth, you care. At least, you should. Notice, however, that you care about whether you pursued the truth responsibly and reasonably because you care about the truth. So, even if there is nothing more to VJB than VJTC , it does not follow that VJB is a purely instrumental value. VJTC might be more than some mere instrumental value. There might be many aspects of the truth-connection necessary for justiﬁcation and the subjective dimension that is connected to epistemic worth is part of it. If VJTC accrues only to beliefs that have epistemic worth, we can explain why VJB is not swamped by VTB . Not every true belief has epistemic worth and
CHAPTER 3. EPISTEMIC VALUE
not every belief with epistemic worth is true. Both truth and epistemic worth confer value upon a belief, and so we might be able to explain VK > VTB by appeal to a non-instrumental value contained in all justiﬁed beliefs. One problem remains. In explaining why it is always good in some respect to believe with justiﬁcation, we really have not explained why it is always better to believe with justiﬁcation than without it. Epistemic worth is, arguably, necessary for justiﬁed belief but not suﬃcient for justiﬁed belief. So, we have to explain why it is better to believe with justiﬁcation than to simply have beliefs that have epistemic worth. It is better to believe with justiﬁcation because it is always better to live up to your obligations. Better even than failing to live up to your obligations in admirable ways. You should never believe without justiﬁcation, but if you believe with justiﬁcation, you have lived up to your obligations. This is not because there is some independent notion of goodness that determines what our obligations are. I want to suggest that this is because our judgments about what is good or best often is a reﬂection of our independent sense of what is right and what there is reason to do. This is a point that Foot stressed in her critical discussions of consequentialist moral thought.55 She would say that we do not have a grip on the idea good states of aﬀairs that were not good from particular points of view. I think she might have overstated her case. Even if we have a grip on this idea, the fact is that our talk of what is “good”, “better”, and “best” does not reﬂect our commitment to the idea that the right is what is best from no particular point of view and our intuitions do not suggest that moving to this mode of moral thinking would improve things. Suppose that while backing out of your driveway you hit your neighbor’s kid, Alice, with your car. She has a badly twisted ankle. You rush her to the emergency room. Meanwhile, on the far side of town, I back my car into my neighbor’s kid, Bernice. She has a badly twisted ankle and I take Bernice to the emergency room. Alice and Bernice are both in pain, they respond equally well to pain relievers, but there is only one pill left in the waiting room. You say to yourself, “If there is only one pill to give, it would be better for me to give it to Alice”. I say to myself, “It would be better for me to give it to Bernice”. The nurse, meanwhile, says to herself, “It is not better to give it to Alice or Bernice because they are both in equally bad shape, so it is best for me to ﬂip a coin”. I do not think that anyone is getting it wrong and I do not there is any disagreement here. These judgments about what is better to do or best to do simply reﬂect the agent’s recognition of the reasons there are for them to act and not some measure of the value of the states of aﬀairs they can bring about. You know full well that it would be just as good for Alice and Bernice to get the pill, but it is better for you to look after Alice ﬁrst. It is better because you have a reparative duty to Alice, not just some duty of beneﬁcence. The nurse knows full well that it would be just as good for Alice to get the pill as Bernice, and since she has no prior relation to either of them (and an overriding obligation to ignore such prior relations for professional reasons) this is why she knows she should ﬂip a coin if she decides who gets the pill.
CHAPTER 3. EPISTEMIC VALUE We can say the following about the case: (3) You speak truthfully if you say, “I know it would be best to help Alice. So, that is what I should do.” (4) I speak truthfully if I say, “I know it would be best to help Bernice. So, that is what I should do.” (5) The nurse speaks truthfully if she says, “I know it would not be better to help Alice or Bernice ﬁrst, so it would be best to ﬂip a coin. That is what I should do.”
Owing to the factivity of “knows”, someone who thinks that judgments about what is better or best are true in virtue of some facts about the good characterized impersonally and without taking account of the speaker’s interpersonal relationships will have to say that only the nurse speaks truthfully. This goes against intuition. Not only do (3)-(5) seem true, it seems the speakers could knowingly acknowledge that these are all true. This further reinforces the idea that while judgments about what is best and what should be done might go together, this is not because an impersonal notion of the best is doing all the work in picking out our obligations. If this is right and our judgments about rightness are often reﬂected in judgments about what is better or best, this does a nice job explaining the intuition that it is always better to believe with justiﬁcation than without it. But, it also suggests that this intuition is not the sort of intuition about value that constrains a theory of justiﬁcation. Here is where things stand. I have tried to accommodate two intuitions about epistemic value. The ﬁrst is that it is always good to believe with justiﬁcation. If this is true, I have suggested that it is true because epistemic worth is an essential part of the justiﬁcation of a belief and it has a kind of non-instrumental value. While this notion of epistemic worth is the sort of thing that should be cashed out in internalist terms, this does not mean we should be internalists about justiﬁcation. It only means we should be internalists about one aspect of justiﬁcation. Arguably, epistemic worth is necessary for permissibility but not suﬃcient just as moral worth is not suﬃcient for permissible action. I have not argued that there is an additional externalist element to justiﬁed belief, but it seems the valuetheoretic considerations leave that possibility open. Whether we are internalists who think there is nothing more to epistemic justiﬁcation than epistemic worth or we deny this, so long as epistemic worth is regarded as a necessary condition for justiﬁcation, this takes care of our ﬁrst intuition. As for our second guiding intuition, it is always better to believe with justiﬁcation precisely because it is better to live up to your obligations. This will not help us determine what our epistemic obligations are, so this is why we need to turn to something else if we are to make any headway.
According to one version of evidentialism, your beliefs are justiﬁed iﬀ your beliefs are supported by your evidence “on balance”.1 This view purports to tell us something about the normative signiﬁcance of evidence. Your evidence is what gives you the right to believe. This right can be lost only if your evidence changes and it no longer supports your belief. It tells you little else. It does not say what your evidence consists of or what evidential support amounts to. Like this evidentialist view, I have nothing to say about the nature of the evidential support relation.2 What I shall do with this chapter is defend an externalist conception of evidence. Like the evidentialists, I hope that the views defended here can be combined with any plausible account of evidential support. With this account of evidence in place, I can start to build a case against internalism about the justiﬁcation of belief. If the acccount of evidence defended here is correct, I shall argue that some important facts about the justiﬁcation of your beliefs does not supervene upon your mental states.3 The evidentialists think that two kinds of relation determine the justiﬁcatory standing of a belief. If a belief is not justiﬁably held, it is either because it is not based on suﬃciently good evidence or the believer is not suﬃciently sensitive to the evidence she has against her belief. Building on the arguments of this chapter, I shall argue in the next chapter that this position is a mistake. The relations between evidence and belief matter, but epistemic appraisal does not focus on these relations to the exclusion of further relations between your beliefs and the matters that your beliefs concern. This more ambitious argument will have to wait for the next chapter. In this chapter, I shall lay down some foundations.
and Feldman 2008, pp. 83. keep things simple, let us assume that p is evidence for q only if p raises the probability of q: P(q p) > P(q). 3 In this chapter, our focus will be on non-factive mental states.
2 To 1 Conee
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
The externalist view I defend here is rather weak. I shall argue that this supervenience thesis is false: The conditions that determine what your beliefs are like justiﬁcationally strongly supervene upon your mental states (Supervenience Internalism).4 Evidentialists such as Conee and Feldman are committed to Supervenience Internalism because of their commitment to evidentialism and a certain conception of evidence: The conditions that determine (i) what your evidence consists of and (ii) the support relations that hold between your beliefs and your evidence strongly supervene upon your mental states (Mentalism).5 If two subjects’ beliefs are perfectly alike justiﬁcationally, these subjects have the same justiﬁed beliefs, these beliefs are justiﬁed to the same degree, and their beliefs stand in the same relations to the same justifying reasons. If two subjects are perfectly alike evidentially, these subjects have to have precisely the same evidence, their evidence must support the same beliefs for them, and the degree of support provided by their evidence has to be the same. Supervenience Internalism denies that it is possible for two internal duplicates to have diﬀerent evidence supporting their beliefs. This view is mistaken.
Getting a Fix on the Notion
The notion of evidence is notoriously slippery and so it is diﬃcult to know how to go about testing rival accounts. There are some general guidelines most of us can live with. While each of these proposed guidelines is negotiable, most of us would be skeptical of any view that violated them without good reason. First, there are some general platitudes about evidence that many of us recognize as platitudes. For example, your evidence is supposed to be what you have to go on or what you can properly rely on in forming a view.6 This suggests that your evidence has to be relatively more accessible than the unsettled matters you hope to resolve by following your evidence where it leads. Second, there seems to be some agreement that your evidence plays certain roles in inference, explanation, and the justiﬁcation of belief. So, it would be a mark against a theory, for example, if it denied that there was any sort of connection between your evidence and the justiﬁcation you have for your beliefs. Even the externalists who deny that subjects who have the same evidence and believe on the same evidence end up with the same justiﬁed beliefs agree that when you have evidence against your beliefs, this threatens the justiﬁcatory status of
4 In addition to Conee and Feldman 2004, you can ﬁnd defenses of Supervenience Internalism in Audi 2001, Pollock and Cruz 1999, and Wedgwood 2002. 5 Conee and Feldman 2004. 6 See Conee and Feldman 2008, Kelly 2008, and Silins 2005.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
those beliefs.7 Third, we have intuitions about what your evidence consists of and what is consistent with your evidence. A conﬂict with intuition is a mark against a view. Fourth and ﬁnally, there seems to be an important connection between evidence and justifying reasons for belief. Your evidence does not (just) explain why you believe. We look to your evidence to try to determine whether you are reasonable or rational in your beliefs. This should be enough to get us started. One caveat is in order. The views defended here should be consistent with plausible views about the nature of evidential support, but as I have nothing to say about the relation of evidential support, I shall not be terribly concerned with what it takes for something to be evidence for something else. Instead, I shall be concerned with what evidence is and what it takes to have it. I am not boldly suggesting that there is such a thing as evidence that is not evidence for something or other. Nothing can be an ingredient without being an ingredient for some possible dish.8 Just as we can speak of ingredients without explicitly mentioning any dishes, we can speak of evidence without saying that the evidence supports something or other.
The Refutation of Mentalism
Mentalists say that if two individuals do not diﬀer mentally, these individuals do not diﬀer evidentially. As you might have guessed, the refutation of mentalism consists of an argument that shows that it is possible for two subjects that do not diﬀer mentally to have diﬀerent evidence to support their beliefs. Mentalism does not tell us what evidence is, it only tells us when two individuals have the same evidence: Necessarily, if two individuals do not diﬀer mentally, p is part of the ﬁrst subject’s body of evidence and plays such and such a rule in her epistemological economy iﬀ p is part of the second subject’s body of evidence and plays the same role in her epistemological economy (Mentalism+). The basic idea behind Mentalism+ is that by holding ﬁxed the subject’s psychological states, we hold ﬁxed facts about which propositions are elements of this subject’s body of evidence and the role that this evidence plays in determining the justiﬁcatory standing of this subject’s beliefs. So formulated, Mentalism+ assumes: Evidence consists of propositions (Propositionality).9 Propositionality is controversial. Pollock remarks:
Goldman 1986. 2006, pp. 892. 9 The two most prominent defenders of Mentalism say that they are agnostic as to whether Propositionality is true. See Conee and Feldman 2008, pp. 101. In criticizing rival views, they never do so on the grounds that these views assume Propositionality. I would be surprised if they thought that the only reason my attempted refutation of their view fails is that it assumes Propositionality.
8 Hyman 7 See
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) What is it that justiﬁes a belief? ... For example, consider the case of a person who believes there is a sheep in the ﬁeld because he sees a dog that looks very much like a sheep–so much like a sheep that anyone would be justiﬁed in taking it to be a sheep until he examined it quite closely. One is apt to say that it is the fact that the dog looks like a sheep that justiﬁes the person in thinking that there is a sheep in the ﬁeld. But this is misleading. What is important in deciding whether the person is justiﬁed in his belief is not the fact itself but rather the person’s belief that it is a fact. After all, if the person did not believe that the dog looked like a sheep, then his belief that there was a sheep in the ﬁeld would not be justiﬁed, although it would of course still be a fact that the dog looked like a sheep. Thus we must say that what justiﬁes a belief is always another belief. It is a person’s “doxastic state” which determines which of his beliefs are justiﬁed. Of course, we can still talk about facts, states of aﬀairs, etc., justifying beliefs, but this must be understood in terms of beliefs justifying beliefs.10
It seems that Pollock denies that evidence or a reason to believe could consist be a fact or a true proposition because if you subtracted a belief, that fact or true proposition could not justify anything. This is true, but Pollock’s test for determining whether something could be a reason is too crude insofar as it does not distinguish between reasons and enabling conditions. Suppose there is a diﬀerence between the reason and that by virtue of which the reason is a reason. Subtract conditions that fall into that second category and there would be no reason, but we have stipulated that the conditions in this category are not reasons.11 Even if Pollock’s argument against Propositionality is not persuasive, it is fair to ask for reasons to believe that evidence consists of facts or propositions rather than mental states or events. Evidence seems to be a kind of normative
1974, pp. 25. a useful discussion of the diﬀerence between reasons and enabling conditions, see Dancy 2004. In a recent paper, Turri argues that mental states are not enablers that enable us to have facts or true propositions as reasons. He suggests that if someone asks why some event transpired, it is strange to then ask why the enabling conditions obtained (e.g., it is strange to ask, after being told that someone’s belongings were destroyed by a ﬁre, why there was oxygen in the apartment). Then, he observes that it is not strange to ask someone who has just explained why something has occurred by citing the fact that p why they believe p. This, he suggests, shows that mental states are not enabling conditions. See his 2009, pp. 504. Myself, I do not think it is always strange to ask this (e.g., we might have expected that the oxygen had been evacuated from the apartment). He says that if a speaker tries to explain p in terms of q and we ask about X, if it is natural to ask about X, X is a reason rather than an enabling condition. Suppose someone says that they believe Tiger will win because he excels at putting. Turri takes the it that since it is perfectly natural to ask the speaker why he believes Tiger excels at putting, this belief is a reason why (for?) the speaker to hold the further belief about Tiger’s chances of success rather than an enabling condition. I do not ﬁnd this convincing. Suppose we modify the example slightly. The speaker says that Tiger won because he excels at putting. Someone might ask why someone thinks that Tiger excels at putting and the question might be natural, but nobody thinks that this fact about the speaker’s attitudes has anything to do with explaining anything about Tiger’s performance.
11 For 10 Pollock
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
reason, a reason to believe rather than something as opposed to (just) a reason why we believe something. Normative reasons for action are, by their very nature, relational beasts. It is hard to imagine a world in which there are reasons that are not reasons for such and such an agent. How does something become a reason for an agent to do or avoid such and such a thing in such and such circumstances? There might be many paths to reasonhood, but the most obvious way something gets to be a reason is by counting in favor or counting against.12 While some reasons might not count in favor of anything at all, most of the reasons I can think of are reasons precisely because they count in favor of doing something or count against the doing of it. From here, it is a short step to the rejection of the rival view that treats normative reasons as psychological states of the agent. Unless we all harbor systematic and massive confusions about what counts in favor of acting, the things that count in favor of, say, lending a hand, are facts having to do with who needs help and how they can be helped. Once this point is granted, it is hard to deny Weak Propositionality: Some of our evidence consists of propositions (Weak Propositionality). The reason is that the things we take to bear on whether to act are very often the very same things we take to bear on whether to believe. As Fantl and McGrath observe, “Whether it is an action, an intention, or plan, or even an ‘ought’ judgment, still, we draw practical conclusions from the same premises from which we draw theoretical conclusions.” 13 If you know that I always vote for candidates from the same political party and ask what possible reason I could have to do that, the reasons I will oﬀer are the very same reasons I will oﬀer if you then ask why I believe I should vote that way. In trying to settle a question about what to do and a question about what to believe, when the belief that settles for me the question about what to do, I will draw upon the same reasons in practical and theoretical deliberation. If practical reasons are picked out by that-clauses, a great number of epistemic reasons will be picked out in just the same way. To deny that reasons for action or belief consist of the facts that ﬁgure in deliberation is to charge us with a kind of error it would be implausible to say we make. Either we would have to be wrong in taking the favorers to consitute an important class of reasons or wrong in taking facts to be what count in favor. Someone could try to argue from Weak Propositionality to Propositionality by arguing against possible pluralist views that recognize both propositional and non-propositional evidence. In the context of arguing against Mentalism, this would be a distraction. A sound argument against Mentalism+ constitutes a sound argument against Mentalism given the assumption of Weak Propositionality. The pluralist who recognizes both propositional and non-propositional evidence has to concede that if Mentalism+ is false, some facts about an individual’s evidence do not supervene upon the facts about this subject’s mental life.
12 See 13 Fantl
Dancy 2000. and McGrath 2009, pp. 73, fn. 16. See also Gibbons Forthcoming.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
If two subjects diﬀer only in that one subject has less propositional evidence for her beliefs than the other, we should expect that her beliefs are supported to a lesser degree even if non-propositional evidence can provide some evidential support. With these preliminary points out of the way, here is the refutation of Mentalism+: (1) My evidence includes the proposition that I have hands. (2) If my evidence includes the proposition that I have hands, I have hands. (3) The fact that I have hands does not supervene upon facts about my mental states. (C) Thus, it is possible for two individuals to diﬀer evidentially without diﬀering mentally–the proposition that I have hands is not evidence that my handless mental duplicates have. There are not many proofs in philosophy, but we can hope for the occassional valid argument with premises supported by argument. Anyone who accepts Supervenience Internalism, Mentalism, or Mentalism+ has to reject one of the premises. On the account of evidence defended below, each of the premises turns out to be true.
In this section, I shall argue that evidence consists of true propositions: If p is part of your evidence, p is true (FactivityE ). Evidence consists of propositions, but only true propositions constitute evidence. The metaphysics of this seems to makes sense. Saying that a proposition constitutes evidence only if it stands in a relation to something else (e.g., an individual’s attitudes, things that ensure that the proposition is true, etc...) is kind of like saying that a hunk of matter makes for a statue, but only if it stands in some relation to a sculptor. If the reader prefers to think of evidence as consisting of facts, I should say now that I do not have a view concerning the relation between facts and true propositions. The arguments here can be taken as supporting the disjunctive proposition that pieces of evidence are either true propositions or facts. My main concern is to argue that ascriptions of evidence that say that p is part of someone’s evidence are true only if p is true. Mentalists do not need to deny FactivityE . There are truths that supervene upon your mental states, after all. For them, such true propositions are certainly fair game. Remember that nothing I argue for in this section directly contradicts Mentalism, Mentalism+, or Supervenience Internalism. The arguments that support FactivityE do not rest on any particularly contentious claims about our knowledge of the external world or the nature of mind. You can construct a compelling argument for FactivityE on purely linguistic grounds. This is where we will start.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) 18.104.22.168 The Linguistic Case for FactivityE
When he was younger, Unger argued that nothing you ever do, think, or feel could be rational. Nothing could be rational, he thought, because nothing can be rational without normative reasons. You have no normative reasons, he thought, because something cannot be a reason for you to act, to believe, or to feel unless you know that it is true. You could only know p if there is not something else you could be more certain of, so the chances are good that you do not know any of the propositions you take yourself to know. Buried in this argument for universal ignorance and his argument for the irrationality of all feeling, thought, and deed, was an interesting observation about the relation between knowledge and reasons ascriptions: If p is your reason for V-ing, you know p (Known Reasons).14 What was his evidence for Known Reasons? Consider: (1) I’m going to the store for the reason that I’m out of candlesticks, but I don’t know I’m out of candlesticks. (2) I believe I should go to the store for the reason that I’m out of candlesticks, but I don’t know I’m out of candlesticks. Both (1) and (2) are clearly defective. They seem contradictory. Is this evidence for Known Reasons? Not good evidence, you might think, because this seems contradictory, too: (3) I’m out of candlesticks, but I don’t know that I am. This is just a Moorean absurdity. It seems contradictory (in some sense), but the proposition it expresses could be true. This is evidenced by the fact that if we restate (3) in the third-person it is perfectly felicitous: (3’) Plum is out of candlesticks, but she does not know she is. The appearance of contradiction, you might think is incredibly weak evidence for Known Reasons. On the hypothesis that (1) and (2) are defective for the reason that (3) is, (1) and (2) should be felicitous if restated in the third-person: (1’) Plum is going to the store for the reason that she’s out of candlesticks, but she doesn’t know that she’s out of candlesticks. (2’) Plum believes she should go to the store for the reason that she’s out of candlesticks, but she doesn’t know she’s out of candlesticks. Even if we restate them in the third-person, they seem defective. So, we do have some evidence for Known Reasons and FactivityE . The obvious explanation as
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
to why these seem contradictory is that they are. If p is Plum’s reason for φ-ing only if she knows p, p is among Plum’s reasons for φ-ing only if p is true. While it would make things easier for me if there was a convincing argument for Known Reasons, but there are reasons to be skeptical. Known Reasons also predicts that these could be a successful challenges to (1) and (2): (1c) Plum believed that she was out of candlesticks, but her belief was not justiﬁed. There was tons of misleading evidence that we planted in the hopes of tricking her into thinking that she had candlesticks. She knew of the evidence, but she completely ignored it. So, her reason for going wasn’t that she was out of candlesticks. (2c) Plum was out of candlesticks and she also reasonably believed that she was. But, she believed this on the basis of a note she reasonably but mistakenly thought was addressed to her saying that there were no candlesticks left. So, her belief was only accidentally true and so her reason for going wasn’t that she was out of candlesticks. While the considerations oﬀered might show that Plum’s belief did not satisfy the conditions necessary for knowledge, these considerations do not threaten (1) or (2). One explanation as to why this is is that there seem to be contexts in which we use “knows” to pick out something like a true belief. Think about when unfaithful lovers say that others “know” of their aﬀair even if the lovers know that others have little evidence to support their beliefs.15 In such contexts, the behavior of “knows” is not reliable evidence for claims about knowledge and its ascription. So, someone could reasonably doubt that the evidence on oﬀer provides good support for Known Reasons. Of course, one reaction to this is to say that if the argument for Known Reasons fails because “knows” picks out true beliefs rather than knowledge, the linguistic evidence thought to support Known Reasons would support FactivityE . While someone could say this, I would rather look for further evidence. This evidence seems tainted. This seems to be better evidence for FactivityE : Scarlet: Do they have solid evidence against Mustard? Green: The prosecution thinks it does. Here’s the evidence they have: that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the crime, that his ﬁngerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he wrote a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. Scarlet: But, didn’t you say that he wasn’t the last person to see him alive and his ﬁngerprints couldn’t have been on the weapon? Green: That’s right. He also didn’t lie about his whereabouts and wasn’t the last one to see him alive.
2002, pp. 183.
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Green’s remarks seem contradictory. In stating the facts of the case as he takes them to be, it appears that he contradicts his claims about the prosecution’s evidence. If evidence ascriptions were non-factive, Green’s remarks should be perfectly coherent. Ascribing evidence and denying that the propositions ascribed as evidence were true would be akin to ascribing false beliefs. His remarks here seem defective as well: Scarlet: Do they have solid evidence against Mustard? Green: People seem to think they do. Here’s the evidence they have: that he was the last one to see the victim alive, that he lied about his whereabouts on the night of the crime, that his ﬁngerprints were on the murder weapon, and that he wrote a letter containing details the police think only the killer could have known. That being said, I don’t know if he’s the last one who saw the victim alive and I don’t know if he lied. There is nothing at all strange about assertions such as: (4) The prosecution believes on reasonably solid evidence that Mustard was the killer, but I don’t know if they are right. I want to hear Mustard’s side of things. But this seems defective: (5) The prosecution knows that Mustard was the killer, but I don’t know if they are right. I want to hear Mustard’s side of things. This is further evidence that evidence ascriptions are factive in the way knowledge ascriptions are and belief ascriptions are not. 22.214.171.124 The Objection that Proves the View
Brieﬂy, I want to consider an objection to FactivityE . Versions of the objection have appeared in a number of places as an objection to E=K. One version of the objection alleges that FactivityE is incompatible with an intuitively plausible closure principle.16 Another says that cases of mistaken belief force those who accept FactivityE to say implausible things about the evidential bases of mistaken beliefs.17 These objections all assume something in the neighborhood of this principle: If you justiﬁably believe p, p is a justifying reason of yours that can justify further beliefs (Justiﬁed Basis). Let’s start with an example:
16 Comesaña 17 See
and Kantin 2010. Conee and Feldman 2008, Goldman 2009, and Rizzieri Forthcoming.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) I believe that nobody can enter my oﬃce (O for now) because I believe that I have just locked the door (LD for now). Let us stipulate that I have inferred (O) from (LD). I pushed the lock in and gave it a quick twist to the left, which usually does the trick; however, my lock is damaged and does not work. Hence, (LD) is false.18 Rizzieri says this about his example: If Williamson’s proposal that (E=K) is correct then (LD) cannot serve as an evidential ground for (O). This generates problems for (E=K). The ﬁrst diﬃculty is that it is very plausible that (LD) does partially constitute my evidence for (O). After all, I am justiﬁed in believing (LD), (LD) supports (O), and an explicit inference from (LD) is my most immediate basis or ground for (O).19
Given the features of the case, he says it is diﬃcult to deny that LD is evidence for O because LD renders O more probable than it would have been otherwise.20 Adding to the diﬃculties facing E=K and FactivityE , Comesaña and Kantin allege that these theses are incompatible with an attractive closure principle: If your belief in p is justiﬁed, you have suﬃcient justiﬁcation for believing the obvious consequences of p and can justiﬁably believe these consequences if these beliefs are arrived at by means of competent deduction (J-Closure). They say that if we assume that the proposition that p can justify you in believing something only if it is part of your evidence, E=K implies that the following is true: The proposition that p justiﬁes you in believing that q only if you knows that p (E=K1 ). They then argue against E=K1 and E=K as follows: [S]uppose that Terry is a recently envatted human. On the basis of an experience very much like the one that you have when you are facing a dog in your neighborhood, Terry believes that there is a dog in her neighborhood. Of course, Terry doesn’t know that there is a dog in her neighborhood (if only because it is false, let us suppose, but not only because of that), but she is still justiﬁed in believing it. She then deduces from that belief that there is a nonhuman animal in her neighborhood. Isn’t she thereby justiﬁed in believing that there is a non-human animal in her neighborhood? J-Closure (and intuition) say ‘‘Yes,’’ E=K1 says ‘‘No.’’ But the proposition that there is a non-human animal in the neighborhood is a lightweight implication of the proposition that there is a dog in
Forthcoming, pp. 2. pp. 3. 20 Forthcoming, pp. 3.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) the neighborhood. Therefore, again, if E=K1 is true then closure fails miserably.21
While there are reasons to doubt E=K, it is not because it commits you to FactivityE . For the ﬁrst case to constitute a counterexample to FactivityE , we have to assume: (1) That I have just locked my door is evidence that nobody can enter my oﬃce. Assume that if p is evidence for q, the probability of q has to be higher on p than it would have been otherwise. Given this assumption, (1) entails: (2) Because I just locked my door, it is more probable than it would have been otherwise that nobody could get into my oﬃce. The problem is that (2) entails: (3) I just locked my door. The case is only a potential counterexample to FactivityE if (3) is false. The argument just sketched shows that (∼3) entails (∼1). So, it seems that the objection to FactivityE comes to this: if you accept FactivityE , you have to deny something false. This response rests on two assumptions. The ﬁrst is that if p is evidence for q, there is some explanatory connection between p and q’s evidential probability. The evidential probability of q is higher than it would have been otherwise because p. The second is that “because” is factive in the explanans and explanandum positions. These assumptions have both been called into question. With regards to the ﬁrst, someone could say that it is possible for p to be evidence for q even if the probability of q on the total evidence is not increased by the addition of p.22 This worry is easily addressed. The objection to FactivityE assumed that evidence is evidence for something only if it raises its probability. Suppose that this is not the only way for something to serve as evidence for something else. There has to be some necessary condition on evidential support for p to be evidence for q. It might be a highly disjunctive condition, but whatever that condition is, C is that (possibly disjunctive) condition. Unless “p is evidence for q” entails “q satisﬁes C”, p is not evidence for q. To argue against Factivity, you have to start with a putative counterexample in which (i) is true: (i) p is evidence for q. This entails: (iia) Because p, q satisﬁes C. (iib) q satisﬁes C because p.
21 Comesaña 22 Thanks
and Kantin 2010, pp. 453. to [omit].
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) But, these entail: (iii) p is true.
If (iii) is true, the example is not a potential counterexample to Factivity. If (iii) is false, (i) is false, and so the example is not a potential counterexample to any claims about what it takes for p to be evidence for q. Notice that the crucial move in the argument is the move from the claim that something is evidence to the further claim that the thing that constitutes evidence explains something about what is supported by the evidence. If this works for evidence, it should work for other kinds of normative reasons as well. Any attempt to show that, say, normative reasons or justifying reasons consists of false propositions will fail because if something has the status of a reason to believe or act, it has to explain something about the normative properties of the belief or act in question. It might be something trivial (e.g., it might explain why it is that the belief or act in question has something going for it), but even trivial explanations require facts rather than false propositions. My response also assumes “because” is factive. This too has been called into question, but the linguistic evidence for the factivity of “because” is solid. Consider: (4) The colonists protested because the tea was taxed. Not only that, the tea was taxed. (5) He knows that they are angry and confused protestors. Indeed, they are angry protestors. (6) I have two tea members of the tea party living in my building. Indeed, I have precisely two. I’m lucky not to have more. You cannot reinforce entailments (e.g., in (4) and (5)). If you try, you end up with redundant conjunctions. You can reinforce pragmatically imparted information (e.g., in (6)).23 This seems contradictory and this seems to provide further support for the factivity of “because”: (7) The bolt snapped because there were too many people on the bridge, but nobody was on the bridge. It would not be surprising that (7) is contradictory if these were equivalent: (8) The bolt snapped because there were too many people on the bridge. (9) There were too many people on the bridge. That’s why the bolt snapped. These do seem to be equivalent. It seems contradictory to assert (8) and (∼9) or to assert (∼8) and (9). Also, you cannot reinforce (8) with (9) or vice-versa.
owe this point to Stanley 2008 who credits it to Sadock 1978.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
Finally, suppose you were under the impression that LD was true and so thought you had evidence that O was true. Suppose you said as you were leaving the oﬃce: (10) It is likely that nobody will get into the oﬃce because the door is locked. Later, we discover that the door had not locked. Looking back, we cannot say that you knew (10) was true when you uttered it. Why not? You could have had excellent evidence for (10). You believed (10). If ‘because’ is not factive, (10) could be true. My guess is that the reason you cannot say you knew (10) was true is that (10) is false if the explanans proposition is false. Comesaña and Kantin’s objection fails for essentially the same reasons. Their case is a counterexample to FactivityE only if we assume that Terry’s belief that there is an animal in the neighborhood is based on the justiﬁed belief that there is a dog in the neighborhood and that the proposition that there is a dog in the neighborhood is part of Terry’s evidence. If this were so, then this would have to be true: (11) That there is a dog in the neighborhood is a reason for Terry to believe that there is an animal in the neighborhood. This entails: (12) Because there is a dog in the neighborhood, Terry has a reason to believe there is an animal in the neighborhood. In turn, this entails: (13) There is a dog in the neighborhood. But, we were told to stipulate that (13) is false. If it were true, the case would not threaten FactivityE . If (13) is false, so is (11). The linguistic evidence discussed in the previous section is suggestive, but the linguistic evidence for FactivityE does not focus on any of the essential functional features of evidence. The discussion in this section does focus on one of the roles essential to evidence. Whatever constitutes evidence has to ﬁgure in explanations. If something constitutes a reason to act, it often does so by explaining why it is that there is something good or attractive about so acting. If something constitutes a reason to believe a proposition, it has to explain something about the kind of rational support there is for believing it. It might do this by explaining why something believed is more likely than it would have been otherwise or it might do it in some entirely diﬀerent way, but it has to explain some fact about the support available for a belief. False propositions explain nothing, so false propositions explain nothing about normative standing or normative properties of a belief. So, false propositions do not constitute normative reasons for action or for belief.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
In the previous section, I argued that if my evidence includes the proposition that I have hands, I have hands. Since hands are items to be met in space, mentalists have to deny that propositions like this could be part of our evidence. In this section, I shall complete the argument against Mentalism+. It is tempting to argue as follows: (1) I know I have hands. (2) If I know that I have hands, I justiﬁably believe that I have hands. (3) If I justiﬁably believe that I have hands, my evidence includes the proposition that I have hands. (4) My evidence includes the proposition that I have hands. (5) My evidence includes the proposition that I have hands only if I have hands. (C) Thus, it is possible for two individuals to diﬀer evidentially without diﬀering mentally–the proposition that I have hands is not evidence that my handless mental duplicates have. The argument rests on the relatively mild anti-skepticial assumption that we have knowledge of the external world. I defended (2) earlier. (3) is a consequence of Justiﬁed Basis. (4) follows from (2) and (3). I defended (5) in the previous section. As stated, the argument suﬀers from two apparent defects. The ﬁrst is that the the premises entail that it is not possible for false beliefs to be justiﬁed. The second is that it does not take care to distinguish between evidence and justifying reasons. Under pressure from the arguments for FactivityE , the mentalists might be tempted to reject (3) and reject Justiﬁed Basis and oﬀer this in its place: If you justiﬁably believe p and p is a justifying reason, p is a justifying reason of yours that can justify further beliefs (Weakened Justiﬁed Basis).24 According to Weakened Justiﬁed Basis, it is possible to justiﬁably believe p even if p is not itself a justifying reason. The conditions that determine whether your beliefs are justiﬁed might determine which justifying reasons, if any, support your beliefs, but they do not determine whether your justifying reasons include what you believe. Justifying reasons might not supervene upon your mental states, but the conditions that determine whether your beliefs are justiﬁed might. The second problem with the argument is that it neglects a distinction Conee and Feldman draw between “ultimate” and “intermediate” evidence.25 Every piece of evidence is a justifying reason, but some justifying reasons might not
24 Fantl 25 Conee
and Mcgrath defend only this weakened version of Justiﬁed Basis. and Feldman 2008, pp. 87.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
constitute evidence in the strict sense. If you justiﬁably believe p on inductive grounds and deduce that some obvious consequence of p is true, there is some sense in which p is a justifying reason of yours but it seems to be a derivative reason. So, in response to the argument above, Conee and Feldman can say that Mentalism+ is a thesis about ultimate evidence and the problem with the argument above is that it assumes that our ultimate evidence includes contingent worldly propositions. Sure, they might say, you can justiﬁably treat contingent worldly propositions as reasons for further beliefs, but that does not mean that these propositions are part of your evidence. So, the mentalists can reject (4) on the grounds that they reject (3) if taken as a claim about ultimate evidence. Let us say, then, that justifying reasons are any true propositions justiﬁably believed and reserve the term “evidence” for what Conee and Feldman describe as “ultimate evidence”. We need to know what evidence is, what distinguishes a bit of evidence from a justifying reason. They oﬀer this characterization: Some philosophers have argued that only believed propositions can be part of the evidence one has. Their typical ground for this claim is that only believed propositions can serve as premises of arguments. Our view diﬀers radically from this one. We hold that experiences can be evidence, and beliefs are only derivatively evidence ... Experience is our point of intersection with the world–conscious awareness is how we gain whatever evidence we have. Furthermore, all ultimate evidence is experiential. Believing a proposition, all by itself, is not evidence for its truth. Something at the interface of your mind and the world –your experiences –serves to justify belief in a proposition, if anything does. What we are calling your “ultimate evidence” does this without needing any justiﬁcation in order to provide it.26 In another passage they say that a person’s ultimate evidence is, “evidence one has for which one need not have evidence.” 27 It seems they want to defend two claims about evidence: If p is part of your ultimate evidence, p is experiential (Experientiality). If p is part of your evidence, p is a justifying reason that you do not need evidence for in order for p to have that status (Basicality). Given that the mentalists are neutral on Propositionality, we have to be careful in how we interpret Experientiality. Surely your ultimate evidence will include propositions that you know about experience on the basis of introspection, but the question is whether mentalists can also say that the propositions that are the contents of experience are themselves part of your evidence. Let’s consider two versions of Mentalism+. The ﬁrst understands Experientiality as follows:
26 Conee 27 Conee
and Feldman 2008, pp. 87-88. and Feldman, pp. 88.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) p is part of your ultimate evidence only if p is the content of some introspective state and not a contingent worldly proposition (Narrow Experientiality).
The second version of Mentalism+ allows for a more liberal conception of evidence: If p is part of your ultimate evidence, p is either the content of an introspective state or the content of an experience (Broad Experientiality). Problems arise for both versions of Mentalism+. The problems with the argument against Mentalism+ just sketched above are easily surmounted. Suppose Basicality and Broad Experientiality are true. We can the anti-mentalist argument as follows: (1’) I know non-inferentially that I have hands. (2’) If I know I have hands non-inferentially, I believe that I have hands, this belief is non-inferentially justiﬁed, and this belief is true. (3’) If I believe that I have hands, this belief is non-inferentially justiﬁed, and this belief is true, then my evidence includes the proposition that I have hands. (4) My evidence includes the proposition that I have hands. (5) My evidence includes the proposition that I have hands only if I have hands. (C) Thus, it is possible for two individuals to diﬀer evidentially without diﬀering mentally–the proposition that I have hands is not evidence that my handless mental duplicates have. The argument assumes only Weakened Justiﬁed Basis, not Justiﬁed Basis. (1’) is a relatively weak anti-skeptical assumption. We might quibble a bit about whether I can know non-inferentially that I have hands. Maybe all I know noninferentially is that the facing surface of an object with the shape of a human hand exists in space. This fact does not supervene upon anyone’s mental states, so we can modify the argument accordingly and it still poses a problem for Mentalism+. (2’) is no more controversial than (2). Suppose Broad Experientiality is true. The content of perceptual experience includes contingent worldly propositions as evidenced by the fact that the veridicality conditions of such experiences make reference to facts external to us. I am assuming that (1’) is true because the proposition that I have hands (or, better, that these are hands) is part of the content of an experience. The only way to block the argument, it seems, is to deny Broad Experientiality.28
28 There is an interesting question as to whether the scope of non-inferential perceptual knowledge is limited to propositions that are part of the representational content of experience.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
Mentalists are free to deny Broad Experientiality, but doing so comes at a cost. Consider an argument inspired by an argument of Pryor’s.29 Imagine we discovered that there were two kinds of people. Some people formed their beliefs about the external world by taking perceptual experience at face value and some only formed beliefs about present experience and arrived at their external world beliefs by means of inference. This seems to be the the sort of thing that cognitive scientists discover, so let us imagine that they did discover this. It seems intuitive to say that this psychological diﬀerence is normatively insigniﬁcant, these persons all know the same range of propositions about the external world provided that they end up with the same beliefs and end up reasoning in similar ways (exclusive, of course, of the early transitions in thought). If this is right and we assume Basicality, some of these subjects would have contingent worldly propositions as part of their ultimate evidence. This would land us right back where we were. So, if we want to say that Basicality is correct we could assert that Narrow Experientiality is correct and thus deny that the subjects that base their beliefs directly on the evidence of the senses have knowledge. But, the guiding intuition seemed to be that when it came to knowledge, the diﬀerence in these subjects’ wiring is normatively insigniﬁcant. So, it would seem that the mentalists either need to deny Basicality as well as Broad Experientiality or embrace skepticism. Mentalists are of course free to deny Basicality, embrace external world skepticism, or do both. Suppose they deny Basicality and reject skepticism as well. The mentalists would have to say that p can fail to be part of your evidence even if p is a justifying reason of yours that you can treat as a reason for further beliefs without needing further evidence to justiﬁably believe p. This would rob the notion of evidence of its interest. The diﬀerence between perception and introspection is a psychological diﬀerence, not a normative one. If they agree that claims about which psychological faculties (if any) deliver ultimate evidence should be determined by normative considerations about what can be treated as a reason without the need for prior reasons, then they could accept Basicality if they accept skepticism. The obvious problem with this option is that it concedes everything to the external world skeptic. The more damning problem is that the mentalists sold us out to the skeptics at so cheap a price. They have declared that the external world skeptics the victors on the grounds that the beliefs we form in direct response to experience could be false. Remember that the problem with my initial argument against Mentalism+ was that the premises of that argument implied that there cannot be false, justiﬁed beliefs.
There are also interesting questions as to how to go about determining how “broad” the representational content of experience is. For an argument that the scope of perceptual knowledge is not limited to propositions that are themselves the contents of our perceptual experiences, see Brewer 1999 and Millar 2000. As for the content of experience, I am not entirely sure that perceptual experience has a content, but I am not persuaded that the content of perceptual experience is quite so broad that it would include kind concepts. For discussion, see Siegel 2005. 29 See Pryor 2000. Feldman 2004 endorses the argument discussed here. There is an extended line of argument in Greco 2000 that seems to show that you give the game to the skeptic if you deny that perception can provide direct knowledge of the external world.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
Now it seems that the mentalist turned skeptic is attacking us on the grounds that we are fallibilists about justiﬁcation. Which is worse, the view that denies that there are false, justiﬁed beliefs or the view that denies that there is suﬃcient justiﬁcation in the absence of entailing evidence? The evidentialists who say that all a belief needs to be justiﬁed is ’on balance’ support should reject both views. This is one reason why evidentialists should not be mentalists. It should be clear now why Mentalism+ and Supervenience Internalism are not viable options. Mentalists can tie themselves in knots to avoid the argument just sketched above. Given the arguments for FactivityE , they can only do this by embracing an implausible form of skepticism. The argument against Mentalism+ shows that there is this ﬂaw in Supervenience Internalism. According to Supervenience Internalism, you and your systematically deceived mental duplicate do not diﬀer justiﬁcationally. But, the only way for you and your systematically deceived mental duplicate to be perfectly alike justiﬁcationally is you and your duplicate to have the same support relations between your evidence and your beliefs. But, the only way for these relations to be the same is for you to have just the same evidence your systematically deceived counterpart to have. Given Broad Experientiality and FactivityE , these relations between belief and evidence are the same in both cases only if you are systematically deceived as well. Assuming you are not systematically deceived, Supervenience Internalism is false. For the purposes of the arguments against Mentalism+ and Supervenience Internalism, I did not have to take a position on whether Experientiality is true. There are probably diﬀerent ways of interpreting Experientiality and I think there are some readings on which it is perfectly harmless. There is one reading that strikes me as not being perfectly harmless, so I thought I should comment on that. Someone could interpret Experientiality as saying that p is evidence you have if p is part of the content of some perceptual experience. On this view, having evidence can be understood in non-normative terms. Understood in this way, I have two concerns about Experientiality. The ﬁrst is that the view oﬀers us a non-normative account of what it is to have evidence. The second is that it implies that it is possible for you to have p as part of your evidence even if you do not suﬀer from any sort of self-deception or failure of any failure of self knowledge and either do not believe p or disbelieve p. It seems intuitive to me to say that if you have p as part of your evidence, you have the right to treat p as a reason for further beliefs. If I think Plum did it and tell you that I think this for the reason that her prints were on the murder weapon, it would be odd to say that I should not have assumed that her prints were on the weapon if you concede that this is part of my evidence. If, however, having p as part of the content of an experience is enough for having p as part of your evidence, it seems you cannot say that this is so. Having an experience as of p being the case is compatible with having strong reasons to think p is not the case or having strong reasons to think that there is something amiss with your experience. In either case, I think you might not have the right to treat p as a reason for forming further beliefs, so the non-normative account seems to cut the link between having evidence and having the right to
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
use it. It also seems strange to think that you can believe that something is part of your evidence without believing that it is true or while believing that it is false. It is possible, however, to believe that p is part of the content of some experience while believing either that p is false and the experience is delusory or while suspending judgment as to whether p is true because you have some reason to think that something is amiss. To me, these points suggest that we should prefer a doxastic account of having evidence to a non-doxastic account and a normative understanding of the relevant notion of having to one that is non-normative. It may well be that experience is one of the primary ways by which we acquire evidence, but that is not to endorse the further claim that you have as your evidence whatever the content of your experience is.
Evidence and Knowledge
FactivityE tells you something about the constitution of evidence, but nothing about its possession. In the course of arguing against Mentalism+, I suggested that your evidence will include what you know non-inferentially: If you know p non-inferentially, p is part of your evidence (IKSE). Because I defend both IKSE and FactivityE , my view is similar in many respects to Williamson’s. Given E=K, he is committed to two claims about the relation between knowledge and evidence: If you know p, p is part of your evidence (ESK). If p is part of your evidence, you know p (KSE). KSE entails IKSE and ESK entails FactivityE . E=K gives you necessary and suﬃcient conditions. So far, I have only defended a necessary and a suﬃcient condition. In this section, I shall argue that both halves of E=K are mistaken. The literature is now ﬁlled with purported counterexamples to E=K and my impression is that a fair number of epistemologists think there is something seriously wrong with Williamson’s equation. Myself, I think this is an overreaction. Most of the objections to E=K are not convincing. Those that are require only minor modiﬁcations to his view. Still, the view needs modiﬁcation. It is worth taking the time to make the necessary changes to his view. The resulting view, if even approximately correct, seems to show that the orthodox accounts of doxastic justiﬁcation are all seriously mistaken. Is it possible to have knowledge without evidence? According to IKSE, it is not possible to have non-inferential knowledge without evidence. If you know p non-inferentially, p is true. If you know p non-inferentially, your belief in p is non-inferentially justiﬁed. That it is justiﬁed entails that it is not wrong to treat it as if it is a reason. That it is true removes the main objection from taking p to be the right sort of beast to be a bit of evidence or a justifying reason. Suppose you know p inferentially. If you know p on the basis of entailing evidence, is p an extra bit of evidence you acquire by means of deduction? If you know p on
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
the basis of non-entailing evidence, is p an extra bit of evidence you acquire by means of inductive inference? It seems strange to suggest that deductive inference is a way of acquiring new evidence if it is a way of extending your knowledge, but it also is hard to imagine what harm could come of describing the things you come to know in this way as evidence. An example suggests that KSE might be too liberal. Suppose you read in a magazine that biologists believe only female foxes eat berries on the grounds that after observing thousands of hungry foxes, only the females would eat berries. The male foxes preferred root vegetables and chicken. You look out the window and see that there is a fox in the yard. You see that it is eating berries oﬀ of a berry bush, so you judge: (1) There is a female fox in the yard. You then deduce: (2) There is a vixen in the yard. You then remember that (2) entails (1), so you think to yourself (correctly) that (∼2) is inconsistent with what you know iﬀ (∼1) is inconsistent with what you know. You then note that if KSE is correct, you know (1) only if (∼2) is inconsistent with your evidence. Intuitively, it seems that (∼2) was consistent with the evidence you initially had for believing (1) and I do not think this changes simply because you added (1) to the set of propositions you knew or noted that (2) and (1) are mutually entailing. According to KSE, however, you cannot know (1) unless (∼2) is inconsistent with your evidence, and as that evidence consisted of past observations of other foxes, it is hard to see how (∼2) could be inconsistent with your evidence. This sort of problem does not arise for (IKSE). It denies that your evidence includes the propositions you know via deduction and so denies that your evidence will include the propositions that you know on inductive grounds and denies that your evidence will include all the subsequent propositions you come to know via further deductive inferences. There is a perfectly good sense in which (1) and (2) are justifying reasons. Consistent with FactivityE , we can say they are the right sorts of things to be reasons if (1) and (2) are true. According to IKSE and IJSE, they can be justiﬁably treated as if they are reasons if justiﬁably believed. The picture that seems intuitive to me says that there is a division of labor. Some processes provide the evidence. Reasoning allows you to extend knowledge and justify new beliefs on the basis of old evidence without adding evidence in the process. In the grand scheme of things, I think nothing particularly deep or important turns on whether KSE or IKSE is true given that we can easily distinguish between derivative and non-derivative justifying reasons or ultimate and non-ultimate evidence. To accomodate intuitions about the case described above, I think we should say that while (∼1) and (∼2) are inconsistent with what you justiﬁably believe, neither is inconsistent with your evidence. Your evidence constitutes the foundations and ﬁxes the evidential probabilities of propositions like (1) and (2). As it seems implausible to say
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
that the evidential probability of (2) is 1 if you know (1), I hope the reader is willing to make a minor modiﬁcation of Williamson’s view. Given the reasons for thinking that there can be knowledge without evidence, I do not think the problems that arise for KSE are particularly interesting and do not think the move to IKSE is particularly illuminating. The claim that your evidence consists of what you know directly or immediately is consistent with the knowledge-ﬁrst program, after all. In this section, I shall argue that it is possible to have evidence without knowledge. If the arguments oﬀered in this section are sound, the concept of knowledge plays a much more diminished role in the account of evidence than Williamson maintains. An initial worry you might have about E=K is that it seems to conﬂict with the apparent platitude: You have unproblematic access to your evidence (Unproblematic Access). Silins suggests that we can think of this kind of access in terms of Armchair Access: If p is part of your evidence, you can know that p is part of your evidence from the armchair alone (Armchair Access). He objects to E=K on the following grounds.30 Consider: (3) You know that E=K is true from the armchair. (4) You know p on the basis of observation. (5) p is part of your evidence. [(3), (4)] (6) If p is part of your evidence, you could know that p is part of your evidence from the armchair alone. [Armchair Access] (7) You knows that p is part of your evidence from the armchair alone. [(5), (6)] (8) You know from the armchair that if you know that p is part of your evidence from the armchair alone, you can know p from the armchair alone. [(3)] (9) You can know p from the armchair alone. [(7), (8), and KClosure] To avoid the conclusion, we either have to deny that we could know from the armchair that E=K is true or say that anything we know we can know from the armchair. The argument assumes that knowledge is closed under known entailment: If you know p and know q is an obvious consequence, you can come to know q by means of competent deduction (K-Closure).
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
Although the principle is controversial, it is unlikely that the argument fails because of counterexamples to K-Closure. Note that the objection applies with equal force to any non-skeptical view that incorporates IKSE and FactivityE . Replace (3) with: (3’) You know IKSE and FactivityE from the armchair. You get the same result. If there is anything we can know non-inferentially about the external world, we can know that this proposition is true from the armchair. Either empirical investigation is needed to know what your evidence is or it is too easy to conduct an empirical investigation as we can know the external world from the comfort of our armchairs. The problem that we face is structurally similar to the problem McKinsey thought arose for thought content externalism.31 If there are necessary connections between the external world and the conditions that determine the contents of your mental states, he thought that you could not know the contents of your thoughts until you knew what the external environment is like. Suppose that the thought a speaker expresses in uttering “Water is wet” depends upon whether the speaker is in a world containing H2 O or XYZ. In a world containing H2 O (but not XYZ), the speaker expresses the proposition that water is wet. In a world containing XYZ (but not H2 O), the speaker expresses the proposition that twater is wet. If the ﬁrst speaker says, “I believe water is wet”, she expresses a proposition that is true only in a world that contains H2 O, so how could she know that the proposition expressed is true unless she knows that H2 O exists? If she cannot know that the proposition expressed is true unless she also knows that H2 O exists, either we are wrong about how easy it is to know the mind or wrong in thinking that it is relatively harder to know the world. While these problems are structurally similar, they do not admit of structurally similar solutions. Objections to content externalism based on the McKinsey worry rest on a mistake about the content externalist’s commitments.32 The content externalist says that we know apriori that our thought contents are world-dependent, but not world-involving. We know from the armchair, for example, that if two hypothetical communities are in diﬀerent environments, differences in their environments can be responsible for diﬀerences in their thoughts about those environments even if the thinkers are the same from the skin in. Imagine people just like us whose ancestors used the term “unicorn” to speak about a kind of horse. We know from the armchair that if our ancestors never used that term successfully, our ancestors meant something diﬀerent by their use of “unicorn” than the ancestors of this counterfactual community. We do not know from the armchair whether our concept of “water” is world-dependent in the way that “unicorn” is for our ancestors or world-dependent and worldinvolving in the way that it is for the ancestors of the members of this counterfactual community. So, you do not know from the armchair that if you have
31 For a defense of content externalism, see Burge 1979. See McKinsey 1991 for a discussion of the problem of reconciling content externalism with privileged access. 32 See Brueckner 1992.
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water-thoughts water exist just as you do not know from the armchair that if you have unicorn-thoughts unicorns exist. What you know from the armchair is that if the external world diﬀered in various ways, you would grasp diﬀerent thoughts. Unfortunately, the objection to E=K does not have the commitments of that view wrong. Some other response is needed. There are problems with E=K, but the objection has little force as it is stated. Armchair Access seems to lead to skeptical problems of its own: (10) You can know from the armchair that your evidence is limited to propositions you can know from the armchair belong to your evidence. [Armchair Access] (11) If p is part of your evidence, p is true. [FactivityE ] (12) If you know non-inferentially that p is true, p is part of your evidence. [IKSE] (13) If your evidence includes the proposition that you have hands, then you have hands and you know from armchair that you have hands. [(10), (11), (12)] (14) But, it is absurd to think you could know from the armchair that you have hands. (15) If your evidence cannot include the proposition that you have hands, either you are handless or you cannot know non-inferentially that you have hands. [IKSE, FactivityE ] (16) Your evidence cannot include the proposition that you have hands. [(13), (14)] (17) Either you are handless or you cannot know non-inferentially that you have hands. [(15), (16)] (18) If you have hands, you cannot know non-inferentially that you do. [(17)] (19) If you do not have hands, you cannot know non-inferentially that you do. (20) So, whether you have hands or not, you cannot know noninferentially that you have hands. [(18), (19)] The argument assumes IKSE and FactivityE . To block the argument from Armchair Access to the skeptical result, you would either have to deny IKSE or deny FactivityE . Suppose, then, that we relax our assumptions a bit. We do not need FactivityE to show that Armchair Access leads to the same sorts of unpalatable skeptical results that Mentalism+ did earlier: (21) If you know from the armchair that p could be part of your evidence only if you had empirical justiﬁcation to believe p, then you cannot know from the armchair that p is part of your evidence.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) (22) You know from the armchair that if the proposition that you have hands is part of your evidence, you would have to have empirical justiﬁcation to believe that you have hands. (23) You know that cannot know from the armchair that you have empirical justiﬁcation to believe that you have hands. (24) You know that you cannot know from the armchair that the proposition that you have hands is part of your evidence. [(21), (22), (23)] (25) Your evidence cannot include the proposition that you have hands. [(24), Armchair Access] (26) If you could know non-inferentially that you have hands, your evidence could include the proposition that you have hands. [IKSE] (27) You know you cannot know non-inferentially that you have hands. [(25), (26)]
As the notion was introduced, armchair knowledge is knowledge that does not depend constitutively upon experience and the justiﬁcation it provides. So, (21) and (23) are harmless assumptions. As for (22), the thought is that you cannot properly treat contingent worldly propositions such as the proposition that you have hands as reasons for further belief unless they received some sort of support from experience. This seems to be rather obvious, something you could know upon reﬂection alone. So, it is a good candidate for armchair knowledge. Now, if you recall earlier our discussion of Pryor’s argument for liberal foundationalism, he argued (plausibly) that it is a contingent matter whether the scope of noninferential knowledge includes contingent worldly propositions. The argument just sketched here shows that if Armchair Access is true, no such proposition could be part of anyone’s evidence regardless of whether they were wired in such a way that their beliefs about such contingent worldly propositions were based on propositions about the subject’s own mental life or not. If the lesson you took from his argument is that any argument that purports to show that we cannot in principle have non-inferential knowledge of contingent worldly propositions would show that we cannot have knowledge of such propositions, the argument just sketched here shows that Armchair Access commits us to the very unpleasant skeptical view that you cannot know that you have hands at all. If the Armchair Access objection to E=K has any bite, we have to assume that the intuition behind Armchair Access is intuition that underwrites Unproblematic Access. If it is, then perhaps the thought is that facts that you know about the external world non-inferentially cannot belong to our evidence because if they did, you would have only epistemically problematic access to the evidence. While there is something strange to the suggestion that you have only problematic access to your own evidence, there is also something strange to the suggestion that you can know p non-inferentially even if your access to the truth of p is epistemically problematic. If it were problematic, it seems you could not justiﬁably believe p without independent evidence. But, if you could
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not justiﬁably believe p without independent evidence, your belief in p would not constitute non-inferential knowledge. Suppose that Unproblematic Access does not commit you to Armchair Access. Suppose the latter principle is more restrictive and more demanding. If so, then the problem is not that we have only problematic access to facts about the external world. Rather, it is conceded that we have epistemically unproblematic access when we have non-inferential knowledge. Then it seems to make little sense to complain about IKSE and FactivityE . After all, it has been conceded that you have unproblematic access to certain facts and can justiﬁably treat them as reasons without needing independent evidence to do so. That seems to suggest that what you know non-inferentially bears all the marks of evidence. These problems can be mitigated if we revise Armchair Access as follows: If p is part of your evidence, it is possible for you to know that p is part of your evidence without needing any empirical justiﬁcation for believing that p is part of your evidence beyond the justiﬁcation needed for p to be part of your evidence (Revised Armchair Access). Unlike Armchair Access, Revised Armchair Access does not imply that anything you cannot know from the armchair is epistemically problematic. So, Revised Armchair Access does not seem to give us any reason to deny IKSE or FactivityE . Whereas the combination of Armchair Access and FactivityE commits you to saying that your evidence cannot include any propositions you cannot know on the basis of introspection alone, Revised Armchair Access does not force you to choose between FactivityE and the plausible claim that the evidence provided by perception is not limited to the evidence you could have acquired via introspection alone. Revised Armchair Access still causes problems for E=K. Consider: (28) You know on the basis of observation that p is true. (29) p is part of your evidence. [(28), (E=K)] (30) You know that p is part of your evidence without further empirical investigation. [(29), (Revised Armchair Access)] (31) You know from the armchair that if p is part of your evidence, you know p. [(E=K)] (32) You know that if you know p, your belief in p is not Gettiered. (33) You know from the armchair that if p is part of your evidence, your belief in p is not Gettiered. [(31), (32)] (34) You know without further empirical investigation that your belief in p is not Gettiered. [(32), (33)] If only fake barn detection were so easy. Given how weak Revised Armchair Access is, I think this is a serious objection to E=K. Given that you can have Gettier cases for non-inferentially justiﬁed beliefs, the troubles for E=K would also arise for the weaker thesis that identiﬁes your evidence with what you know non-inferentially:
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) Your evidence includes p iﬀ you know p non-inferentially (E=IK).
Someone might say that even Revised Armchair Access is problematic, but there is a more straightforward objection to E=K and E=IK. Suppose a nonfactive mental duplicate of yours sees a real barn, a barn that is qualitatively identical to the barn you know you saw on your drive through real barn country. Suppose this subject’s barn is surrounded by a suﬃcient number of fakes so that this subject doesn’t know the building that she saw was a barn. We can stipulate that her belief is true and reasonably held. It seems counterintuitive to say that she has less evidence than you because of the fake barns. I can’t think of any principled reason to think that your evidence couldn’t include the proposition that the building you saw was a barn, so it is tempting to say that your counterpart’s evidence includes a proposition she doesn’t know is true—that the building she saw was a barn. Also, it seems that the diﬀerence in what you two know is due to extra-evidential factors (e.g., the presence of fakes in her case and the absence of fakes in yours). This extra-evidential explanation is ruled out by ESK. ESK implies that if your counterpart’s evidence includes the proposition that the building she saw was a barn, the subject would know that the building was a barn and so would not be in a Gettier case. So, ESK fails to accommodate intuition and rules out a plausible explanation of that intuition. There is a view that seems to fall squarely within the knowledge-ﬁrst camp that can accomodate intuitions about Gettier cases and access worth considering: Your evidence includes p iﬀ you know p or fail to know p for reasons external to your mental states (E≈K). This view takes its inspiration from Bird’s account of justiﬁcation on which a justiﬁed belief is either knowledge or a belief that fails to constitute knowledge for reasons that, in some sense, you cannot be held responsible for.33 Such a view seems to accomodate intuitions about access and Gettier cases, but there are worries about how it can handle cases of false propositions. If the argument for FactivityE are sound and the Gettier objection to E=K is also sound, it would be strange for someone who bought into the knowledge-ﬁrst program to say that the truth of the proposition believed is required for it to be evidence while conceding that some of the external conditions necessary for knowledge had no bearing on whether the proposition was part of your evidence. Both truth and the absence of Gettier conditions are necessary for knowledge, so it would seem arbitrary to say that one of these conditions is involved in determining what evidence you have while the other is not. These objections to E=K do not threaten a weaker view that incorporates IKSE and FactivityE . There is no reason to think that IKSE and FactivityE imply that you do not have unproblematic access to your evidence because FactivityE says that your evidence consists of true propositions and IKSE rules
2007, pp. 84. There is no indication that he would accept such a view of evidence.
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out facts that you have only epistemically problematic access to. You can consistently maintain that IKSE and FactivityE are true while denying (31). While I think IKSE and FactivityE are true, tacked together, they do not constitute a view. Let me start to sketch an alternative to E=K and E=IK. In motivating IKSE, I noted that IKSE is implied by IJSE. If your belief in p is non-inferentially justiﬁed, it is proper to treat p as if it is a justifying reason for forming further beliefs. So, if your belief in p is non-inferentially justiﬁed, it is proper to treat p as if it is a piece of evidence. If, however, your belief in p is not justiﬁed, it is not proper to treat p as a reason for further beliefs. Finally, if p is not true, p is not itself a piece of evidence. So, consider this equation: Your evidence includes p iﬀ p is true and your belief in p is noninferentially justiﬁed (E=IJTB). E=IJTB does not deny that evidence is factive, it implies that IKSE is true, and it provides us with necessary and suﬃcient conditions for evidence ascriptions. The worries about access and Gettier cases that arose for E=K and variants of that view do not arise for E=IJTB. We should pause to consider an objection. Comesaña and Kantin have argued in a recent paper that FactivityE implies that there are no Gettier cases.34 If this is right, it is not fair for me to use Gettier cases to criticize E=K as FactivityE commits me to saying that there are no Gettier cases. They ask us to consider one of Gettier’s examples, Coins: Suppose that Smith and Jones have applied for a certain job. And suppose that Smith has strong evidence for the following conjunctive proposition: d. Jones is the man who will get the job, and Jones has ten coins in his pocket. Smith’s evidence for (d) might be that the president of the company assured him that Jones would in the end be selected, and that he, Smith, had counted the coins in Jones’s pocket ten minutes ago. Proposition (d) entails: e. The man who will get the job has ten coins in his pocket. Let us suppose that Smith sees the entailment from (d) to (e), and accepts (e) on the grounds of (d), for which he has strong evidence. In this case, Smith is clearly justiﬁed in believing that (e) is true. But imagine, further, that unknown to Smith, he himself, not Jones, will get the job. And, also, unknown to Smith, he himself has ten coins in his pocket. Proposition (e) is then true, though proposition (d), from which Smith inferred (e), is false. In our example, then, all of the following are true: (i) (e) is true, (ii) Smith believes that (e) is true, and (iii) Smith is justiﬁed in believing that (e) is true. But it is equally clear that Smith does not know that (e) is true;
and Kantin 2010.
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I) for (e) is true in virtue of the number of coins in Smith’s pocket, while Smith does not know how many coins are in Smith’s pocket, and bases his belief in (e) on a count of the coins in Jones’s pocket, whom he falsely believes to be the man who will get the job.35
Coins is one of Gettier’s cases, but is it a Gettier case? It is if it is a case where (e) is true, Smith is justiﬁed in believing that (e) is true, but Smith does not know that (e) is true. Comesaña and Kantin argue that anyone who accepts FactivityE has to deny that Coins is a Gettier case as follows: (1) According to FactivityE , no false propositions can constitute evidence. (2) If no false propositions can constitute evidence, Coins is not a genuine Gettier case. (3) Coins is a Gettier case. (C1) False propositions can constitute evidence. The argument’s crucial premise is (2). They say this in its defense: Now, everyone should agree that the proposition that Jones has ten coins in his pocket is something Smith knows, and that is part of what justiﬁes Smith in believing that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket. Everyone should also agree that the proposition that the secretary said that Jones got the job is something that you know . . . and it certainly plays some role in justifying Smith in believing that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket. But for this strategy to work, it should be the case that everything that justiﬁes you in believing that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket is a proposition that you know. [E=K implies] ... that a proposition p cannot be part of your justiﬁcation for believing something unless you know that p . . . And there is no argument that we can think of to the eﬀect that Smith’s belief that Jones got the job plays no part whatsoever in justifying Smith in thinking that whoever got the job has ten coins in his pocket.36 Their objection assumes that Smith’s evidence includes (d) because Smith justiﬁably believes that (d) is true. The objection is dialectically ineﬀective because it assumes: If you justiﬁably believe p, p is part of your evidence (E=J). E=J appears to commit you to: You cannot justiﬁably believe p if the evidential probability of p for you is less than 1 (InfallibilityJ ).
35 Gettier 36 Comesaña
1963, pp. 122. and Kantin 2010, pp. 450.
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InfallibilityJ commits you to the skeptical thesis that you cannot have justiﬁed beliefs based on inductive inference. This kind of skepticism is inherently unattractive, but that is not the main problem with InfallibilityJ . Coins is a genuine Gettier case only if Smith justiﬁably believes (d). Smith’s belief is based on non-entailing evidence. (It must be based on non-entailing evidence because (d) is false and it is based on propositions that Gettier says are true when we describe the case.) So, InfallibilityJ seems to imply that Coins is not a genuine Gettier case because it seems to imply that Smith does not justiﬁably believe (d). Since E=J implies InfallibilityJ , E=J implies that Coins is not a genuine Gettier case. Note that the argument from E=J to (∼3) did not assume FactivityE . So, I think it is safe to say that the objection to FactivityE failed. There might be ways of reformulating their objection so as to avoid this worry, but we need not worry too much about revised versions of this objection. First, their argument does not show that FactivityE commits us to the impossibility of Gettier cases because there are Gettier cases that do not involve reasoning from any false beliefs. At best, the objection suggests that FactivityE forces us to deny that Coins is a Gettier case. Second, their objection rests on a questionable description of Gettier cases insofar as Gettier’s own description of the case involves forming a false belief without forming it on the basis of any false evidential propositions and then inferring a true belief from that. Finally, the objection neglects the distinction between personal and doxastic justiﬁcation. Remember that early in the post-Gettier literature, some authors thought that Gettier cases were not genuine. The worry was that Smith’s beliefs could not be justiﬁed because they were beliefs in false propositions, false propositions do not constitute evidence, but a belief is justiﬁed only if the proposition believed constitutes evidence or a justifying reason. In response, Lowy argued that these objections all missed their mark. As she noted, Getter was interested in the conditions that determined whether a believer was justiﬁed in holding a belief, not in the conditions that determined whether the believer’s belief is justiﬁed.37 Consistent with the standard intuitions about Gettier’s cases is the claim that Gettier cases are one of the cases where personal and doxastic justiﬁcation come apart. Smith is justiﬁed, sure, but Smith’s beliefs are not justiﬁably held. So even if Smith’s beliefs in (d) in (e) cannot be justiﬁed, Smith can be justiﬁed in holding these beliefs. By all accounts, Smith was fully rational and responsible in believing (d) and (e). If all a Gettier case requires is a case in which Smith is (personally) justiﬁed in believing p, believes p, and p is true where Smith does not know p, Coins is the case we need. It does its job even if FactivityE is true. (Indeed, it does its job even if InfallibilityJ and E=J are true.) Thus, E=IJTB does not imply that Gettier cases are impossible and so it is fair for me to appeal to intuitions about such cases in arguing that E=IJTB is preferable to E=K.
a discussion, see Lowy 1978.
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Evidence and Epistemic Rationality
The aim of this chapter is to defend an account of evidence that I think is both correct and a useful corrective. In the course of arguing for an externalist conception of evidence, I did not address one of the standard arguments for the internalist conception of evidence favored by the mentalists. The argument is rather simple. It starts with this rather unfortunately plausible assumption: The conditions that determine whether you are epistemically rational strongly supervene upon your mental states (Supervenience InternalismR ) The epistemically rational believer respects the evidence. That is pretty much agreed upon by all sides. If we think of epistemic rationality as a matter of respecting the evidence, we can argue from Supervenience InternalismR to Mentalism+ as follows. Suppose White and Plum are in precisely the same mental states. Both believe that Mustard is the killer. White saw Mustard kill his victim. Plum underwent an indistinguishable hallucinatory experience and seemed to have seen Mustard kill. Suppose Mentalism+ is false and some externalist view such as E = IJTB is correct. White’s evidence includes everything that Mustard’s evidence includes, but it includes more besides. Now, if Plum knew that her evidence included only the evidence someone would have in the bad case (i.e., the case in which her beliefs are mistaken but she is in just the same non-factive mental states she is in now because of a hallucinatory experience), she ought to be signiﬁcantly less conﬁdent in her beliefs than White is. Perhaps if she knew this she ought to suspend judgment as to whether some propositions White knew to be true really were true. If she knew that her evidence included just the evidence someone had in the bad case and did not adjust her attitudes accordingly, she would not be as reasonable or rational as White is. But, if E = IJTB is true she is not in a position to know that her evidence is less than White’s and her ignorance seems necessary for our saying that she is no less reasonable or rational than White. But, then we have to say that she is rational or reasonable only because she fails to know what her evidence truly consists of. How can we say both that she is nothing less than fully reasonable or rational and that epistemic rationality is a matter of respecting the evidence when she is ignorant of what her evidence truly consisted of? This combination of views is puzzling. However, it seems that this combination of views is what any externalist is saddled with unless they are willing to deny that epistemic rationality is a matter of respecting the evidence. So, it seems there is a plausible line of argument from Supervenience InternalismR to Mentalism+. Given the intuitive plausibility of Supervenience InternalismR , we have a good case for Mentalism+. Williamson has oﬀered two points in response to this kind of argument for Mentalism+. First, he maintains that the demands of rationality cannot be luminous because no non-trivial conditions are.38 While I agree that the demands
2000b, pp. 624.
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of rationality are not luminous and agree that subjects in the bad case are typically mistaken about what their evidence is, this line seems more promising if you are trying to undercut the intuitive support for Supervenience InternalismR than if you are trying to undercut the argument from Supervenience InternalismR to Mentalism+. As most parties seem to agree that subjects are perfectly rational in forming beliefs in response to hallucination, the challenge is to explain how this could be if subjects in the bad case have less evidence than similarly situated subjects in the good case. I do not think that we can explain why these subjects are reasonable or rational in terms of their ignorance of the demands of epistemic rationality. Second, Williamson suggests that even if subjects in the bad case have less evidence for their worldly beliefs than subjects in the good case do, that does not mean they lack suﬃcient evidence to justiﬁably believe what they do.39 So, there is no good reason to think that it follows from the fact that subjects in the bad case have less evidence by virtue of being in the bad case that they are thereby anything less than perfectly rational or reasonable. This second point needs to be handled with some care. I do think that someone can have less evidence a subject has in some good case and still have suﬃcient evidence for her beliefs. I want to bracket the question as to whether someone has suﬃcient evidence for her beliefs in the case of hallucination until the next chapter. What worries me here is that while Williamson is right that the externalist about evidence can say that subjects in the bad case are reasonable or rational, it is not entirely clear that they can say this while also saying that subjects in the good case are also perfectly reasonable and rational. For, suppose subjects in the good and bad case are equally conﬁdent in believing what they do on the basis of their respective experiences. It seems that given the extra evidence subjects have in the good case, they ought to be more conﬁdent than subjects are in the bad case. So, some subject is either too conﬁdent or not conﬁdent enough. So, some subject is not perfectly rational and the externalist about evidence has to deny Supervenience InternalismR .40 There are two points to make in response to these worries. First, for reasons discussed earlier, it is important to be careful about the link between deontic judgments and judgments about rationality. The rational, the reasonable, and the responsible are not the mark of the permissible or the proper. If this point is granted, then it must also be granted that two subjects can be equally rational or reasonable in how they respond to the reasons that apply to them even if there is a diﬀerence in the reasons that apply to them and even if the right response to these reasons diﬀer. In the case of excusable wrongdoing, for example, the agent counts as being equally reasonable or responsible as the agent who acts rightly even though she acts against an undefeated reason. (If the reason had been defeated, this would have been a wrongful act that was justiﬁed by overriding reasons.) So, suppose we just bite the bullet and say that if subjects in the case of hallucination and perception are equally conﬁdent, one of these subjects is
39 Williamson 40 This
2000a, pp. 197. version of the objection is inspired by some of Silins’ 2005 remarks.
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not as conﬁdent as she should be. If they ought to have diﬀerent degrees of conﬁdence, there is an undefeated reason for them to adjust their degrees of conﬁdence accordingly. It does not follow that one of these subjects is less than perfectly rational because failing to respond to the reasons there are is not a failure of rationality, per se. There has to be an argument that these reasons are somehow special insofar as failing to respond to them is always a failure of rationality. On the bullet biting response, White and Plum are equally conﬁdent in their perceptual beliefs. Both are suﬃciently conﬁdent to believe on the basis of their respective experiences, but at most one of these subjects ought to be as conﬁdent as they are. So, one of them ought either to be more conﬁdent or less so. Here is an argument for the bullet biting response. At most, one of these subjects is permitted to believe on the basis of her experiences. If a subject ought not believe p but she believes p, she ought to be less conﬁdent in p. How much less conﬁdent? She should lower her level of conﬁdence below whatever threshold she must to avoid having the false belief. Clearly, Plum is too conﬁdent because she believes White is the killer but, I shall argue later, she ought not believe this. She ought not believe this because her belief is based on hallucination. It does not follow that she is less than fully rational or reasonable, mind you, but she ought to be less conﬁdent. My argument for the bullet biting response assumes that if you believe p but ought not believe p, you ought to be less conﬁdent that p. Someone could deny this, but then claims about the justiﬁcatory standing of a belief seem to have little to do with claims about the proper degree of conﬁdence and so the argument for Mentalism+ simply fails at an earlier stage. This talk of degrees of conﬁdence was a distraction. So, even if the degree of conﬁdence you ought to have matched perfectly the degree of conﬁdence it is reasonable or rational to have, the (purported) fact that subjects in the good and bad case ought to be equally conﬁdent does not cut against the claim that subjects ought to form diﬀerent beliefs in the good and the bad case. So, if what you ought to believe is ﬁxed by the evidence, we cannot determine what evidence someone has by determining what degree of conﬁdence they ought to have. What does it mean to say that someone is epistemically rational? Someone is rational in φ-ing if she φ’s in light of what she takes to be reasons where should not have expected that there would be a decisive case against φ-ing. There is a division of labor here. If the perceptual faculties do not do what they are supposed to, the subject can believe without seeing that there is a decisive case against believing what she thought she saw. What if the subject believes for no reason at all? Can she be rational in believing for no reason at all or for prudential reasons? Even if this were possible, the account does not imply that the subject is rational in forming beliefs in this way unless the subject should not have expected that there would be a decisive case against forming beliefs in this way. Later, I shall argue that there is always a decisive case against believing without evidence, so this should help to mitigate some of the worries behind this objection. I think it is false to say of normal subjects that they should not have expected that there would be a decisive case against believing
CHAPTER 4. EVIDENCE (I)
if they did not live up to the ordinary intellectual standards that we regularly apply to one another but I cannot rule out the possibility of someone who, for theoretical reasons, has good reason to think that it is permissible to believe without evidence or on practical grounds. Happily, I think I am not alone in this. My guess is that anyone who dismisses this possibility is employing an externalist conception of rationality that many of us would ﬁnd objectionable. The basic idea behind judgments of rationality is that we can defend the subject from the charge that she has failed in her responsibilities as someone who must respond to the reasons that apply to her. On its face, the natural way to do this is to argue that the subject should not have expected that she would fail to live up to her responsibilities. If she should have expected this, she is unreasonable. If she should not have expected this and you fault her, you are unreasonable. The subject that fails to live up to the standards of rationality is either pitied or the proper object of the reactive attitudes. If the subject did not have the capacities to determine whether there is a case against her beliefs or the ability to exercise those capacities, she ought to be exempted from criticism. If the subject had the capacities and the power to use them but believed when she should have expected that there would be a case against so believing, her beliefs are irrational or unreasonable.
The Refutation of Supervenience Internalism
In arguing against Mentalism+, I argued that it is possible for two mental duplicates to diﬀer in terms of the evidence that supports their beliefs. It follows from this that the support relations that hold between two subjects beliefs can diﬀer even if their mental states do not. The evidence that supports the subject’s belief in the good case might include contingent, worldly propositions but her mental duplicate in the bad case has beliefs that are either supported by diﬀerent evidence or no evidence at all. This might not seem to be a particularly interesting result on its own. This result is consistent with the internalist thought that the justiﬁcatory status of a belief does not depend upon the factors that distinguish the good case from the bad. So, the argument constitutes a refutation of Supervenience Internalism, but only because it shows that the internalist is wrong about something that seems not to matter so much in the grand scheme of things. Still, it is a wedge. In the next chapter, I will show that it is a useful wedge.
In the previous chapter, I defended an inelegant, externalist account of evidence (E=IJTB) and argued against an internalist supervenience thesis on the grounds that it denied that our beliefs can be justiﬁed, in part, by things we know directly upon the basis of our perceptual awareness of our own surroundings. A critic might say that the account of evidence is too gerrymandered to have any plausibility. Another might say that even if the account defended in the previous section is correct, it is of little interest to the larger internalism/externalism debate. There are internalist views that say that only facts that supervene upon your mental states can have anything to do with the justiﬁcation of your beliefs, but there are internalist views that do not say this. Let me address the ﬁrst worry ﬁrst. E=K is simple and elegant in precisely the way E=IJTB is not. Other things equal, simpler views are preferable. Now, the arguments from the previous chapter were supposed to show that other things are not equal. Still, it might be fair to say, as Williamson does, that E=IJTB is, “a rather unnatural hybrid: the truth-condition is an ad hoc afterthought, not an organic consequence”.1 Williamson is right that the right view cannot be as complicated as E=IJTB. To tidy things up, I shall argue that the truth-condition is strictly speaking redundant. If your belief in p is non-inferentially justiﬁed, p is part of your evidence. If p is part of your evidence, p must be true. The truth-condition has to be satisﬁed for your belief to satisfy the justiﬁcation condition: You cannot justiﬁably believe p unless p (FactivityJ ). The truth-condition is an organic consequence of a view that says that p is part of your evidence if your belief in p is non-inferentially justiﬁed. You cannot consistently maintain that normative reasons for belief or action consist of facts or
2009, pp. 311.
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true propositions and also maintain that the satisfaction of the truth-condition has nothing to do with whether a belief is justiﬁed. Below, I shall argue FactivityJ follows from these theses about the ontology of reasons for belief and action: If p is a justifying reason of yours to believe, p is true (FactivityT ). If p is a justifying reason of yours to act, p is true (FactivityP ). The argument for FactivityJ rests, in part, upon the idea that if you justiﬁably believe something, what you believe can justify further beliefs or justify actions that the belief (partially) rationalizes. The argument should show that an account of the ontology of reasons has a direct bearing on an account of justiﬁed belief and so could potentially help us decide whether justiﬁcation is an internalist or externalist notion. It is not entirely clear whether internalists have to deny FactivityJ , for they can say that justiﬁcation is unattainable in a wide range of cases. If, for example, we can have no justiﬁed beliefs about contingent worldly facts, we cannot argue from FactivityJ against an internalist view that says that individuals in the same non-factive mental states will not diﬀer justiﬁcationally. So, one of the things I need to do in this chapter is try to show that FactivityJ is at least consistent with the commonsense view that says that we have extensive knowledge of the external world. If, as it seems plausible to say, that we have extensive knowledge of the external world, then the case for FactivityJ does show that justiﬁcation cannot be understood along internalist lines.
Reasons for Belief
In this section, I shall oﬀer an argument for Justiﬁed Basis, an argument that shows that FactivityT commits you to FactivityJ . According to Justiﬁed Basis, if you justiﬁably believe p, p is a justifying reason. Those who agree that evidence and justifying reasons for belief consist of true propositions but deny FactivityJ have to distinguish between the conditions under which you can permissibly treat something as if it is a reason for belief and the conditions under which it is a reason for belief. The distinction between the reasons there are and the reasons that you have because you are aware of them is a familiar distinction and perfectly harmless, but this is not the distinction that you need if you reject FactivityJ but agree that FactivityT is true. The reasons you have and aware of are reasons. What you need is a view on which it can be permissible to treat something that is not a reason as a reason. Against this view, I shall argue that since the right to believe comes with the right to treat what you believe as a reason, the right to believe depends upon whether what you believe is a reason. Why think there cannot be false, justiﬁed beliefs? The following thesis enjoys rather widespread acceptance: If you justiﬁably believe p, you have some justifying reason and your belief in p is based on it (Proper Basis).
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Those who deny Proper Basis have to say that it is possible for a belief to be justiﬁed even if it is not based on evidence or a genuine justifying reason.2 Anyone who denies Proper Basis faces a dilemma. Either they have to say you do not need evidence for p to justiﬁably believe it or they have to say that you have to have evidence but don’t have to base your beliefs on it. If Williamson, for example, says we do not need evidence that supports our beliefs to justiﬁably hold these beliefs, he cannot then say that knowledge is what justiﬁes belief. But this is central to his account of evidence. Should we say instead that justiﬁed belief doesn’t have to be based on evidence? I think not. We want to capture the intuition that someone who believes on the evidence is epistemically better oﬀ than if they just happen to have evidence that supports what they would have believed anyway. As Pollock and Cruz put it: One could have a good reason at one’s disposal but never make the connection. Suppose, for instance, that you are giving a mathematical proof. At a certain point you get stuck. You want to derive a particular intermediate conclusion, but you cannot see how to do it. In despair, you just write it down and think to youself, “That’s got to be true.” In fact, the conclusion follows from two earlier lines by modus ponens, but you have overlooked that. Surely, you are not justiﬁed in believing the conclusion, despite tha fact that you have impeccable reasons for it at your disposal. What is lacking is that you do not believe the conclusion on the basis of those reasons.3 It makes little sense to endorse the standard view that doxastic justiﬁcation entails propositional justiﬁcation while allowing that that the propositional justiﬁcation you have to have to have justiﬁed beliefs might play no role in supporting your beliefs. If you are not going to use it, why would you have to have it on hand? Someone might be skeptical of the reasons oﬀered in support of Proper Basis. They might think that if reasons are facts or true propositions, the justiﬁcation of a belief does not depend upon whether the belief is based on a genuine reason, but only whether the subject can justiﬁably take it that the reasons for which she believes are genuine reasons. To address this sort of skepticism, let me remind the reader that we also saw earlier that there is linguistic evidence that supports the orthodox account of the logic of justiﬁcation ascriptions. On the orthodox view, doxastic justiﬁcation requires propositional justiﬁcation. If someone’s belief is justiﬁed, there is a reason or a justiﬁcation for that belief and that is the believer’s reason for believing. This seems to best explain why it seems contradictory to say, “She has no reason to believe that it’s raining outside” having just conceded that her belief that it is raining outside is perfectly justiﬁed.
2 Fantl and McGrath 2009, pp. 104 say that this is a viable view for someone who agrees that only true propositions can justify but wants to allow for the possibility of false, justiﬁed beliefs. 3 Pollock and Cruz 1999, pp. 35.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II)
Suppose Proper Basis is true. For a large class of beliefs, it will be impossible to justiﬁably have such beliefs if they are mistaken. If p is non-inferentially justiﬁed, maybe your belief in p is based directly on the fact or some factive mental state (e.g., seeing that p). Given the argument for FactivityT , it is obvious that such a belief can only be justiﬁed if true. The content of the belief and the justifying reason that serves as the belief’s basis are the same. If p is inferentially justiﬁed and based on entailing evidence, you cannot justiﬁably believe p if ∼p. Not if the arguments for FactivityT are sound. If there are false, justiﬁed beliefs, they have to be inferentially justiﬁed beliefs based on non-entailing grounds. So, could these be cases where you justiﬁably believe a false proposition on the basis of true propositions? Not if Same Basis is true: If you and another subject both believe p on the basis of a justifying reason, these will only be diﬀerent justifying reasons if your justifying reasons for believing p diﬀer or there is some diﬀerence in your nonfactive mental states (Same Basis). The thought behind Same Basis is that your justifying reasons for believing something are not just justifying reasons (i.e., facts), they are the things you treat as if they are reasons and that depends upon your mental states rather than the facts. What you treat as a reason for your beliefs is determined by your psychological states. Suppose that you believe p on the basis of non-entailing evidence, r. You are the non-factive mental duplicate of someone who believes p on the basis of r in a p-world. Are you also in a p-world? Yes. You both deduce q from p because you both know that q is an obvious consequence of p. According to J-Closure, you both justiﬁably believe q. According to Same Basis, you both believe q for the reason that p. According to Proper Basis, you justiﬁably believe q only if p is a justifying reason. But, Factivity says, this is true only if p is true. So, yes, you are in a p-world. If p is non-inferentially justiﬁed, Proper Basis says that p is the justifying reason for believing p. FactivityT says that p must be true. If p is inferentially justiﬁed and based on entailing evidence, FactivityT implies that p is true. If p is inferentially justiﬁed and based on non-entailing evidence, p still turns out to be true. So, there are no false, justiﬁed beliefs based on non-entailing evidence. The argument for FactivityJ is now complete. How might someone who accepts FactivityT try to block the argument? In his discussion of perceptual error, Williamson says this: In unfavorable circumstances, one fails to gain perceptual knowledge, perhaps because things are not the way they appear to be. One does not know that things are that way, and E=K excludes the proposition that they are as evidence. Nevertheless, one still has perceptual evidence, even if the propositions it supports are false. True propositions can make a false proposition probable, as when someone is skillfully framed for a crime of which she is innocent. If perceptual evidence in the case of illusions consists of true propositions, what are they? The obvious answer is: the proposition that
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) things appear to be that way. The mountain appears to be that shape.4
Williamson can say that your evidence in the case of illusion consists of propositions about appearances and say that this is the evidence the belief is based on. If he says this and also accepts Same Basis, he has to say that our beliefs cannot be based on evidence that consists of propositions about the external world. Either, this means that our knowledge of the external world cannot justify our beliefs or we cannot have knowledge of the external world. He wouldn’t want to say such things. So, should he deny Same Basis? To say that someone based her belief on such and such reasons is to say, in part, that the reasons for which they believe are such and such. The form such a reason explanation takes should not depend upon whether the agent’s beliefs are true or false.5 A subject’s reasons for believing are limited to what she takes to support her beliefs, and it seems impossible for two subjects to diﬀer in terms of what they take to support their beliefs if these subjects are non-factive mental duplicates. We know why Williamson thinks there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs. He says, “Knowledge ﬁgures in the account primarily as what justiﬁes, not as what gets justiﬁed. Knowledge can justify a belief which is not itself knowledge, for the justiﬁcation relation is not deductive.” 6 He is right. The justiﬁcation relation is not deductive. You can justiﬁably believe p on the basis of non-entailing evidence. This does not force us to deny FactivityJ . The justiﬁcation of a belief might be locked up with evidence that rules out the possibility of error, but it does not need such evidence. The justiﬁcation of a belief depends both on what it is based on and what it can do for you. A belief is not justiﬁed if it cannot provide reasons for further beliefs. True beliefs based on suﬃciently strong but non-entailing evidence can do that, but false beliefs based on the same evidence cannot. This is why there cannot be false, justiﬁed beliefs. The mistake Williamson makes is in thinking that the justiﬁcatory standing of a belief is ﬁxed by what the belief stands on, its basis or the evidence that supports it. Williamson’s critics often make the same mistake in the course of attacking E=K, as we saw in the previous chapter. The justiﬁcatory standing of a belief depends, in part, upon whether it stands on a proper basis, but also upon whether it can shoulder its burden in providing support for further beliefs. Given the arguments for Factivity, only true beliefs can do that. Given the arguments for FactivityT , there is no reason to think that only beliefs based on entailing evidence can do that. So, Williamson is right that the justiﬁcation relation is not deductive, the remark is misleading.
Externalism and Epistemological Disjunctivism
Even if the arguments for FactivityJ are sound, the case for externalism is not closed. Internalists could simply deny that it is possible to have justiﬁed beliefs
pp. 197. Forthcoming stresses this point in his discussion and he is right to do so. 6 2000, pp. 9.
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concerning contingent matters of fact that do not supervene upon the internal facts. It will take some work to defend the idea that someone can consistently say that there can be no false, justiﬁed beliefs while at the same time say that many of our beliefs about the external world are justiﬁed. One view to consider is a kind of epistemological disjunctivism that says we have justiﬁed beliefs about our surroundings because our beliefs are based on factive reasons, mental states that embrace worldly facts.7 This is one way to go, but I would prefer not to enter into any entangling alliances with any disjunctivist view. It might seem, however, that I need epistemological disjunctivism to avoid skepticism. To see why, consider Cohen’s objection to FactivityJ : The strongest view one could take regarding the truth connection is that taken by Descartes. The Cartesian view is that justiﬁcation logically entails truth. To put it schematically: It is a conceptual truth that, if conditions C justify belief B for subject S, then C logically entails that B is true. He says that this Cartesian view faces a decisive objection: The legacy of the Cartesian view is scepticism. Descartes demonstrated this in the ﬁrst meditation that no such connection is forthcoming . . . Given any plausible speciﬁcation of C for any S, it will always be logically consistent to suppose that not B. That is what the evil demon argument shows. Where, e.g., C comprises facts about sensory data, and where B is a belief about the truth of some empirical proposition, it is always logically possible that the evil demon has arranged for C to obtain where B is false. Not wishing to be saddled with this sceptical result, most contemporary philosophers have rejected the Cartesian view and have opted instead for a fallibilist theory of justiﬁcation. A fallibilist theory allows that where C makes B justiﬁed for S, it is still possible that B is false.8 The worry is that Factivity entails skepticism because it entails a kind of infallibilism. As stated, it is easy to deal with this objection. According to the knowledge account of justiﬁed belief, S’s belief that p is justiﬁed iﬀ that belief constitutes knowledge.9 Because knowledge is factive, the knowledge account is committed to FactivityJ . To show that the knowledge account is committed to skepticism, you have to show that we cannot have knowledge. If you could somehow show that we do not have knowledge of the external world, we should embrace the (alleged) skeptical consequences of FactivityJ . If we do have knowledge of the external world (we do), the knowledge account implies that FactivityJ is true and carries no skeptical consequences. Of course, the knowledge account is
7 See Brewer 1999, Gibbons Forthcoming, Neta and Pritchard 2007, McDowell 1998, and Williamson 2000. 8 Cohen 1984, pp. 281. 9 See Sutton 2005.
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wrong. Knowledge suﬃces for justiﬁed belief but justiﬁed belief is not suﬃcient for knowledge. If less is required for justiﬁed belief than knowledge, then it will be harder to show that we do not have justiﬁed beliefs than it will be to show that knowledge is unattainable. Since the skeptic is wrong and no one can “show” that we lack this knowledge, we have nothing to fear from the skeptic simply because we think that justiﬁed belief is like knowledge in that it requires truth. Cohen’s argument seems to say, in eﬀect, that you should not combine externalism about the conditions that determine whether a belief is justiﬁed with internalism about the conditions that can justify belief. So long as the externalist denies that the factors common to you and your systematically deceived counterpart exhaust the conditions that determine whether your beliefs are justiﬁed, the objection seems to have no force. But, perhaps this brusque dismissal is too brusque. Conee agrees that Cohen’s objection is ﬂawed, but he thinks its ﬂaws are easily remedied: Suppose you have the belief that someone is speaking. You infer this from your justiﬁed belief that Mr. Jones is speaking. Thus, your external world belief that someone is speaking is a belief for which you have an entailing justiﬁcation, your justiﬁed belief that Jones is speaking. However, it is quite plausible that your belief that Jones is speaking must itself be justiﬁed in order to justify any other belief. In general, it is quite plausible that a belief can contribute epistemic justiﬁcation only if the belief is justiﬁed. When we consider candidate justiﬁcations for entailing justiﬁers like the belief that Jones is speaking, it becomes plain that at some point there is always a proposition that is justiﬁed without being entailed by its justiﬁcation. In the present instance, the nonentailing justiﬁer may well be your justiﬁcation for the belief that Jones is speaking. This belief may be justiﬁed by the experience of its seeming to you that you hear what you seem to recall to be the sound of Jones’ voice. This experience does not necessitate that Jones, or anyone else, is speaking. But it may be all that you have, and all that you need, in favor of the belief that Jones is speaking. Exactly how this justiﬁcation works is another matter ... [I]n any plausible view, at some point in the justiﬁcation of each external world belief that is justiﬁed, there is justiﬁcation without entailment. When this further assumption is added to the assumption that the entailment account is correct, we have a valid argument for the conclusion that no external world belief is well enough justiﬁed to be known ... The entailment claim is the argument’s least plausible assumption. So, if the skeptical conclusion is to be avoided, then the entailment account of the truth connection is the best candidate for rejection.10 Some now deny Conee’s claim that we lack a suﬃcient stock of entailing jus10 Conee
2004, pp. 245.
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tifying reasons for our worldly beliefs, and would reject his argument on the grounds that he assumes we do not. I confess that I ﬁnd myself sympathetic to some of what Conee says, so helping myself to this stock of factive reasons is not the sort of thing I want to do here. To address this worry, we need to make a brief detour into the issues having to do with the nature of experience and the reasons provided by experience. Let’s start with a tempting, popular, but ﬂawed line of reasoning: If there is a cat in the corner and it looks to you as if there is, you have good reason to believe there is a cat in the corner. Indeed, you might have good enough reason to believe this. Since it can look to you as if there is a cat there even if the nearest cat is miles away, experience can provide you with a suﬃciently good reason for belief even if there is no cat. The reasons provided by veridical experience give you the right to believe. The same is true for the reasons subjectively indistinguishable hallucination provide. If so, the justiﬁcatory work is done by the elements common to hallucination and perception. These elements do their justiﬁcatory work just as well in cases of perception and hallucination. After all, you have the same evidence either way. For their part, the mentalists say that there is nothing wrong with this sort of reasoning. On their view if two individuals have the same evidence, the same reasons bear on their beliefs and it is impossible for two individuals to have diﬀerent evidence if they happen to be non-factive mental duplicates. As they see it, the conditions that determine whether your experience is veridical or not do not determine the nature of your experience, they do not determine what evidence you have, and so they have nothing to do with the proper description of your reasons for believing any of the worldly propositions you believe. So, they endorse: Veridical experience and subjectively indistinguishable hallucination provide you with the same evidence for your worldly beliefs (Same Reasons).11 McDowell agrees that this line of reasoning is defective. He thinks the mistake is in thinking that since it can look as if there is a cat in the corner whether there is or not if it looks as if there is a cat there you have the same reason to believe there is, cat or no cat. The conditions that distinguish veridical experience from hallucination are essential to perceptual knowledge. Everyone agrees to that. Knowledge, he says, is a standing in the space of reasons.12 So, the diﬀerence between perceptual knowledge and ignorance requires a diﬀerence in the reasons there are to believe worldly propositions in the case of veridical perceptual experience and subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. As he sees it, Same Reasons leads to skepticism. To avoid skepticism, he thinks we should say:
11 This 12 McDowell
is a popular view. See also Huemer 2006 and Silins 2005. 1995, pp. 877.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) The evidence veridical experience provides is better than the evidence provided by subjectively indistinguishable hallucination in the sense that veridical experience provides evidence that hallucination does not (Better Reasons).13
Of course, those who accept Same Reasons typically reject skepticism, but he thinks they have no right to do so. Suppose Same Reasons does lead to skepticism. Does Better Reasons save you from the skeptic? No, he says, not on its own. If you were to say that the nature of the psychological states and events by virtue of which it looks to you as if such and such is the case are the same in the case of perception and hallucination, the view leads right back to skepticism. On such a view, the qualities by virtue of which your reasons are thought to be better would be blankly external to you. For McDowell, this is verboten: The root idea is that one’s epistemic standing . . . cannot intelligibly be constituted, even in part, by matters blankly external to how it is with one subjectively. For how could such matters be other than beyond one’s ken? And how could matters beyond one’s ken make any diﬀerence to one’s epistemic standing? . . . But the disjunctive conception of appearances shows a way to detach this “internalist” intuition from the requirement of a non-question begging demonstration. When someone has a fact made manifest to him, the obtaining of this fact contributes to his epistemic standing on the question. But the obtaining of the fact is precisely not blankly external to his subjectivity, as it would be if the truth about that were exhausted by the highest common factor.14 The one point on which McDowell and the mentalists seem to agree is that nothing can confer any justiﬁcatory beneﬁt or constitute some superior epistemic position unless it corresponds to some mental diﬀerence that distinguishes you from those who do not enjoy the beneﬁt. Because he thinks that experience can embrace worldly facts, McDowell is happy to say that the veridicality of an experience can provide a justiﬁcatory beneﬁt by virtue of which you enjoy a superior epistemic standing when compared to the epistemic standing of someone undergoing an indistinguishable hallucination. The mentalists either deny that there are factive mental states of the kind McDowell thinks marks the diﬀerence between the case of perceptual knowledge and hallucination or deny that such states can confer any beneﬁt upon you. As the passage indicates, the problems that arise for the mentalists arise for anyone who denies: An appearance can either be a mere appearance, as with hallucination, or a fact made perceptually manifest. The nature of the psychological states and events by virtue of it looks to you as if p
13 This 14 1998,
is also the view defended by Williamson 2000. pp. 390.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) depends upon whether you are hallucinating or your experience is veridical (Disjunctivism).
Thus, McDowell’s target seems to include most of the orthodox accounts of epistemic justiﬁcation in that these accounts deny that the veridicality of a particular experience is part of what determines what justiﬁes beliefs formed in response to taking such experiences at face value.15 We can summarize McDowell’s epistemological argument for Disjunctivism as follows. Given the internalist intuition that epistemic standing cannot be constituted by factors blankly external to you or beyond your ken, Same Reasons leads to skepticism. Knowledge is an epistemic standing and Same Reasons asserts that the conditions essential to that standing are blankly external to you in the case of veridical experience. If you endorse Better Reasons but deny Disjunctivism, you do not avoid the skeptical consequences of Same Reasons because your view commits you to saying that the conditions essential to knowledge are beyond your ken even in cases of veridical experience. The only alternative to skepticism is a view that combines Better Reasons with Disjunctivism. So, on the plausible assumption that we have perceptual knowledge, we have to reject the traditional conception of experience.16 Those who take a dim view of the argument for Disjunctivism might say that McDowell tries to derive an implausible claim about the nature of experience from implausible claims about the justiﬁcation of perceptual belief. Not only is he wrong to think that Same Reasons leads to skepticism and wrong to endorse Better Reasons, he is wrong to think Disjunctivism could explain Better Reasons. I also have some reservations about his argument, but the problem with his argument is not that it assumes Better Reasons. Not only is Better Reasons true, so is this stronger thesis: Only in the case of veridical perception do you have good enough reason for your worldly beliefs. If you believe on the basis of hallucination, you cannot believe with justiﬁcation. You can believe with suﬃcient justiﬁcation if your experience is veridical (Good Enough). The questionable step in McDowell’s argument is the step where he says that claims like Better Reasons and Good Enough commit us to Disjunctivism. Once we see why Better Reasons and Good Enough are true, we can see why we do not need to take a stand on whether Disjunctivism is true.
15 Thus, McDowell’s target is broader than Conee and Feldman’s mentalist view or Huemer’s phenomenal conservatism. Externalist views such as Goldman’s 1986 reliabilism, Bergmann’s 2006 proper-functionalism, and Comesaña’s 2010 evidentialist reliabilism are all targets. It is not at all clear that those who defend these views defend Better Reasons, but even if they thought that they had the resources to do so, they cannot point to causal diﬀerences between cases of hallucination and perception as the feature that explains why the reasons experience provides in the good case are “better” than those provided by an indisitnguishable hallucinatory experience. 16 Remember that McDowell’s ambitions are relatively modest. He hopes to describe the conditions under which a kind of skeptical argument fails, not provide premises for refuting the skeptic. See his 2008, pp. 378.
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Some object to McDowell’s view on the grounds that it is committed to a kind of infallibilism and that this infallibilist view committed to an unpalatable form of skepticism.17 If knowledge is a standing in the space of reasons and the diﬀerence between knowledge and ignorance cannot be “blankly external” to you or beyond your ken, the diﬀerence between knowledge and ignorance can never simply be a diﬀerence in whether the relevant belief is true.18 In fact, the diﬀerence between knowledge and ignorance can never be due to factors that do not supervene upon a full description of the reasons you have to believe. Thus, it seems that the diﬀerence between knowledge and ignorance must reﬂect a further diﬀerence in the reasons you have for your beliefs, so it seems that McDowell is committed to this thesis: If you know p, you believe p on a diﬀerent basis than anyone who believes p but does not know p (Diﬀerent Basis). Diﬀerent Basis entails that if you know p, you believe p on a diﬀerent basis than anyone who fails to know p. So, in ∼p-worlds, subjects in very similar epistemic situations believe p on a diﬀerent basis than you do. But, that just means that if you know p, you believe on a basis that is incompatible with ∼p. This just is the infallibilist view: If you know p, your belief must be based on something incompatible with ∼p (Infallibilism). The argument from Infallibilism to inductive skepticism is straightforward. In cases of inductive inference, the basis for your belief is a basis you could have even if your belief is mistaken. If I believe correctly that the n+1st draw from my bag will be black on the basis of n observations of black draws and you believe incorrectly that the n+1st draw from your bag will be black on the basis of n observations of black draws, there is a perfectly good sense in which we believe what we do on the same basis. I get things right, but you do not. According to Infallibilism, I cannot know unless everyone who believes on your basis knows. But, you did not know the next marble would be black. You pulled the ﬁrst white ball. To block the objection, we have to deny Diﬀerent Basis. Instead we should say that it is possible to know p even if you believe p on the same basis as someone who mistakenly believes p. The lesson is supposed to be that if you reject Diﬀerent Basis, you have to also reject Better Reasons and Good Enough. Unless Diﬀerent Basis is true, your (allegedly) better reasons cannot make you better oﬀ, epistemically, because the qualities by virtue of which your reasons are better are blankly external to you or beyond your ken. If you deny Better Reasons, you also have to deny Good Enough. How could you have the same reasons as someone else and only one of you have reasons that are good enough?
17 See 18 A
Comesana 2005. point noted by both Comesana 2005 and van Cleve 2004.
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If Same Reasons is true and the reasons in the case of hallucination are not good enough to justify belief, those reasons cannot be good enough to justify belief in the case of veridical experience. My guess is that McDowell and McDowell’s critics might agree that Better Reasons and Good Enough require Diﬀerent Basis. If they agree on this point, then I think they are both making a mistake. We shall see that externalists can deny Diﬀerent Basis even if they accept Good Enough and Better Reasons, but this is something we shall return to below. Let us consider a second objection. In explaining how it is possible to have the kind of knowledge the skeptic denies we could have, McDowell rejects Same Reasons and argues that Disjunctivism is needed to explain Better Reasons. Nothing could be a reason that contributes to the justiﬁcatory standing of your belief unless that reason is part of your basis for believing. For reasons we have touched on, having such a reason requires having a kind of unmediated, unbroken mental contact with the facts you come to know via perceptual experience. Conee objects to this on the grounds that Disjunctivism could not explain Better Reasons because such an explanation would run afoul of the following principle: A subject’s justiﬁcation for a belief is not stronger than a second subject’s justiﬁcation for the same belief, if their respective justiﬁcations are prone to being equally well defeated by the same defeaters (Defeat).19 If Defeat says that two reasons defeated by the same defeater cannot diﬀer in strength, the principle is not very plausible. A full house is stronger than a pair even if four aces would beat both hands. On a more charitable reading, Defeat says that the justiﬁcation provided by two conscious experiences is equally strong if these justiﬁcations are liable to defeat by all the same defeaters. This is more plausible, but still hardly self-evident. It is not obvious that the strength of a reason can be measured in terms of what can defeat it. Forget about reasons for a moment and think about boxers. Nobody can defeat Mustard in a boxing match. Apart from Mustard, nobody can defeat White or Plum. White and Plum cannot box against each other because they share gloves. Plum and Green cannot box each other because they share trunks. No one can box without both gloves and trunks. Suppose you have debts that you can only repay if you come into some quick money. The only way to come into some quick money is to set up a boxing match for tomorrow night. You have to bet on the boxer you send to the ring and you manage White and Plum. You do not know whether the opponent will be Green, Mustard, or someone else. You know the ﬁght will not take place if you try to send Plum up against Green, so there is stronger reason to send in White. While White and Plum would lose to the same boxers, you have stronger reason to send White in. One lesson to take from this is that if reasons are like boxers, strength cannot simply be measured in terms of who could defeat the reason or
2007, pp. 19.
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boxer you have. Surely some reasons are like boxers. Reasons to pick between boxers are reasons and they behave a bit like boxers. Not only do I think we have reason to doubt Defeat, we have pretty good reason to think that Conee’s objection fails. He thinks veridical perceptual experience and subjectively indistinguishable hallucination are equally well defeated by the same defeaters because they are subjectively indistinguishable. If his objection is sound, it shows that if two conscious experiences are indistinguishable, the reasons they provide for your beliefs are equally strong and these experiences will justify the same beliefs to the same degree. Consider two theses about indiscriminability and justiﬁcation: TransitivityI : (x)(y)(z)[(Ixy & Iyz) → Ixz)]. TransitivityJ : (x)(y)(z)[(Jxy & Jyz) → Jxz)].
According to TransitivityI , a and c must be indiscriminable or indistinguishable for you if you cannot distinguish a from b and cannot distinguish b from c. According to TransitivityJ , if a and b justify the same (i.e., justify the same beliefs to the same degree) and b and c justify the same, a and c must justify the same as well. Arguably, TransitivityI is false. Suppose a, b, and c are perceptual experiences you have while looking at three diﬀerent paint chips in good viewing conditions. It seems possible for a and b to be indiscriminable, b and c to be indiscriminable, even if you can discriminate a from c. If these chips diﬀer only slightly, you might be unable to distinguish the ﬁrst from the second and the second from the third even if you can discriminate the ﬁrst from the third by sight.20 What goes for the chips goes for the perceptual experiences of the chips. Although it seems that TransitivityI is false, TransitivityJ is true. For TransitivityJ to be false, there would have to be some proposition, p, such that the degrees to which a and c justiﬁed belief in p diﬀered even though both a and c justiﬁed belief in p to the same degree that b does. This is impossible. With this in mind, I shall argue that Conee cannot use Defeat to show that Disjunctivism cannot explain Better Reasons. His objection assumes: (1) (x)(y)(Ixy → Jxy).
Let me introduce a further assumption: (2) (x)(y)(∼ Ixy →∼ Jxy).
The justiﬁcation for (2) is that in discriminating between two things, you can know that these two things are distinct.21 If you can discriminate between a and c, you will have stronger reasons for believing that you are undergoing a while undergoing a than you will have for believing that you are undergoing some experience you can knowingly discriminate from a (e.g., c). If TransitivityI is false, we can coherently suppose that a is indiscriminable from b, b is indiscriminable from c, but you can discriminate between a and
20 For 21 See
discussion, see Williamson 1994, pp. 237-44. Williamson 1990.
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c. (1) entails that a and b justify the same beliefs to the same degree. It also entails that b and c justify the same beliefs to the same degree. It follows by TransitivityJ that a and c justify the same beliefs to the same degree. But, if (2) is correct, this contradicts the further assumption that a and c are experiences that you can discriminate between. The most obvious way to avoid this contradiction is to deny (1). If (1) is false, Conee’s Defeat principle is no threat to Better Reasons. His objection was that McDowell’s view implied that it is possible for indistinguishable states to provide diﬀerent reasons for belief, reasons that diﬀered in strength. His objection assumed that indistinguishable states can be defeated by precisely the same considerations and that states that can be defeated by precisely the same considerations cannot oﬀer reasons that diﬀer in strength. We know now that these assumptions cannot both be correct. Either the reasons provided by two indistinguishable states are not defeated by the very same considerations or the reasons provided by two states can be defeated by the same considerations even if these states provide diﬀerent reasons. There is a deeper problem with Conee’s objection. It is tempting to think that claims like Better Reasons and Good Enough are only true if the reasons we have in the case of perceptual knowledge are stronger than the reasons we have in cases of hallucination. While we do have stronger reasons in the case of veridical perception than hallucination, it is also important to remember that strength of epistemic position is not simply a function of the strength of reasons to believe. Normative standing is a function of both reasons for and reasons against. This is something to keep in mind as we try to sort out the connections between Better Reasons, Good Enough, Diﬀerent Basis, and Infallibilism.
The Epistemological Argument for Disjunctivism
The argument for Better Reasons and Good Enough builds on the account of evidence defended earlier. Why does veridical experience provide better reasons than subjectively indistinguishable hallucination? Better Reasons follows from IKSE and FactivityT . Because the scope of things that you know noninferentially in the case of veridical perception is greater than the scope of things you can know non-inferentially when you undergo a subjectively indistinguishable hallucination. If it looks as if there is a cat in the corner, you can know non-inferentially that a cat is there if there is a cat. You cannot if there is no cat. That there is a cat in the corner is a better reason to believe there is a cat in the room than that it looks as if there is a cat in the corner. In the case of veridical perception, you have both reasons. In the case of hallucination, you have only one of these reasons. The argument for FactivityJ gives us an argument for Good Enough. If you take experience at face value in the case of veridical perception, there seems to be no reason not to hold such beliefs. If you take experience at face value in the case of hallucination, there seems to be a reason not to hold such beliefs–such beliefs lack a proper basis. McDowell might agree with some of this, but insist that this does not go far enough. Nothing in the arguments for Good Enough or Better Reasons told us anything about the nature of perceptual experience. If the traditional view of
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experience is left in place, all is lost. Why is that? Remember that McDowell wanted to hold onto the internalist thought that your epistemic standing cannot be constituted even partially by matters blankly external to you. Why not? Because, he says, such matters are beyond your ken and what is beyond your ken cannot make any diﬀerence to your epistemic standing. If I understand the reasoning right, it goes something like this: (1) If q is blankly external to your subjectivity, q is beyond your ken. (2) If q is beyond your ken, q cannot make a diﬀerence to your epistemic standing. (3) Thus, if q is blankly external to your subjectivity, q cannot make a diﬀerence to your epistemic standing. What does it actually mean to say that something is blankly external to your subjectivity? One interpretation that seems plausible is given by van Cleve– q is blankly external to your subjectivity iﬀ a complete description of your psychological states neither entails q nor ∼q.22 What does it mean to say that q is beyond your ken? Whatever it means, we know that McDowell’s conclusion is that whether you know something cannot depend upon q if q is beyond your ken. And, so, let us say that if q is beyond your ken, you are not in a position to know q non-inferentially. If, however, you are in a position to know q noninferentially, q is not beyond your ken. We can now restate the argument as follows: (4) If a full description of your psychological states entails neither q nor ∼q, you cannot know whether q know non-inferentially.
(5) If you cannot know whether q non-inferentially, q cannot make a diﬀerence to the justiﬁcatory status of your beliefs. (6) Thus, if a full description of your psychological states entails neither q nor ∼q, q cannot make a diﬀerence to the justiﬁcatory status of your beliefs. Does this compel us to accept Disjunctivism? McDowell is probably right that if something is beyond your ken, it cannot confer any epistemic beneﬁt upon you. However, I think it is a mistake to say that your epistemic standing cannot be determined, in part, by features that are beyond your ken. In fact, McDowell should say as much. On his view, there can be matters beyond your ken that can partially determine the justiﬁcatory standing of your beliefs–that you are in the bad case, for example, is not blankly external to your subjectivity but it is, nevertheless, something that partially determines your epistemic standing. It does if Disjunctivism is true and either Better Reasons or Good Enough is true. Better Reasons and Good Enough say that there is a justiﬁcatory diﬀerence between the good and
Cleve 2004, pp. 486.
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bad cases and Disjunctivism says that this corresponds to a diﬀerence in the psychological states and events by virtue of which it looks to you the way it does in these cases. Thus, we should restate (5) and (6) as follows: (5’) If you cannot know whether q non-inferentially, q cannot make a diﬀerence to the justiﬁcatory status of your beliefs by conferring any sort of epistemic beneﬁt upon you. (6’) If a full description of your psychological states entails neither q nor ∼q, q cannot make a diﬀerence to the justiﬁcatory status of your beliefs by conferring any sort of epistemic beneﬁt upon you. With this ﬁx in place, we have our argument for Disjunctivism. McDowell is right to deny that something inaccessible to you can confer upon you an epistemic beneﬁt. Consider some examples. Suppose someone does something there is reason not to do. Suppose that there happens also to be reason to do it. Bernie shoots a kid carrying a weapon (that is something there is a pro tanto reason not to do), but doesn’t know that the kid is carrying a weapon. Maybe the kid was going to use that weapon to attack a bunch of people (perhaps that’s a pro tanto reason to shoot the kid). Since this has nothing to do with Bernie’s reasons for shooting, it is hard to see how facts about what the kid was carrying and what the kid planned to do with his weapon could be cited to justify his deeds. Even if Bernie were made aware of the kid’s weapon, if Bernie is shooting the kid just because he hates kids it is hard to see how these facts could justify his conduct. To justiﬁably act against a reason, it seems that it is not enough that there is overriding reason that happens to be out there somewhere. It seems that this reason to act has to be the reason for which the subject acts if that reason is going to be the reason in virtue of which some other agent’s deeds are going to have a moral standing superior to the standing of Bernie’s deeds. The reasons that count in favor of acting seem to contribute positively to moral standing only if they play some motivational role. They cannot play that motivational role, however, if they are beyond the subject’s ken. Indeed, one argument for the claim that considerations beyond your ken cannot confer any justiﬁcation is predicated on the assumption that considerations can only justify when they play some motivational role. If Bernie’s reasons for shooting were not the reasons for which he shot, those reasons seem to do nothing to justify his action even if he is aware of them but is motivated instead wholly by malice. We do not need practical examples to make the point. One lesson you might take from BonJour’s clairvoyant examples is precisely that considerations that are inaccessible to you cannot be reasons that justify forming beliefs. This much seems right. It seems to be the sort of thing that might lead McDowell to say that there is something a subject in the good case is cognizant of that explains why a subject in this case ends up with beliefs better justiﬁed than beliefs formed in the bad case. The reasons that count against acting, however, can contribute negatively to the normative standing of an action without playing any motivational role. Moreover, the reasons that count
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against acting can contribute to normative standing of an action even if the agent is non-culpably ignorant of them. Think about cases where someone is imprisoned for a crime that we later discover that they did not commit. In the wake of this discovery, we discover that we have a duty of reparation and must compensate the victim. Such reparative duties are, however, not mere duties of beneﬁcence. Such reparative duties should leave the victim better oﬀ than they were, but unlike duties of beneﬁcence the duty is one that arises between the victim and the subject(s) that harmed the victim. These duties can exist when the parties responsible for imprisoning the victim were non-culpably ignorant of the fact that the accused was innocent. (Just think about cases where reliable eyewitnesses came forward to suggest that the victim was guilty and it was only later developments in forensic science that exonerated the person imprisoned.) These duties only exist when the agent acted against some genuine reason that contributed negatively to the normative standing of the original act. (Otherwise, helping the wrongly accused would not be a response to some past wrong and would be a mere duty of beneﬁcence.) If this is right, the act of putting the innocent victim away and forcing them to suﬀer the hardships of prison was wrongful and wrongful for reasons that all relevant parties could have been non-culpably ignorant of. Examples like these suggest that there is an important asymmetry between reasons for belief or action and reasons against.23 Even if reasons for believing or acting cannot contribute to normative standing unless the subject is cognizant of them, reasons against can contribute negatively to normative standing when the subject is not cognizant of them. McDowell himself seems to concede this much if he accepts Better Reasons and accepts that subjects in the bad case are in no position to realize that their reasons are defective. Since comparative normative standing is a function of both the reasons for and reasons against, there is a serious lacuna in McDowell’s argument for Disjunctivism. Why? Well, suppose there are reasons not to believe p on the basis of how things look when its looking as if p is due to hallucination. It could be that beliefs in the good case are comparatively better oﬀ even if there is not something internal to the subject’s experience that is distinctive of the good case. The disparity is due entirely to reasons not to believe that are present only in the bad case that make beliefs formed in that case defective. Notice that there is a way of accomodating the internalist point about reasons to believe. None justify if they are beyond your ken. However, if he must concede that reasons not to believe can do their work by making it wrongful to believe even if they are beyond the subject’s ken, we can explain the diﬀerence in epistemic standing between the good case and bad in terms of this diﬀerence in the reasons not to believe. We could say, if we wanted, that there were the same reasons to believe in these cases. Thus, it seems that the right to believe does not depend upon the possession of reasons that entail that the belief in question is true. One might have such reasons on hand, say, in the case of non-inferentially justiﬁed belief, but there is no necessary connection between
further discussion of this asymmetry, see Gardner 2007.
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rightly held belief and entailing evidence. In this way, I think we can block the argument for Disjunctivism without necessarily denying (5’) or (6’) and so without denying what seems right about the internalist thought. What about (4’)? Suppose we were to deny it and adopt some picture of experience on which there is no psychological diﬀerence that distinguishes the good case from the bad. We might say this to McDowell. When, say, I know non-inferentially that the cat is in the corner because it looks as if it is, the fact that the cat is in the corner is not beyond my ken because I know it non-inferentially. It may well be that the fact is not one entailed by a full description of my psychological states, but it is nevertheless not beyond my ken. And, for this reason, it matters little whether it is blankly external to my subjectivity. McDowell might say that this just begs the question against him, but in my defense I would say that I am basically engaged in the same project that he is. He is supposing we have a kind of perceptual knowledge and is trying to describe the conditions under which it is possible to have it.24 This is what I have done, and I have described conditions under which we have such knowledge without assuming that we recieve any epistemic beneﬁts by virtue of conditions that are beyond our ken. Nothing we have seen thus far compels us to say that the conditions under which we could have such knowledge is that we are in mental states that entail that the beliefs in question are true. So, until we see an argument for (4’) that goes beyond the support it can receive from the internalist thought that nothing beyond your ken can contribute positively to the justiﬁcatory standing of your beliefs, we need not worry so much about denying (4’). If there is no reason to endorse (4’) and we can consistently maintain that Better Reasons and Good Enough are true, we avoid the worry that arose above insofar as nothing in the argument for Better Reasons or Good Enough supports Diﬀerent Basis. Since nothing we have said thus far commits us to Diﬀerent Basis, it seems nothing we have said thus far commits us to the kind of infallibilist view pinned on McDowell that seems to generate inductive skepticism. So, we can now see our way through the dilemma. On the one horn was the disjunctivist view that seemed committed to Infallibilism and so committed to a kind of skepticism many of us want to avoid. On the other was the fallibilist sort of mentalist view that I have argued earlier leads to skepticism. If, as I have argued, the epistemic standing of a belief is determined both by reasons to hold it and reasons not to hold it and the latter need not be reasons that are accessible to you, the total set of conditions that determine the justiﬁcatory standing of your belief need not supervene upon the basis of your belief or the basis of your belief taken together with all of your evidence. So, asserting that truth is required for justiﬁed belief does not commit you to the view that the right to believe p depends, inter alia, upon possessing some antecedent reason to believe p that is inconsistent with ∼p. And, asserting that Infallibilism is false does not commit you to the view that you can have the right to believe p simply by
his 2008, pp. 379.
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having the right sort of basis for your belief no matter how things external to you turn out.
Reasons for Action
In this section, I shall argue that FactivityJ is a consequence of FactivityP . The justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon the facts external to us because reasons for action consist of facts external to us and the justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon whether it provides us with these reasons. A widely held view is that belief aims at truth.25 No one thinks this could literally be true, so I suppose that the widely held view is that this talk of belief’s aim is a useful metaphor. A natural way to unpack this metaphor is in functionalist terms. True beliefs can do what beliefs are supposed to do. False beliefs cannot. Why are false beliefs constitutionally incapable of doing what beliefs are supposed to do? Here is a hypothesis. Beliefs are supposed to provide us with reasons from which we can then reason to conclusions about what to do or the way the world is. Since reasons are facts, false beliefs provide us with no reason at all.26 This way of understanding the aim of belief works only if we work from the assumption that reasons are facts. This is controversial if the kind of reason at issue is a motivating or explanatory reason. This is not the kind of reason I have in mind. The reasons beliefs are supposed to provide are normative reasons, reasons to act or believe. A simple argument suggests that there cannot be false, justiﬁed beliefs if reasons for action are facts: (1) The belief that p is true can only contribute a normative reason to practical deliberation if p is true. (If p is false, the belief that p could only pass oﬀ a non-reason as a reason if included in deliberation.) (2) There is no normative reason to include the belief that p in practical deliberation if the belief would merely pass oﬀ a nonreason as a normative reason if included in deliberation. (3) There is, however, a normative reason to exclude the belief that p from practical and theoretical deliberation if the belief would pass oﬀ a non-reason as if it were a genuine normative reason if included in deliberation. (4) If there are reasons not to believe or act, the belief or act can be justiﬁed only if there are equally strong reasons to believe or act. (C1) Thus, only true beliefs can be justiﬁably included in practical deliberation.
25 See 26 See
Velleman (2000), Wedgwood (2002), and Williams (1973). Collins (1997), Dancy (2000), Hyman (1999), Scanlon (1999), and Williams (1981).
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) (5) A belief cannot be justiﬁed if it cannot justiﬁably be included in the process of practical deliberation. (C2) Thus, only true beliefs can be justiﬁed.
Since the argument’s ﬁrst premise is an obvious consequence of FactivityP , we should focus on the argument’s other premises. (2) strikes me as being rather intuitive, but if someone did not accept (2), they could try to oﬀer a counterexample. The only kind of counterexample I could imagine would have this structure. We do not know if the number of stars is (a) odd or (b) inﬁnite or even. Suppose someone oﬀers us a large sum of money to assert sincerely that the number is odd. You cannot do this unless you believe that the number is odd, so the money is a reason to believe that the number is odd. It is also a reason to reason from the belief that the number is odd to the conclusion that you should say believe and say that the number is odd. If you have reason to believe what you say is true, you have reason to get yourself to believe that the number is odd by any means that would be suﬃcient. If banging your head against the wall would do the trick, go bang. Examples like this are unhelpful for two reasons. First, it would be too easy to rewrite the argument and say that in the absence of such reasons, you cannot justiﬁably believe what is false. Since those who deny FactivityJ do not do so on the grounds that there can be practical reasons to cause yourself to form false beliefs, denying (2) on these kinds grounds would do nothing to spare the orthodox accounts of justiﬁcation from the argument. Second, the reason in question is the wrong kind of reason to be a reason to believe. It is merely a reason to cause yourself to believe, and so it is not a reason that bears on the normative standing of the belief. A standard test for distinguishing the right kind of reasons from the wrong kind of reasons is to ask whether in accepting the reason you will thereby settle a question about what to do or believe by forming an intention or a belief.27 The (alleged) reason fails the test. According to (3), there a normative reason to exclude non-reasons from reasoning? If there were no such reasons, then treating non-reasons as if they were genuine reasons would be reason enough to do so. It is often said that ought implies reason, so if there is no reason not to φ, it must not be that you ought not φ. So, φ-ing would be permitted. In other words, treating something as a reason would not be the sort of thing that called for a justiﬁcation. Does treating something as a reason call for justiﬁcation? It seems so. We criticize people for reasoning from assumptions that they had no good reason to think were true. Assuming this practice is not badly misguided, it seems that (3) must be true. (4) is a plausible claim about justiﬁcation and conﬂicting reasons. There can be some justiﬁcation or some reason for φ-ing even when there are stronger reasons not to φ but the question is not whether there is some justiﬁcation for φ-ing, but what it takes for there to be suﬃcient justiﬁcation for φ-ing. I doubt there can be suﬃcient justiﬁcation under the very same conditions in
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which there are reasons that defeat the case for φ-ing. The point seems rather obvious. If all it took to justify an action was that there was some reason to do it, all sorts of actions there are strong cases against could be justiﬁed by the trivial reasons that count in favor of them. It would be excruciatingly painful to stick a fork into a live outlet, but it would be interesting to know what it is like to receive that sort of jolt. If those are the operative reasons, I think I have just explained why you should not stick a fork into the outlet. As for (5), the thought behind this premise is that if you have the right to believe, you have the right to treat what you believe as reasons for further beliefs. Essentially, this is an application of J-Closure. Does that right end when that belief is included in deliberation about what to believe about what to do? J-Closure says that it does not. What is the relation between practical deliberation and deliberation about what to believe about what to do? Don’t we do the one by doing the other. All that (5) says is that there will not be a decisive epistemic case against treating p as if it is a reason for action when there is not a decisive case against believing p in the ﬁrst place. It is diﬃcult for me to imagine a case in which there is a decisive purely epistemic case against reasoning from p where that does not constitute a case against believing p that threatens the justiﬁcatory status of belief in p. Let’s take stock. We have seen two lines of argument from claims about the ontology of reasons to a conclusion about the justiﬁcation of belief. We can summarize the argument as follows. The justiﬁcation of a belief depends, inter alia, upon whether what you believe can properly be treated as reasons for further beliefs. Whether you can properly treat what you believe as a reason depends upon whether it is a reason. Since reasons are facts, beliefs have to ﬁt the facts.
Reasons and Motivation
What happens when someone acts for a reason? Someone acts and she acts for a reason. This seems like the obvious answer, but it is not at all obvious how it could be right. If the agent were to act for a reason, there would have to be a reason and she would act for it. Some powerful arguments suggest that such a thing could never happen. So, our question might rest on a mistake. What happens when someone acts for a reason? What happens when you divide the number of horses and unicorns by the number of elves? Some who defend Psychologism deny that motivating and normative reasons belong to the same ontological category. It seems they deny that it is possible that the reasons we act for are in the right sort of category to be good reasons.28 Normative reasons are the reasons that apply to us, make demands on us, and count in favor of an action. These are facts about the situation or worldly states of aﬀair that an agent has in mind when deciding what to do. Motivating reasons are states of the agent or the contents of those states. They help explain
Dancy 1995 and 2000
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why the agent behaves as she does. They say that there is nothing in us or in the world that plays both roles: When we have such a reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to me, did not motivate me.29 The problem with such a view is that it denies what seems obvious to many of us. When someone acts for a reason, there is a reason that is at least potentially a valid reason and the agent acts for it. If all goes well, the agent’s reason for acting was a good reason. Dancy has argued that if this is so, we ought to think of both normative and motivating reasons as constituted by the worldly facts or states of aﬀairs we have in mind when acting rather than the states of mind or the contents of those states.30 An acceptable theory of reasons, he says, should accomodate these two constraints: Any normative reason is capable of contributing to the explanation of an action done for that reason. (Explanatory Constraint) Any motivating reason must be capable of being among the reasons that count in favor of acting. (Normative Constraint) The problem with his view is that it too seems to deny what is obvious to many of us. When the agent acts on a mistaken belief, the agent’s reason for acting cannot be a worldly state of aﬀair or fact because the facts do not ﬁt the agent’s beliefs.31 So, what happens when that happens? Dancy says that it sounds “too harsh” to say that such an agent acts for no reason at all.32 So, it seems that the reason for which the agent acts must be an attitude or the content of an attitude. If this is right, there must be something wrong with the argument against Psychologism. Someone could respond to Dancy’s argument against Psychologism by denying that Explanatory and Normative Constraints. They could deny that the reasons we act for and the reasons there are to act belong to the same ontological category. Instead, they could argue that Dancy was wrong to say that Psychologism violates the Explanatory and Normative Constraints.33 Turning
1997, pp. 99. Smith 1987 is also often saddled with this sort of view. Dancy 2000. 31 Gibbons 2009, Hornsby 2007, Lord 2008, Miller 2008, Turri 2009, and Wiland 2002 argue that cases of error cause trouble for Dancy’s view. 32 Personal communication. 33 Miller 2008, Schroeder 2008, and Gibbons Forthcoming all defend views that are supposed to accomodate both the Normative and Explanatory Constraints. They all reject the view that motivating reasons are worldly facts or states of aﬀairs. For Miller, motivating and normative reasons are Fregean propositions. For Schroeder, both kinds of reasons are propositions, but
30 See 29 Parﬁt
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Dancy’s argument on its head, some now defend views on which both normative and motivating reasons are either our attitudes or the contents of these attitudes. Arguments from error make it hard to give up Psychologism about motivating reasons. In this section, I want to do two things. First, I want to argue that Dancy was right to reject Psychologism in both of its forms. Second, I want to oﬀer a response to the argument from error that saves what is right with Dancy’s view. Is it possible to act for good reasons? The argument from error does not force us to deny that it is even if we insist that the good reasons are typically facts about the situation or states of the world rather than states of mind.
Motivational and Normative Psychologism
Motivational Psychologism, as the name suggests, is a view concerning the ontology of motivating reasons, the reasons for which we act. Normative Psychologism is a view concerning the ontology of normative reasons, the reasons there are to act that make demands on us, apply to us, or count in favor of an action. On the assumption that the Explanatory and Normative Constraints are correct, Motivational and Normative Psychologism go hand in hand. It will be helpful to distinguish between two versions of Psychologism: Normative and motivating reasons are constituted by your mental states. (PsychologismS) Normative and motivating reasons are constituted by the propositions that are the contents of your mental states. (PsychologismP ) On the ﬁrst view, reasons are attitudes.34 On the second, reasons are provided by your attitudes because they are the contents of those attitudes.35 The case against Motivational Psychologism builds on the case against Normative Psychologism and it might be useful to remind ourselves why that view strikes many as being so implausible. Normative reasons by their very nature seem like relational beasts. It is hard to imagine a world in which there are reasons that are not reasons for such and such an agent and even if we add the agents in, I think it is extremely diﬃcult to imagine these reasons matching up with their agents without being reasons-for the agents to do or avoid various things. How does something become a reason-for, a reason for an agent to do or avoid such and such a thing in such and such circumstances? There might
normative reason ascriptions are factive because the thing that is a reason is only a normative reason if it corresponds to a fact. For Gibbons, both kinds of reasons are psychological states of the agent. These states need not be non-factive mental states, mind you. He thinks that knowledge is a state of mind. 34 Gibbons Forthcoming argues that normative and motivating reasons are states of mind because states of mind make things reasonable and that is what reasons are in the business of doing. Turri 2009 defends the view that motivating reasons are states of mind, but does not endorse the further claim that normative reasons are also states of mind. 35 See Fantl and McGrath 2009, Lord 2008, Miller 2008, and Schroeder 2008.
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be many paths to reasonhood, but the most obvious way something gets to be a reason is by counting in favor or counting against. So, while some reasons might not count in favor of anything at all, most of the reasons I can think of are reasons precisely because they count in favor of doing something or count against the doing of it. From here, it is a short step to the rejection of Normative Psychologism. Unless we all harbor systematic and massive confusions about what counts in favor of acting, the things that count in favor of, say, lending a hand, are facts having to do with the external situation or worldly states of aﬀairs. We need not be too terribly picky about which of these options to settle for because Normative Psychologism rejects both. It asserts that normative reasons are the sorts of things that supervene upon our mental states, so they are either states of mind or the contents of those states with their veridicality or accuracy bleached out. This ﬁrst argument against Normative Psychologism is the implausible error argument. Ordinary agents may well be mistaken about the facts on the ground and so the actions they think will turn out favorable might not. That kind of error is often unfortunate, but often understandable. It is implausible to accuse ordinary agents of failing to know what it would take for actions to turn out to be favorable in some respect or other on the grounds that it is facts about the agent’s beliefs rather than facts the agent has beliefs about that determines whether things turned out favorably for them. If I drink a tonic in the belief that it will help my headache and it only makes the pain more intense, it would be implausible to say that things turned out favorably for me. If counting in favor is what confers reasonhood upon a reason, it is facts about the eﬃcacy of the tonic rather than my beliefs about its eﬃcacy that determines whether there was the reasons to drink I took there to be. If counting in favor cannot confer reasonhood upon a reason, this just seems like one more implausible error to impute to ordinary agents. If Moore had asked, “I know that such and such counts strongly in favor of doing it, but what reason is there to do it?” we never would have been so fascinated by the open question argument. This is one objection to Normative Psychologism, but it is not the only one. Myself, I think Normative Psychologism cannot do justice to our intuitions about right action. In some recent defenses of Normative Psychologism, some have argued for their view on the grounds that it preserves the link between the right and the reasonable. Reasons, they say, are things that make things reasonable and so the reasonable judgment of the morally conscientious agent is the mark of the permissible.36 If this is right and the reasons demanded that the agents acted against their own reasonable judgments about what to do, the reasons would make unreasonable demands. But, reasons are, if anything, reasonable things. And, if the reasons accede and do not demand that you do not φ when it would not be reasonable from your point of view to do something other than φ, φ-ing just is permissible for you. After all, if you ought not φ, there is a reason not to φ and that reason is the winning reason. Remove that reason, and the obligation not to φ goes away.
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To see why this view is problematic, consider two plausible claims about what it is reasonable to judge about what you should do: It is reasonable for you to judge that you should φ if you are the mental duplicate of someone who knows she should φ.37 It is reasonable for you to judge that you should φ if it seems intuitive that φ-ing is the thing to do, these intuitions are robust, you have no available reason to distrust these intuitions, you have no reason available to think that φ-ing is not the thing to do, or you reasonably judge that ψ-ing is necessary for some further end, ψ-ing, where you reasonably judge that ψ-ing is the thing to do and that judgment is not threatened by any available defeaters.38 It seems unreasonable to reasonably judge that you should φ and refrain from φ-ing, so these claims tell us something about what is reasonable to do. The problem with Normative Psychologism is this. Given the second account of what is reasonable to judge and do, we end up denying that facts that the agent is non-culpably ignorant of can bear on whether φ-ing is the thing for the agent to do. Whether these are non-normative facts (e.g., facts about the eﬀects of action, the historical features of the situation) or normative facts (e.g., facts about which normative principles are genuine, facts about which of the relevant reasons are stronger), since these facts are not ﬁxed by facts that Normative Psychologism says determines which reasons apply to you, these facts do not determine which reasons apply to you. It should not be terribly diﬃcult to construct any number of counterexamples to this view. Non-culpable factual ignorance excuses.39 It does not obviate the need to justify an action that results in an overall bad state of aﬀairs. Less controversially, we can make reasonable mistakes about which normative principles are genuine or which of the reasons we are considering is overriding. It is more diﬃcult to counterexample the ﬁrst view about what is reasonable to judge. It seems to be something of a contingent fact about human psychology that no actual person has the sorts of moral intuitions that would make acting like a vampire, cannibal, or Neo-Con reasonable, but since it is a mere contingent fact about human psychology that this is so, this fact counts against the second view of reasonable judgment and action. The ﬁrst view escapes this because someone who is the same on the inside as a vampire, cannibal, or Neo-Con may well not be the same on the inside as someone who knows what to do. These horrible creatures fail to do what they ought because they act against necessarily true principles and while these principles might not be inviolable, the reasons these creatures have for acting against them do not justify the violations. The problem with this view, it seems, is that it avoids counterexamples but abuses the notion of the reasonable. Someone can make a reasonable mistake about
Gibbons Forthcoming. Huemer 2006. 39 We shall come back to this later. In Chapter Y, I shall argue that non-culpably held mistaken beliefs might excuse, but they do not obviate the need to justify an action that brings about some bad state of aﬀairs.
38 See 37 See
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whether some reason is stronger than another and in so doing might judge that φ-ing is the thing to do even though no one could knowingly judge that that is so. If the hope is to link the reasonable to the right, I worry the ﬁrst view avoids counterexamples by means of a technical trick. We know what it would take for it to avoid all the counterexamples, it would have to deny that a conscientious and careful moral reasoner can reason to a reasonable judgment about what to do if given the wrong intuitions as inputs. But, the thought that someone can reason carefully and correctly from the ﬁrm intuitions she has to a judgment about what to do and fail to be reasonable precisely because she has the wrong inputs smacks of a strange kind of externalism. It is akin to saying that someone who hallucinates cannot have reasonable beliefs about the external world because the inputs were defective. The reasonable, it seems, is more intimately connected to the agent’s perspective on things and the ﬁrst view avoids the counterexamples that arise for the second only by denying this. So, here is a second argument against Normative Psychologism. It is possible for two equally reasonable subjects to judge that they should φ and act accordingly where one subject is permitted to φ but the other is obliged not to φ. Such a diﬀerence in obligations requires a diﬀerence in the reasons that apply to them because ought implies reason. In such cases, the reasons are typically grounded in features external to the subject (e.g., facts that the subject is non-culpably ignorant of, facts about the comparative weight of reasons that the agent is non-culpably ignorant of, or facts about which principles are genuine that the subject is non-culpably ignorant of). So, some reasons are neither attitudes of the agent nor the propositions that the agent has in mind. So, some reasons are constituted by facts external to the agent. While defenders of Psychologism can try to accomodate intuitions about the right by cutting the connection between the agent’s perspective and the reasonable, they do violence to our intuitions about reasonable judgment. Instead, they can try to accomodate intuitions about the reasonable by upholding the link between the reasonable and the agent’s perspective, but then they do violence to our intuitions about right action. Of course, they can deny that the reasonable judgment is the mark of the permissible, but then they undercut the argument oﬀered for Normative Psychologism. It seems that the last option is the best option for Psychologism. If the defenders of Psychologism deny that the reasonable judgment is the mark of the permissible, this undercuts one argument for Normative Psychologism but leaves Psychologism untouched. In the next section, we shall consider another argument for Psychologism, the argument from error. I hope to show below that Psychologism cannot respect the Explanatory and Normative Constraints if it is motivated by the argument from error. If we treat these assumptions as axiomatic, there might be diﬃculties that arise for Dancy’s view, but Psychologism is not a tenable alternative.
The Argument from Error
This argument from error is intended to be an argument for some version of Psychologism. Suppose Plum and White are running down two very similar
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halls in two very similar houses. There is a killer chasing Plum and she knows it. White believes that there is a killer chasing her, but there is no one after her. Keep Plum and White as psychologically similar as you can in keeping with what I have just said. To introduce some jargon, Plum is in the good case, White is in the bad. (Obviously, goodness and badness is measured in epistemic terms rather than practical terms. Most of us would think our case is not made better by putting a killer into it much less one that gives us good reason to run screaming down a hall.) Given anti-Psychologism about motivating and normative reasons, it is tempting to say Plum’s case is a case where there are good reasons to run and Plum runs for those reasons. So, we might say: (1) Plum’s reason for running down the hall was that the killer was after her. (2) Plum’s reason for running down the hall was that the killer was after her and this was a good reason for her to run. (3) Plum ran down the hall for the reason that the killer after her. (4) Plum ran down the hall for the reason that the killer after her and this was indeed a good reason for her to run.40 What should we say about White? According to Dancy, “The distinction between true and false beliefs on the agent’s part cannot aﬀect theform of the explanation which will be appropriateto his actions.” 41 Why think this? I would defend the idea this way. Think about the implausible error objection. If the form the explanation took depended upon whether the agent’s beliefs were correct, in the case of error we would need to describe the agent’s reason for acting as something that the agent is right about. While the agent is wrong about the facts on the ground, the agent is, presumably, right about the facts in her head. So, we would have to describe the agent as acting for the sort of reason that only a muddled agent would think counts in favor of acting. If we are not trying to explain the behavior of muddled agents, we should not describe the agent’s reason for acting in psychologized terms.42 So, it seems that if (1)-(4) are correct, these should be correct as well: (5) White’s reason for running down the hall was that the killer was after her.
40 If “reason” in (1)-(4) meant diﬀerent things depending upon whether it was the kind of reason that could be good or the kind of reason for which somene φ’s, (2) and (4) would be zeugmatic (e.g., “She saw a crack and the killer in the mirror”). They both seem perfectly ﬁne. So, there is at least a tiny bit of evidence that the Explanatory and Normative Constraints are correct. The “this” in (2) and (4) pretty clearly refer to whatever it is that was Plum’s reason for running and (2) and (4) are correct only if what “this” picks out is a good reason. 41 Dancy 1995, pp. 13. 42 Someone could defend the idea in this way. The explanations we are after are causal explanations and the cause of behavior does not depend upon the correctness of the agent’s attitudes. Some of the relevant attitudes are about the future and the present and past do not depend causally upon future facts. The reason I did not oﬀer this kind of justiﬁcation is that it is controversial as to whether the explanations we are interested in are purely causal. Others might try to justify Dancy’s point in these ways, but Dancy would not. He thinks that these reasons explanations are not causal.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) (6) White’s reason for running down the hall was that the killer was after her and this was a good reason for her to run. (7) White ran down the hall for the reason that the killer after her. (8) White ran down the hall for the reason that the killer after her and this was indeed a good reason for her to run.
Since there was no killer much less a killer chasing White, it seems that White’s reason for running could not have been that the killer was after her. So, it seems that (5)-(8) should be false. If (5)-(8) are false, (1)-(4) must be false as well. So, neither Plum nor White ran for the reason that there was a killer after them. It was, in some sense, the thought that was their reason for running. Dancy responds by saying that there can be correct non-factive explanations (e.g., (7)).43 While he would not describe White’s case by means of (5)-(8), that is not because he thinks (5)-(8) are false. He would prefer to describe the case this way: (5d) White’s reason for running down the hall was that, as she supposed, there was a killer after her. However, there was no one after her. This is supposed to be a correct explanation because the explanation depicts the light in which the agent acted. It is supposed to be non-factive, however, because the truth of (5d) does not turn on the truth or falsity of the agent’s relevant beliefs (i.e., (5d) is supposed to be true even if there is no killer after her). He thinks it is “too harsh” to deny that White acted for a reason, but I think (5d) sounds too harsh in a diﬀerent way. To my ears (5d) is a contradiction. Here, I have to side with Hornsby who remarks: ... [I]t is a very strange idea that explanations are ever non-factive. To many ears, “He φ-ed because, as he supposed, p” is true only if it is true that p. (One plausible account of “as X supposes” used parenthetically within a sentence s will treat it [as a sentence adverb such as “luckily” should arguably be treated] as conveying something about what is said in s without aﬀecting its truth-conditions. If so, then, given that “p because q” requires the truth of p and of q, introducing a parenthetic “as X supposes” within it will not produce anything non-factive.44 On this point, she and I are in perfect agreement. There is further evidence against Dancy’s proposal. Consider: (9) White ran down the hall because the killer was after her. Dancy agrees that in the circumstances described, (9) is false.45 He agrees that (9) is false because he agrees that it is obviously factive, but if (∼9) is false.
2000, pp. 131. pp. 292 45 On this point, he and Schroeder both said in personal correspondence that they agree.
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This is why he denies that it is a consequence of (7). It had better not be a consequence of (7), for Dancy’s response to the argument for error is supposed to show how (7) could be correct. Dancy would probably agree that there is some connection between (7) and (9). In many conversational contexts I imagine that we would at least take it that someone who asserted (7) would assent to (9) if asked. Someone could say that the connection between (7) and (9) is weaker than entailment, but there are ways of testing this. For example, if (7) merely conversationally implied that (9), then this implication should be cancellable. I don’t think the implication is cancellable. Moreover, you cannot properly reinforce entailment, but you can properly reinforce things that are conversationally implied.46 So, consider: (10) Plum knew that the killer was in the kitchen. Indeed, the killer was in the kitchen. (11) Mustard has put a killer behind bars. Indeed, he has put many killers away. (12) Mustard has put a killer behind bars, but only one. After the stress of that, he retired. Compare these with this: (13) White ran down the hall for the reason that a killer was after her. Indeed, she ran down the hall because the killer was after her. To my ear, (13) is a redundant conjunction much in the way that (10) is. So, we have further linguistic evidence for the hypothesis that (7) entails (9). This is a problem because, as we have seen, “p because q” is factive. Consider: (14) White ran down the hall because the killer was after her. Indeed, the killer was after her. (15) The killer was after White. That is why she ran down the hall. It seems that (14) is a redundant conjunction, so there is some evidence that (9) is true only if there is a killer coming after White. Also, note that (15) seems to be equivalent to (9). (15) entails: (16) The killer was after White. If (16) is not factive, nothing is. Hornsby accepts some of this, possibly all of it. She oﬀers a disjunctivist account of acting for a reason according to which you can be inﬂuenced by the facts you know to be true. On her account, since agents in the good and bad case know diﬀerent things, the reasons for which they act (can) diﬀer accordingly even if these subjects are in the same non-factive mental states:
point I owe to Stanley 2008 who credits it to Sadock 1978.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) (17) Plum ran down the hall for the reason that a killer was after her and White ran down the hall for the reason that she believed a killer was after her.47
There are concerns, of course, whether (17) really properly describes the light in which White acted. As she sees it, this does what we want a reasons explanation to do because we manage to express that both Plum and White treated some consideration as they would have if they knew it to be true. If either knew that there was a killer after them, they would run. That is what (17) conveys and that does a pretty good job depicting the light in which they acted. Neither tried to be a hero, both tried to get to safety. One of the diﬃculties I have in accepting this view is that it clashes with the thought that the from the explanation takes depends upon the accuracy of the agent’s beliefs. So, for example, if we did not know whether it was Plum or White who correctly believed that the killer was after them but knew that one of them had correct beliefs, we could not say whether it was (17) or (18) that was correct: (18) White ran down the hall for the reason that a killer was after her and Plum ran down the hall for the reason that she believed a killer was after her. What is it that we are not supposed to know if we do not know whether it is (17) or (18) that is correct? Whatever it is, it is something we do not know if all we know is this: (19) White and Plum both ran down the hall because they both believed that a killer was after them. If that contains all we need to know to explain their action, what is wrong with a conjunctive account that denies both (17) and (18) and simply oﬀers (19) in its place? Perhaps she would reply by saying that (19) does not tell us the reasons for which White and Plum acted, but we can easily enrich (19) as follows: (20) White and Plum both ran down the hall because they both believed that a killer was after them and both thought that the fact that there was a killer after them was a good reason to run. Both knew that if they knew that there was a killer there, running was the way to respond. This does not tell us whether (17) or (18) is true, but it seems to tell us everything we need to know about White and Plum. On the disjunctivist account, full understanding requires knowing whether it is (17) or (18) is true, and I just do not see what the disjunctivist thinks is gained if we gain this extra bit of knowledge beyond what is contained in (20). We do learn that there was a killer
2007, pp. 300.
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after one of our agents, but it is not at all clear what this has to do with reasons or understanding the agent’s action. There is a further strange feature of the view. The that-clauses we use to pick out motivating reasons often employ propositions that are true only if certain future events transpire. Indeed, these events might take place after we oﬀer the explanation of the agent’s action. White put all of her money into a hedge fund that Mustard was running. It is strange to say that her reason for investing her money with Mustard is one thing if it pans out and something else if it does not. But, on the view that says the explanans will depend upon whether White knows or merely believes that she will make a good return on her investment, this is precisely how things are. If neither of these views seem satisfactory, it is tempting to embrace Motivational Psychologism. Like Dancy’s view, it denies that the form the reasons explanation takes depends upon events that will transpire only after the action occurs and asserts that the form that the explanation takes does not depend upon the accuracy of the agent’s mental states. Like Hornsby’s view, it does not respond to the argument from error by saying things that are contradictory. Miller says this on behalf of PsychologismP: [U]nless we are infallible about what facts there are, there will be plenty of instances in which we invoke motivating reasons in our practical deliberation and yet at the same time are quite mistaken about the existence of the facts to which they make putative reference.48 Think about White. She is mistaken about the facts. Is she mistaken about the reason for which she runs? According to Miller, if you were to ask either Plum or White why they were running down the hall so quickly, both would be disposed to say, “I am running down the hall for the reason that the killer is after me”. They would then politely excuse themselves and continue running. On his view, motivating reasons are propositions, not propositional attitudes, so these remarks are not elliptical for a longer statement that makes explicit reference to attitudes. Suppose, then, that this is a case where White is mistaken about the facts but not thereby mistaken about her reasons. White would thus speak the truth if she said: (21) I am running down the hall for the reason that the killer is after me. But the problem here is obvious. The proposition her utterance expresses is false. (21) entails (5) and (7), which entail (9). But (9) is false. He is not wrong in saying that we are fallible about the facts. Obviously, we are. He is wrong in denying that this fallibility extends straightforwardly to judgments about our reasons for acting or the reasons others acted for. White cannot correctly assert (21) if there is no killer after her and we cannot correctly assert (7) if there is no killer after her.
2009, pp. 229.
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In the debate between Dancy and the defenders of PsychologismP, both parties agree that our ascriptions of motivating reasons do not typically make reference to the agent’s attitudes even in cases of error. Dancy says that in the good case, a reason is a fact. Miller says that it is a Fregean proposition that might correspond to some fact. The problem with using the argument from error as an argument for PsychologismP is that the Dancy and PsychologismP seem to agree on which sentences correctly describe Plum and White’s reasons. If sentences of the form “Her reason for φ-ing was that p” entail that p is the case, the argument from error applies to both views with equal force. Miller rejects PsychologismS as does Dancy. It is hard to see how PsychologismS can avoid the implausible error objection. It is also hard to see how Hornsby’s disjunctivist proposal avoids the implausible error objection. So, where does this leave us? It leaves us looking for a new view.
Acting for a Reason as an Achievement
If the argument from error constitutes a decisive refutation of Dancy’s view, it constitutes a decisive refutation of PsychologismP as well. It seems to me that there is one further view worth considering. It is a compromise of sorts, but one that is designed to please no one. It at least has the mark of a good compromise. It seems that the parties to this debate have been assuming that acting for a reason is not a kind of achievement. Sure, responding to real reasons is an achievement, but acting for a reason is something you can successfully pull oﬀ even if you do not manage to respond to real reasons. This seems to me to be a pretty promising argument to the contrary: (1) The reasons for which an agent φ’s when the agent φ’s for a reason are picked out by means of that-clauses that deploy propositions that are the contents of the beliefs that ﬁgure in the agent’s deliberation and so are typically propositions about the situation rather than propositions about their own propositional attitudes. (2) When the agent φ’s for a reason, the form the explanation takes of the agent’s φ-ing does not depend upon the accuracy or veridicality of the agent’s propositional attitudes. (3) The ascriptions that report the reasons for which the agent φ’d are factive. (C) So, if ∼p, “She φ’d for the reason that p” is false and if the agent is the non-factive psychological duplicate of someone who acted for a reason (i.e., a subject it would be true to say of, “She φ’d for the reason that p”), she herself did not succeed in acting for a reason. The support for (1) comes from the implausible error argument and the arguments for the Explanatory and Normative Constraints. The thought behind (2) is that the form an explanation takes does not depend upon whether the agent’s
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attitudes are veridical or not. If we have two subjects that are non-factive mental duplicates who both φ and we want to say the reasons for which they φ, we cannot then say that hte reasons for which they φ diﬀer (i.e., it is a fact about an agent’s mind in one case and a fact the agent has in mind in the other). As for (3), that seems pretty well supported by the linguistic evidence. If you think the idea of a correct but non-factive explanation makes little sense, you should accept (C). How does this view diﬀer from disjunctivism? It ﬂips disjunctivism on its head. According to the disjunctivist: (4) In the good case, she ran down the hall for the reason that the killer was after her. (5) In the bad case, she ran down the hall for the reason that she believed the killer was after her. The disjunctivist thinks that the propositions that specify the agent’s motivating reasons in the good and bad case provide the explanans that correctly explain the same explanandum proposition in the good and bad case. This contradicts (2) because it says that there are two cases (i.e., the good and the bad) with the same explanandum where agents are in the same non-factive mental states and the reasons that explain their behaviors diﬀer. On the present view: (6) In the good case, she ran down the hall for the reason that the killer was after her. (7) In the bad case, she ran down the hall, but she did not run for any reason at all. At best, she took it that there was a reason to run. The view is consistent with (2). I say that the explanandum proposition that we explain by describing the agent’s motivating reasons in the good case is a proposition that is false in the bad case. So, the question, “What was the agent’s reason for acting?” rests on a mistake if the agent is in the bad case, but not in the good. If acting for a reason is something that happens only in the good case and not in the bad, we can accept the principle that states that there will not be diﬀerent correct explanations of the same phenomenon in both cases. Why hold this view? Given (1) and (3), all the candidate explanans propositions that we use in the good case are excluded if we try to explain how the agent in the bad case managed to act for a reason. She acted in the bad case, but failed to act for a reason. Does that mean that the present view makes it impossible to explain the agent’s behavior in the bad case? Not at all. The view agrees with disjunctivism in saying the following: (8) In the good case, she ran down the hall because the killer was after her. (9) In the good case, she ran down the hall because she believed that the killer was after her.
CHAPTER 5. EVIDENCE (II) (10) In the bad case, she ran down the hall because she believed that the killer was after her.
Not only do the disjunctivists seem to agree that these all come out to be true, all parties seem to agree that this comes out false: (11) In the bad case, she ran down the hall because the killer was after her. Suppose Dancy’s view and Motivational Psychologism accept (8)-(10) but reject (11). Consider: (12) She ran down the hall because the killer was after her. (13) She ran down the hall because she believed that the killer was after her. If they say that the truth of (12) or (13) depends upon whether the agent is in the good case or bad, the only position for them to take that is consistent with (2) is the position I am advocating, which is that the thing you try to explain by citing the reasons for which an agent V’s is a feature unique to the good case. If to deal with this point you accept (9) and (10) but deny (8), it seems you also have to deny: (14) In the good case, she ran down the hall for the reason that the killer was after her. On its face, (14) entails (8). But, to deny (8) is simply to deny (1). It is to assert that the reasons for which we act really are correctly picked out by propositions that report our attitudes instead of the propositions that are the contents of the attitudes that ﬁgure in deliberation. The most signiﬁcant obstacle the present view faces is that in asserting (7), it seems the view suﬀers from an explanatory deﬁcit that other views do not. In response, notice that those who defend PsychologismP or Dancy’s view have to deny “She φ’d for the reason that p” entail “She φ’d because p”. They agree that “She φ’d because she believed p” is true whenever “She φ’d for the reason that p” is true. In asserting (4), I am committed to saying that in the bad case, it is false that White ran down the hall because the killer was after her. On this point, all the views are in agreement. I am not committed to denying that she ran down the hall because the killer was after her. This causal explanation is one that all parties seem to agree is correct. I say that the explanans proposition in “She φ’d because she believed p” does not ascribe the reason for which the agent acts. All parties seem to agree on that point as well. So, I do not think my view suﬀers from any explanatory deﬁcit. My view accepts all the “because” claims that the other views accept and oﬀers the same causal explanation of the agent’s behavior in terms of the agent’s attitudes that alternative views do. The diﬀerence is that on the view defended here, there are more true “because” claims than on the rival view. In the good case where the agent correctly believes p, you can correctly say, “She φ’d because p”. So, maybe the problem
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with the view is not that it suﬀers from an explanatory deﬁcit. Does the view oﬀer too many explanations? What is the extra thing that motivating reasons explain? It has to be something that distinguishes the good case from the bad. Here is what it is. We know what something has to be to be a motivating reason–it has to be something that could “turn out” to be a good (normative) reason if the facts ﬁt the attitudes. We know that each instance of acting for a reason involves a motivating reason and each behavior that can be understood in terms of motivating reasons is acting for a reason. So, acting for a reason is an achievement. When you act for a reason, there is a reason and you act for it. You saw something in the situation and have responded to it rather than responded in a predictable way given psychological inputs that might misrepresent the circumstances in which you acted. Why have two notions? Why have causal explanations of behavior that cite the agent’s psychological states and reasons explanations that cite facts that ﬁt those states? One idea is this. In saying that someone acted for a reason, we impart two pieces of information. Part of it has to do with specifying the agent’s reasons to say what the agent’s intentions were in acting. (This is something we can do in the good case and the bad by describing the agent’s psychological states.) Part of it has to do with reporting facts that the agent confronted because those facts are facts that we all potentially might have to deal with. Causal explanations of behavior that cite the agent’s psychological states do not convey this extra bit of information, which is that the agent saw something in the circumstance that she took to be something that called for her to act in the way that she did. Properly understood (8) and (9) are complementary, not competing. They do not compete because facts and beliefs explain diﬀerent things. In some contexts, we want to know what it is that the agent got out of acting in the way that she did. We want to know what she accomplished or what she achieved. These are the contexts in which we say what the reasons for which an agent acted. If it turns out that the agent’s attitudes were mistaken, our question rested on a mistake. We had thought that the agent got something out of acting in the way that she did that she had hoped for, but she did not. In contexts where we do not want to know what the agent got out of acting, we are looking for a psychological explanation of the agent’s behavior. So, if we know that the agent’s attitudes are false or do not know whether the agent’s attitudes are false, our interest is in what would make the agent’s behavior intelligible. Here, psychological states of the agent are useful. If the agent is in the good case, we can ask both sorts of question and that is why both (8) and (9) turn out true. If the agent is in the bad case, we can ask only one sort of queston and that is why (10) turns out true rather than (11). Acting for a reason is thus similar to knowing and diﬀerent from believing insofar as knowing and acting for a reason are both achievements. In contexts where we can safely assume that the agent’s attitudes were correct, we can ask, “Why did she do that?” and get in return an account of what she achieved by acting in the way she did. This is akin to contexts where someone asks, in a non-skeptical or non-challenging way, “How does she know that?” Just as we can
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ask “How does she know that?” to learn something either about how she learned that p or why she came to believe p, we can ask, “Why did she do that?” either to learn what she gained or what she had hoped to gain and receive diﬀerent answers. If taken in the ﬁrst way, the answer cites facts. If taken in the second, the answer can cite attitudes. In contexts where we cannot safely assume that the agent’s attidues were correct, we can ask, “Why did she do that?” and get a correct answer that describes the agent’s attitudes, but that does not tell us the reasons for which she acted. We are not interested in the reasons for which she acted, we want a psychological story that makes sense of her behavior that remains neutral on the question as to whether she had any reasons to act as she did. In this way, we can allow that psychological states of the agent do have a role to play in explaining behavior. In asking why some event occurred, if we want to know the causes, we can cite the psychological states as causes. These psychological states are the reasons why someone’s body moved in such and such a way. The reasons why an event occurred are not reasons for the event to occur and they are not the reasons for which an agent acted.49 The thesis that psychological states are reasons why events take place is extremely plausible and I think that this is all that Psychologism can be right about. And this, is just to say, that Motivational Psychologism is false. Should this be upsetting to those who defend Psychologism? I do not think it should be at all upsetting to Smith, for as I understand his view, he does not really deny (1). Rather, for him, “motivational reason” is a term of art that has more to do with explaining why actions occurred. I do not think Smith assumes something the parties to this debate have assumed, which is that motivating reasons are whatever we pick out using that-clauses when we describe the reasons for which an agent acted. Rather, he assumed that motivating reasons are whatever psychological states we pick out that can ﬁgure in causal explanations of events that involve agents acting purposively. So, in the end, nothing I have said against Motivational Psychologism speaks against the Humean view that he defends. Whether that view is correct depends pretty much on what he thought it depended on, not on whether the things we describe as the reasons for which an agent acts are facts, beliefs, the contents of beliefs rather than desires, but on whether the correct causal story of an event that is an action involves psychological states with diﬀering directions of ﬁt. If the reader prefers to think of motivating reasons as reasons why people behave in certain ways, nothing I have argued here has called that view into question. In the previous chapter and this one, we have covered considerable ground. I have argued for an externalist conception of justiﬁcation by arguing for an
49 That reasons why are not the same thing as motivating reasons is something that Dancy 2000 and some of his critics agree on. It is less clear that this is something that all defenders of Psychologism agree to. Some might say that motivating reasons are kinds of reasons why and they might deny that they are reasons why because they are considerations in light of which the agent acted. Instead, they are states by virtue of which there seemed to be something in the situation that called for a response. My sense is that this is closer to the view that someone like Smith prefers.
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externalist account of reasons for belief and action. Such an account causes trouble for the orthodox internalist and externalist views insofar as it asserts that the justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon whether it is true. Justiﬁcation depends upon truth because normative reasons are constituted by truths and the justiﬁcation of a belief depends upon whether it can provide us with reasons from which we can reason to a conclusion about what to do or what to believe. This view faces a number of objections. Some say that the view either motivates a kind of skepticism or requires an implausible account of the nature of experience. I have tried to show that this is not so and the arguments to the contrary rest on an assumption that many take for granted that I think we must reject. The objection rested on the assumption that the normative properties that determine whether a belief is justiﬁed have to be properties of the basis that the subject has for holding that belief. If we reject this assumption, we can say that while having a justiﬁed belief requires that the belief is true for it to be justiﬁed, the justiﬁcation oﬀered in support of that belief need not entail that the belief is true. There was a further worry that taking reasons to consist of facts or true propositions clashes with the thought that we can explain an agent’s behavior and an agent’s beliefs by citing psychological states of the agent. Since motivating reasons have to be mental states or the contents of those states and normative reasons have to belong to the same ontological category as motivating reasons, normative reasons cannot be facts or true propositions. This objection does not hold up. If the objector takes motivating reasons to be the reasons in light of which someone believes or acts, motivating reasons are facts. If, however, the objector takes motivating reasons to be elements of a causal explanation that explain why someone believes or acts and denies that these need to be the reasons for which the agent believes or acts, the objector’s mistake is in thinking that my arguments call this view into question.
There has been considerable discussion recently of epistemic norms governing assertion. Assertions can be evaluated along a number of dimensions, but can they be assessed epistemically? It seems so. Some locals tell you that the water is not safe to drink and so you buy some bottles. Then they tell you that the reason the water is not safe is that it has been ﬂuoridated. Now, we might assume that the water is unsafe for reasons our local knows nothing about. In some sense, then, it was a good thing the local said what he did and you believed it. If there is something wrong with the speaker’s assertion, it is not that it was not true and it was of no beneﬁt to you. Still, you can resent the speaker for saying what he did. He should not have thought that what he told you was true because he should not have taken his grounds to be grounds. The grounds for your resentment have to do with the credentials of the speaker’s belief. So, there is work here for epistemologists to do. We can try to work out what the proper standards are for determining whether an assertion is epistemically defective and whether there are norms that can help sort between warranted and defective assertion. If this is right and we could work out an account of warranted assertion, this might help us in trying to work out an account of justiﬁcation. There are two reasons to think so. First, the concepts of warrant and justiﬁcation are both normative. A belief is justiﬁed only if it is permissibly held and “warrant” is a technical term that stands for permissible. Some of the arguments that shape the internalism/externalism debate are intended to show that justiﬁcation is an internalist notion on the grounds that it is a deontological notion. Warrant is also a deontological notion. If warrant is understood along externalist lines, these arguments that purport to show that justiﬁcation must be understood along internalist lines because it is a deontological notion are unpersuasive. Second, an increasing number of contributors to the literature on warranted assertion are convinced that assertion and belief are governed by 106
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common standards.1 So, arguments that purport to show that warrant should be understood in internalist or externalist terms might show tha the same is true for justiﬁcation. Assertions are correct only if they are true. In this respect, assertion is like belief. If we go so far as to say that an assertion is correct iﬀ it is true, someone could say that warranted assertions just are true assertions: Your assertion that p is true is warranted iﬀ p (TA).2 Williamson thinks this will not do and we know why it will not. In the example sketched above, our local’s assertion is true but unwarranted. He and I both agree that there is a truth norm that governs assertion, but he thinks that this norm governs assertion because knowledge is the fundamental norm of assertion: Your assertion that p is true is not warranted unless p is true (TNW). Your assertion that p is true is warranted iﬀ you know that p is true (KA). TNW governs assertion on his view because knowledge requires truth. I shall start by reviewing the case for the knowledge account of warranted assertion.We shall see that the arguments oﬀered in its support only support weaker views on which the internal components of knowledge are required for warranted assertion: Your assertion that p is true is warranted iﬀ you reasonably believe p (RA).3 Having said that, I do not here defend the view that you have suﬃcient warrant to assert anything you happen to reasonably believe. Sometimes you do, but sometimes you ought to be excused for asserting something you should not have for the reason that you were reasonable in thinking what you said was true. What I have not seen in the literature on warranted assertion is a convincing argument for TNW and that is what I hope to oﬀer here in the course of arguing for a justiﬁcation account of warranted assertion: Your assertion that p is true is warranted iﬀ you justiﬁably believe that p is true (JA). It might seem that this account is in tension with TNW. Combined, JA and TNW entail that there are no false, justiﬁed beliefs. Although many do hold to the view that there cannot be false, warranted assertions, they almost all insist that there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs. This combination of views, I shall argue, is untenable. We should think of justiﬁcation in deontological terms. If you justiﬁably believe p, you cannot be under any epistemic obligation to refrain from so believing. Among the norms governing assertion is a norm that enjoins
Adler 2002, Sutton 2005, and Kvanvig 2009. 2005 defends this view. 3 This view is close to views defended by Douven 2006, Lackey 2007, and Kvanvig 2009.
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you to refrain from asserting false propositions. Among the norms governing belief is a norm that enjoins you to refrain from believing p if you do not have suﬃcient warrant to assert p. So, you cannot have it both ways. If warrant requires truth, so does justiﬁcation.
Warrant and Normativity
It seems plausible that knowledge warrants assertion. If it did not, you could assert p, know that p is true, but fail to live up to your epistemic obligations because you were not in a good enough position to assert that p is true. It is hard to imagine how this could happen. It is probably not hard to imagine cases where you should not assert that p is true unless you are absolutely certain that p is true. Perhaps the heavens would fall if you spoke falsely. In such a case, knowledge might not warrant speaking, but it seems the reason this is so has to do with the high practical stakes. To show that knowledge does not warrant assertion, we need cases where it is wrong for purely epistemic reasons to assert that p is so even if you know that p is so. If somone says that you are in no position to say that p is true and adds that you merely know that you are right, it is hard to say exactly what the criticism is supposed to be. The knowledge account is controversial, I take it, because it claims that you cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert p unless you know that p is true. Is that too demanding? If it is too demanding, we need to be put something less demanding in its place. For various reasons, Williamson thinks that weaker rules than his knowledge rule cannot accomodate the data we shall discuss below: You must: assert p only if you know that p is true (KR). Thomson says that this is too strong.4 If we read it as I think she reads it, she is probably right. As she reads it Williamson is Kant, but worse. To say that you “must” not assert what you do not know is supposed to be stronger than just saying you “ought” not assert what you do not know. Surely, however, Kant was wrong and if the thing you must do to hide someone in your house from the Nazis is lie, lie. Since lies do not constitute knowledge, it is surely too strong to say that you must never assert what you do not know. I cannot imagine Williamson ever meant to deny this. He is neither Kant nor worse. Buried in this picky semantic point about “must” is an important point about warrant and normativity. Among Williamson’s reasons for accepting KR is that he thinks this rule is a constitutive rule, a rule that is essential to the speech act of assertion. Just as there are rules in games that tell us which moves are correct, Williamson says that there are rules that govern speech acts that determine whether something is a correct asserting. Even if this is so, it is hard to see how this would lead us to accept KR even if we were to weaken it a bit and say simply that you ought not assert what you do not know. To modify
2008, pp. 88.
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one of Thomson’s examples, there are rules that tell us the correct way to move a rook in chess.5 If the only way to save the lives of some hostages is to move the rook incorrectly, this is what you should do. The rules that distinguish the correct from incorrect ways of moving the castle do not really tell us that we must move our castles in such and such a way. (They also do not tell us that we must move them certain ways if we are to move them at all.) If they did, the rules of chess would seem to conﬂict with the rules of any sensible moral code. Chess is not immoral. Do the rules of chess even really tell us what we ought (in some sense) to do? It would do no good to say that these rules tell us only what we oughtchess to do. Maybe the moral rules tell us what we oughtmoral to do, but once we see that the rules of chess and morality require us to move the rook in diﬀerent ways, we have to decide what we ought (or oughtreally , if you like) to do. Surely, morality is concerned with what you oughtreally to do. If chess is also concerned with what you oughtreally to do, which it must be if it is giving us advice, the rules of chess would conﬂict with morality. But, they do no such thing. So, they really do not tell us anything about what we oughtreally to do. I suspect that the rules governing assertion are like this, but then they do not so much as tell us that we oughtreally not assert something if we do not know it to be true. If the rules of assertion are anything like the rules of chess, they do not tell us what we ought not say or must not say. How damaging is this to Williamson’s project? Not very, I think. As Thomson herself says, Williamson is surely right that there are cases where you should not assert something that you do not know to be true and she seems tempted by the thought that in some of these cases you should not assert something because you do not know that it is true.6 To deal with this mess, we should probably say this. First, if there is some sort of knowledge rule for assertion, the rule does not constrain our intentions in such a way that we intend to conform to the rule in order to count as asserting that something is so. Parties to this debate tend to agree that lies are assertions and clearly liars do not at all intend to say what they know to be true. Second, we have to take some care in saying what sort of obligation we are under to avoid saying implausibly that it is not permissible on purely epistemic grounds to lie. If the Nazis are at your door and silence would give everything away, the right thing to do is to lie. If such cases are not counterexamples to the accounts of warranted assertion considered below, they cannot be taken to be accounts of what we must not say. I am all for distinguishing between epistemic and non-epistemic obligations, but it does no good to say that while morally you are under an obligation to lie to the Nazis you are under an epistemic obligation to either tell them the truth or say nothing. Suppose the epistemic norms said that you must not assert p unless you know it. Insofar as the right thing to do is to lie to the Nazis, what epistemology said was false. Suppose epistemology only says that you oughtepistemic not assert p unless you know it. We then would have to work out how this obligation relates to other obligations such as the
5 Thomson 6 Thomson
2008, pp. 166. 2008, pp. 94.
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obligation we have to lie to the Nazis. Since we are under an obligation to lie, whatever reason associated with this epistemic obligation is defeated. If there is such an obligation, then, to refrain from asserting without warrant, it is a pro tanto obligation or duty only. There can be principles of pro tanto duty that bend without breaking, but when they bend, there is supposed to be some sort of residue that rationalizes regret. Do you really have to regret lying to the Nazis at your door? No. Is it really regrettable for epistemic reasons? Certainly not. Let’s switch cases. Your friend recently told his class that cows have no diﬃculty walking down stairs because of the way their legs are jointed. He knew this was false, but he also knew that if he did not tell the class this, horrible things would happen to them. If he knew he could never correct this and explain to the students the reasons he had for deceiving them, I can imagine that he would regret having had to deceive them. We can imagine variants on the case. The teacher is forced at gun point to assert something he had no reason to believe is true. Again, I could imagine he would regret having to do this even though he knows that it is best for him to do this. What distinguishes this case from the case with the Nazis at the door? It is not that in one of these cases the speaker knows that his overriding obligation is to say what he knows or takes himself to know. In both cases, the speaker has overriding reason to assert something she knows she does not know to be true. What distinguishes these cases might be this. In the second case, the speaker has assumed a certain role and assumed the responsibility that comes with occupying this role but realizes his role obligation is overridden by a weighty moral obligation. In the ﬁrst, the speaker never assumed this sort of role and so had no reason to assume any responsibility for the veracity of what she said. In the second, the speaker was under a standing obligation to assume responsibility for her remarks and was not able to cancel that obligation. While the speaker rightly decided competing reasons having to do with the welfare of the students were overriding, there was still the pull of the defeated reason that made it regrettable that the students had to be deceived. Perhaps we can now formulate our issue this way. There are some conversational exchanges in which a speaker has a responsibility to another as a testimonial source and the speaker assumes this responsibility in choosing to assert that something is so. In some such cases, the obligation might be overridden by practical obligations (e.g., the teacher who is compelled to deceive his students to save them from harm), but there is another set of cases in which a party to the conversational exchange has no responsibility to another as a testimonial source (e.g., the speaker who is forced to deal with the Nazis at the door conducting searches). Our focus is on those cases where the subject’s responsibility as a testimonial source is her overriding responsibility. What standards determine whether she has lived up to her obligations in such a case? If the speaker lives up to her responsibilities in such a case, her assertions are warranted. If not, they are not. This much seems obvious. In asserting that something is so, the speaker tells her audience that it is so and claims that something is true. Whether this means
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that TNW is correct is a delicate issue. It depends, in part, upon whether there is an epistemic reason not to assert false propositions and also upon what such a reason demands. For the purposes of the discussion in this chapter, let us assume that if there is a norm that enjoins you not to φ unless some condition C obtains, this norm says that there is a reason not to φ unless C obtains and this reason demands conformity.7 Further, let us assume that if there is reason not to φ and this reason is undefeated, you cannot be warranted in φ-ing against such a reason without an equally strong reason that demands that you φ. Given these assumptions, someone who denies TNW either has to say that there are epistemic reasons to assert propositions that are not true that are just as strong as whatever reasons there are not to assert false propositions or deny that there is any epistemic reason not to assert false propositions. Similarly, to argue against KA, you either need to argue that there is no epistemic reason to refrain from asserting what you do not know or when you are warranted in asserting things you do not know, there are epistemic reasons as strong as whatever reasons there are not to assert that enjoin you to assert. It is an interesting question as to whether the assumptions just introduced are true. I shall later argue that they are, but doing so requires a careful discussion of what the reasons associated with norms demand. With these preliminaries out of the way, let us look at the case that has been oﬀered in support of the knowledge account of assertion.
The Knowledge Account
Should we refrain from asserting what we do not know? I think not. The arguments oﬀered in support of KA seem to support only weaker views of warranted assertion. The view also sometimes delivers the wrong verdicts. We start by looking at some arguments having to do with the aim of belief and assertion and then look at some arguments having to do with Moore’s Paradox. It seems to me that there are ways of accomodating the data thought to support the knowledge account given the resources of an account that takes truth to be the fundamental norm of assertion.
Truth as the Aim
The ﬁrst argument for the knowledge account works from the assumption that belief and assertion have a common aim and that this aim has a kind of normative signiﬁcance. In saying that belief or assertion aims at something and that you ought not assert or believe unless this aim is achieved, it is not at all clear which of these claims is explanatorily prior to the other. It might be that in saying that belief aims at truth or knowledge, I am expressing the thought that beliefs that are not true or do not constitute knowledge are not as they ought to be, but that might be because I think this talk of aims is a useful metaphor best cashed out in normative terms.
there is a reason to φ, you conform to that reason iﬀ you φ.
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Suppose, as seems plausible, that belief does aim at the truth and that belief has no further independent aim such that a false belief might fail to hit its ﬁrst target but succeed in hitting some second equally signiﬁcant target. Given this, it seems natural to say that even if some good comes of believing a false proposition, such a good has little signiﬁcance when it comes to justifying the belief in question. Our concern is with assertion, not belief but I think we can make some progress in understanding the norms governing assertion by thinking about the norms that govern belief. As Williamson notes, “assertion is the exterior analogue of judgment, which stands to belief as act to state”.8 Given that this is so, it seems a reasonable default assumption would be that assertion and belief share common aims and are governed by common standards. If belief aims at the truth, so does assertion. If truth is normative for assertion, it is probably normative for belief. If the assumption that truth is the fundamental norm for belief is too weak to account for all of the normative demands that we are under as believers, we should expect the same to be true for assertion and the demands that we are under if we assume the responsibilities we have to our audience if we decide to tell them that something is so. Williamson suggests that if the norms of assertion can be derived from a proper description of the norms and aims of belief, you can derive the knowledge account of assertion from the assumption that truth is among the aims of belief and assertion. How is this supposed to work? If there is such a derivation, it is hardly straightforward. Utilitarians do not think that the justiﬁcation of an action depends upon whether the agent knew that it was optimiﬁc at the time of action, only that it was optimiﬁc. I think no one has ever thought of faulting them for this omission. It is not hard to see that you are courting disaster if you advance a view on which there are positive duties alongside the further claim that all duties must be knowingly discharged. Such a combination of views would seem to lead rather quickly to the untenable view that says that there are unknowable obligations that are only obligations insofar as they are knowable. It helps that here it seems natural to say that our duties are all negative. We do not fail to live up to our responsibilities if we simply choose to say nothing. If there is a truth norm that governs assertion, it enjoins us to say only what is true, not to say that things are true: You should not assert p unless p is true (TNW). Williamson seems to think that you cannot say that this norm governs assertion while denying that there is an evidential norm that also governs assertion: You should not assert p unless you have suﬃcient evidence for believing that p is true (ENW). If this is right, he thinks we cannot then deny that knowledge is the norm of assertion: You should not assert p unless you know that p is true (KNW).
2000, pp. 238.
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The idea seems to be that the evidential norm is derivative from the truth norm and that the view that combines these two norms but does not incorporate the knowledge norm will only be able to handle some of the data. If TNW is among the norms that governs assertion, we have to reject the following claim about epistemic wrongs and fault: All epistemic wrongs are fault-implying wrongs (i.e., any condition that makes believing or asserting p wrongful is a condition that the believer can be faulted for failing to take account of if she asserts or believes p when that condition obtains) (Fault1 ). You can consistently reject Fault1 and accept this claim about fault and epistemic wrongs: Any condition that grounds the charge of epistemic fault is a condition that makes assertion and belief wrongful (Fault2 ). It seems that Williamson’s reason for thinking ENA is a consequence of TNA might be something along the lines of Fault2 . He says: [I]f one must not bury people when they are not dead, then one should not bury them when one lacks evidence that they are dead. It is at best negligent to bury someone without evidence that he is dead, even if he is in fact dead.9 Let’s suppose this is right. I do not think these considerations support the knowledge account. Williamson says that we do not satisfy the evidential norm governing assertion unless we have evidence that puts us in a position to know that the proposition we assert is true.10 If we think about lottery propositions, it seems we do not have adequate evidence to believe or assert such propositions. It seems the best explanation as to why this is rests on the observation that the evidence we have for believing lottery propositions without insider’s information does not put us in a position to know that these claims are true. There are two ways of reading Williamson’s lottery argument. On the ﬁrst reading, his remarks concerning lottery propositions gives us a clue as to what he thinks it takes to satisfy Fault2 . If you believe or assert without ﬁrst gathering evidence that puts you in a position to know that p, you seem to be at fault even if your belief turns out to be true. After all, you could have weakened your commitment by simply believing that p is likely or probable. On the second, we appeal directly to ENA and let intuition serve as our guide in determining what it takes to satisfy ENA rather than appeal to assumptions linking fault and justiﬁcation. On the ﬁrst reading, the argument amounts to this.
10 Williamson 9 Williamson
2000, pp. 245 2000, pp. 246.
CHAPTER 6. ASSERTION (1) You should not assert p unless p is true. (2) If you do not know whether you would violate a strict prohibition by φ-ing but φ anyway, you are at fault for φ-ing. (C) It follows that you should not hold assert p if you do not know that p is true.
So formulated, the argument rests on this assumption about fault and knowledge: You are irresponsible to φ if you do not ﬁrst know whether φ-ing is permissible (Fault3 ). Without the assumption, you cannot derive anything stronger than the claim that you ought not φ unless you have conformed to TNA and reasonably assume that you have given your evidence. There are two reasons to reject Fault3 . First, suppose we say that knowledge is a condition necessary for permissible assertion. Suppose Fault3 is true. In saying this, we would have to say either that mere knowledge of p’s truth is insuﬃcient for permissibly believing p or we would have to endorse a KK thesis according to which you cannot know p unless you are in a position to know that you know that p is true. There are persuasive objections to the KK thesis. Knowledge of p’s truth requires that the means by which you arrived at the belief that p could not have easily led you to be mistaken about p. According to the KK thesis, you do not satisfy the conditions for ﬁrst-order knowledge unless you are in a position to know that you satisfy these conditions. Second-order knowledge also requires that you would not easily be mistaken in the secondorder belief (i.e., the belief that your ﬁrst-order belief constitutes knowledge). Our ordinary knowledge ascriptions suggest that knowledge does not require being in a position to know that you know. We readily ascribe knowledge of p’s truth to someone knowing that she could have easily been mistaken in her second-order belief that she knew that p. We might know that the margin of error for second-order knowledge is slim but the margin of error for ﬁrst-order knowledge is suﬃciently wide so they could not have easily been mistaken about whether p but could have easily been mistaken about whether they knew p. Concerning such cases, not only does it seem we readily ascribe you knowledge, we do not think that it is wrong for you to believe p. This seems to disconﬁrm both the weak KK thesis and the thought that permissible belief involves more than just knowledge. If we reject both, however, we have to reject Fault3 .11 There is the second reason to deny Fault3 . If combined with the knowledge account, it commits us to the JTB analysis of knowledge and an infallibilist conception of justiﬁcation. Epistemic irresponsibility can make an otherwise justiﬁable belief unjustiﬁed. According to Fault3 , if you fail to know for any reason, you can be charged with epistemic irresponsibility. Thus, if you cannot be charged with epistemic irresponsibility because you are justiﬁed in believing p, the fact that you are justiﬁed in holding your belief is logically incompatible
Williamson 2000 for discussion of these points.
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with (a) your belief being mistaken or (b) your belief being Gettiered. One consequence of this is that you cannot satisfy the justiﬁcation condition if it is possible that someone should have just your reasons but be mistaken about whether p. Thus, your reasons must entail p if your belief that p is justiﬁed. But, no one seems to think that you must have entailing grounds to permissibly believe p. Second, it seems that Fault3 has the consequence that if someone does not know that p, they are not justiﬁed in believing p, in which case Gettier cases are impossible. In light of these problems, I think an alternative reading of the argument might be more charitable.12 On this reading, the argumentative burden is shouldered not solely by assumptions about fault and epistemic responsibility, but also by intuitions concerning cases involving lottery propositions. The assumptions about fault are supposed to support the idea that some sort of evidential norm governs belief. Our intuitions about lottery propositions are supposed to help us see what it takes to satisfy this evidential norm. We start from the assumption that you should not assert or believe lottery propositions. The natural explanation for this is that you do not have evidence for believing these propositions that would put you in a position to know that they are true. From here, the argument might go in one of two directions. If someone said that it followed from this alone that you ought not assert what you do not know, this would repeat the mistakes we have just discussed. All that follows is that you ought not believe p if you are in a position to appreciate that your evidence does not put you in a position to know p. In Gettier cases and in cases where you do not know that p is a lottery proposition, it seems p is not known, you do not know that you are not in a position to know p, but it is not obvious that you have violated ENA. If you think you do violate ENA in such cases, it seems you will once again be forced to accept the JTB analysis of knowledge and an infallibilist account of justiﬁcation. To avoid these diﬃculties, someone should instead argue as follows. Intuition tells us that evidence is needed for permissible belief. Intuitions about lottery cases tell us that beliefs in lottery propositions are defective because there is not adequate evidence for believing them outright. The best explanation of the observation that you do not satisfy ENA unless your evidence puts you in a position to know that the relevant proposition is true is that KA is the fundamental norm of assertion. This argument rests on a pair of assumptions. First, the argument assumes that beliefs in lottery propositions do not constitute knowledge. Second, it assumes that you ought not believe lottery propositions. If we deny the ﬁrst assumption, we cannot appeal to intuitive verdicts about lottery cases to motivate the knowledge account. If we were to reject the second assumption while accepting the ﬁrst, lottery cases would provide counterexamples to the claim that you should not believe what you know you do not know. In response to this argument, I want to say two things. The knowledge account cannot give the best explanation if independent considerations show that KA is not a norm that governs assertion. The verdicts the knowledge account
Sutton suggested that this was the more plausible way of reading the argument.
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delivers for covert lottery beliefs and for Gettier cases are counterintuitive. In addition, cases involving covert lottery beliefs suggest that while the knowledge account delivers the right verdict about some familiar lottery cases, it gives the wrong reason for thinking this is the right verdict. Intuitions concerning cases of covert lottery beliefs suggest that the reason we ought not believe lottery propositions is not that they cannot constitute knowledge per se, but that subjects that believe lottery propositions are wrong to do so in light of considerations accessible to them (i.e., considerations about the kinds of grounds they have for believing lottery propositions). While such grounds might not put the subject in a position to know, the normative signiﬁcance of this is not what the knowledge account takes it to be. The distinction between covert and overt lottery beliefs is a familiar one, but the terminology is not. Let us say that a covert lottery belief is a belief whose truth or falsity depends on the outcome of a lottery when the believer is not in a position to appreciate that this is so. Let us say that an overt lottery belief is a belief in a lottery proposition held by someone who has no insider’s information. If you look at your bank statement and see that you are down to your last few dollars, you might reasonably believe that you will not be able to go on safari. If your mother has just purchased you a ticket for a lottery drawing being held later this afternoon without telling you, that belief is a covert lottery belief. Were you to believe that the ticket that your mother bought you will lose, that would be an overt lottery belief. (We are assuming that you know that you would be able to aﬀord to go on safari if only you were to win the lottery drawing being held this afternoon.) It seems that overt and covert lottery beliefs will either both constitute knowledge or neither will. If you think that safety is necessary for knowledge, it will be just as easy for a covert lottery belief to turn out to be false as an overt one to turn out to be false. If you think that some suitably formulated closure principle holds true, someone will be in a position to know that a covert lottery belief is true only if this subject is in a position to know that an overt lottery belief is true. Assuming, as we are, that overt lottery beliefs fail to constitute knowledge, it seems we have two reasons for thinking that covert lottery beliefs similarly fail to constitute knowledge. If this much is correct, the knowledge account commits us to saying that you should not hold or form covert lottery beliefs. I think this is bad news for the knowledge account. First, in defences of the knowledge account, the focus has been on the judgments that overt lottery beliefs should not be held and cannot constitute knowledge. No intuitive support has been oﬀered to back the claim that neither type of lottery belief ought to be held. In fact, you might think that one of the reasons that the lottery paradox is so interesting is that we are not naturally disposed to think of covert lottery beliefs held by others as beliefs they should not continue to hold for reasons of which only we are aware (i.e., that unbeknownst to them the truth of their beliefs is contingent on the outcome of a lottery). Second, not only is the knowledge account’s verdict about covert lottery cases not intuitive, it seems positively counterintuitive. To see this, consider a modiﬁed version of one of Hawthorne’s examples. A friend writes you an email on Monday before a lottery is held, but you only read it
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Tuesday after the results of that lottery are known to you. It contains the following line of reasoning: The ticket for tomorrow’s lottery is a loser. So if I keep the ticket I will get nothing. But if I sell the ticket I will get a penny. So, I’d better sell the ticket.13 You know now that the ﬁrst premise was not known to be true because of the grounds the subject had for that belief and know that the belief turned out to be true. Retrospectively, it seems you would agree with Hawthorne that this reasoning is unacceptable and would likely further agree that its unacceptability is due to the speaker’s belief in the argument’s ﬁrst premise. Assuming that you should not hold beliefs that should not be trusted for the purposes of practical deliberation, we would arrive at the view that the speaker should not have held the ﬁrst belief. Even without that assumption, you might agree that the subject should not have held the ﬁrst belief regardless of whether it was ﬁt to ﬁgure in practical deliberation. Now, suppose a diﬀerent friend writes you an email on Monday before a lottery is held, but you only read it Tuesday after the results of that lottery are known to you. You had purchased this friend a ticket for this lottery without telling them, but now know that the ticket was a loser. They had written: I want nothing more than to go on safari. If I were to go on safari, I would want nothing more than to buy a new elephant gun. The gun will be useless, however, since I cannot aﬀord to go on safari. So I guess I will use that money instead to do some repairs around the house. The subject’s belief in the ﬁrst premise is known to you to be a covert lottery belief. The lottery was held and the ticket lost. You know this, so you know that the speaker’s belief in the ﬁrst premise was not known by the speaker to be true and that the speaker was in no position to appreciate this fact (i.e., it was an “unknown unknown” in Sutton’s terminology). I think you would not take this reasoning to be unacceptable. However, the knowledge account regards both instances of reasoning as unacceptable and takes them to be unacceptable for the very same reason. It says neither piece of reasoning is acceptable because both bits of reasoning involve crucially beliefs not known to be true. That the knowledge account delivers the wrong verdict in the case of covert lottery beliefs suggests that knowledge is not the norm of assertion or belief. Additionally, it suggests that the knowledge account gives the wrong explanation for the unacceptability of the ﬁrst bit of reasoning. The knowledge account seeks to explain the unacceptability of this reasoning in terms of a fact that is not accessible to the individual engaged in this bit of reasoning (i.e., that one of the beliefs involved in the reasoning is not known to be true). However, if overt and covert lottery beliefs have diﬀerent normative statuses (i.e., one ought never hold overt lottery beliefs but may permissibly hold some covert lottery beliefs),
2004, pp. 29.
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it seems that the proper explanation as to why you should not reason from overt lottery beliefs should be given in terms of features distinctive of overt lottery beliefs (e.g., the kinds of ground available for overt lottery belief) rather than ignorance, per se. We have not found a route from the truth norm or the thesis that belief aims at the truth to the knowledge norm. It is not for a lack of trying. Williamson is right that anyone who thinks there is a truth norm should think there is an additional evidential norm governing belief, but we know from Gettier that there is more to conforming to the knowledge norm than conforming to these two.
Knowledge as the Aim
Rather than try to derive the knowledge account from the truth norm, we might try a diﬀerent approach. Someone could argue as follows. Belief does not aim at just the truth. Belief aims at knowledge. Any belief that fails to constitute knowledge is wrongful precisely because there is no distinct aim a belief serves that could potentially provide a justiﬁcation for believing without knowing. Since the argument assumes nothing about justiﬁcation and fault, it should not face the problems the previous argument did. The argument assumes that the aim of belief is knowledge.14 The norms that govern belief also govern assertion. So, since you should not believe what you do not know, you should not assert what you do not know. The problem with the argument is simple. Knowledge is not the aim of belief. To test proposals about aims, we should consult our intuitions to determine what an external observer would say if she knew that another’s belief fails to constitute knowledge. We know that belief aims at the truth, for example, because we know that if someone knows that someone else’s belief about p is not true, this outside observer has suﬃcient warrant for asserting that this belief is incorrect or mistaken. On the hypothesis that belief also aims at knowledge, we should expect that those who know we don’t know that p for any reason will be disposed to say we have made a mistake, we were wrong to believe what we did, or that we should suspend judgment. This is not what we ﬁnd. If this is how we evaluate claims about the epistemic aim and the epistemic ought, we not only fail to ﬁnd support for the knowledge account, we ﬁnd evidence for denying that belief is governed by the knowledge norm. If beliefs that fail to conform to no norms are justiﬁed, we ﬁnd evidence for denying that knowledge of p’s truth is necessary for the justiﬁcation of the belief that p. Suppose you think you saw a barn. You did, but you did not realize that you were in the land of fake barns. Because the hills were ﬁlled with convincing fakes, we do not think your belief constitutes knowledge. Knowing this, however, I do not think that your belief failed to fulﬁl its aim. Knowing that you do not know and why your belief is not knowledge, I would not be inclined to tell you are wrong to believe what you do or that you have made a mistake by believing that you see a barn. If a belief such as this does not miss its mark, nothing is left of the view
Bird 2007, pp. 93, Sutton 2005, and Williamson 2000, pp. 48.
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that belief aims at knowledge. The fakes prevent your belief from fulﬁlling its aim only when they fool you into believing a fake barn is genuine. Now, it should be noted that some of these authors have argued that knowledge is the aim of belief, and it is worth taking a moment to address the argument. It is clear, I think, that truth is at least among the aims of belief. A false belief is mistaken, there is no sense in denying that. What is wrong with saying that truth is all that belief aims at? Sutton remarks: Another assumption is almost as common as the assumption that truth maximization/falsity minimization is a primary epistemic goal– the assumption that a central fact about belief is that it aims at truth. Known unknown beliefs again suggest that this is not so. If belief aims at truth, then the belief that one will lose the lottery ... will, in almost all cases, succeed in fulﬁlling that central aim, and so should be impeccably formed, that is, justiﬁed. If, as I will argue, the known unknown beliefs are not justiﬁed, and are not justiﬁed because they do not constitute knowledge, we should rather say that belief aims at knowledge.15 The argument assumes that if something is an aim or, perhaps, a legitimate aim, of φ-ing, φ-ing is justiﬁed if it fulﬁlls that aim. The thought here is that if there are beliefs that are true, they should be justiﬁed whether or not they constitute knowledge if belief’s aim is truth but not knowledge. The problem with this argument is that it ignores the possibility of side-constraints that distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate ways of pursuing legitimate aims. One could have a view on which the justiﬁcation of φ-ing turns entirely upon whether the aims of φ-ing were pursued by legitimate means or also upon whether φ-ing fulﬁlled it aims, but Sutton’s argument suggests that neither of these views are possible. This, I think, is why his argument fails. If we set aside the question about aims and focus on the normative question, it seems that if someone said that you should not believe it is a barn knowing that your belief fails to constitute knowledge simply because the belief is Gettiered, it seems that they have made the mistake, not you. If that is right, there is nothing left of the view that knowledge is what is necessary for permissible belief. In saying that it is not epistemically wrong to believe p if that belief has been Gettiered, it might seem I am denying something Reynolds says in his discussion of Gettier cases and warranted assertion.16 He says the locals who know that you have been driving through fake barn country would not say that you should believe you saw a barn. They know that you were reasonable in holding this belief, but they know that given the grounds on which your belief is based, you did not have the power to distinguish fake from genuine barns. This may be true, but the knowledge account is not necessary for explaining why the locals would not (and ought not) say it is permissible for you to believe you saw a barn. Reynolds says the locals do not know whether the particular belief you
15 Sutton 16 Reynolds
2007, pp. 23. 2002, pp. 150.
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have formed is true. They only know that your grounds are not eﬀective for determining whether your belief is true. Because of this, it would be wrong for them to assert that you should believe what you do because they do not have a true and reasonable belief that your belief satisﬁes the truth norm. Once we give the locals the additional piece of information that your belief is correct and they know that the sole reason you fail to know has to do with factors beyond those that determine whether you are justiﬁed or you are right, speakers are not disposed to think you should revise your beliefs and suspend judgment. Without this information, however, we cannot use their responses to evaluate the respective merits of the knowledge account or the weaker truth account.
We shall now look at arguments that appeal to observations about Moore’s Paradox in the hopes of motivating the knowledge account of warranted assertion. Consider the statement ‘Custer died at Little Big Horn, but I believe he did not’. It seems contradictory to assert this, but it easily could have been true. (I know next to nothing about the history of the United States.) What accounts for the appearance of contradiction in the absence of contradiction? One suggestion is that anyone who holds the beliefs associated with Moorean absurd statements holds beliefs that conﬂict with the rational commitments that come with those very beliefs.17 For example, it is thought that belief has as its aim the truth, and someone who holds the beliefs associated with ‘Custer died at Little Big Horn, but I believe he did not’ would be committed to denying the accuracy of the belief expressed by the ﬁrst conjunct. That is akin to a contradiction. The appearance of contradiction is explained in terms of the conscious conﬂict between the beliefs of which the subject is aware and the rational commitments that come with the beliefs associated with the Moorean absurd statements (e.g., such as the fact that, by her lights, she has misrepresented how things stand by believing Custer died at Little Big Horn). The arguments we are about to consider all purport to show that knowledge is the norm of belief and this, in turn, is supposed to show that knowledge is a norm that governs assertion as well. Those who deny either or both thesis are supposed to have trouble explaining why Moorean absurd thoughts and assertions are defective. They all rest on a methodological assumption that I shall grant for the purposes of this discussion: Anyone who holds the beliefs associated with a Moorean absurd statement holds beliefs that conﬂict with the rational commitments that come with those very beliefs (MA). Our ﬁrst argument tries to establish that knowledge is the norm of belief on the basis of two assumptions, one of which is undeniable and one of which is thought to follow from MA. According to the second, our intuitions will lead us to classify types of statements as Moorean absurdities that could only have
Adler 2002, de Almeida 2001, and Huemer 2007.
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that status if knowledge is in fact the norm of belief. According to the third, alternatives to the knowledge account are too weak to explain why certain kinds of Moorean absurdities have that status. In making the case for the knowledge norm of belief, Huemer helps himself to two assumptions: Consciously believing p rationally commits you, upon reﬂection, to comprehensively, epistemically endorsing your belief that p (MCP). Knowledge attribution is the most comprehensive epistemic endorsement (ETK).18 Given these assumptions, if you believed p it would be wrong to have that belief without endorsing it as knowledge. But, you should not endorse that belief as knowledge unless it is knowledge. Therefore, you ought not believe p unless you know p. In defence of MCP, remember that MA tells us that whenever someone utters a Moorean absurdity, they have uttered something absurd because the beliefs associated with that statement conﬂict with the rational commitments that come with those beliefs and so those beliefs cannot be comprehensively endorsed. As for ETK, there seems to be no more comprehensive epistemic endorsement of a belief than one that says the belief constitutes knowledge. Suppose we were to grant ETK. Here is an initial worry about Huemer’s strategy. His argument implicitly assumes that each of the conditions that ﬁgure in a comprehensive epistemic evaluation pertains to the permissibility of belief. This does not seem right. Consider moral evaluation. A moral evaluation that focused on just the permissibility of some action would not be a comprehensive evaluation. A comprehensive evaluation of an action should not only tell us whether the act was permissible, but also whether the act had moral worth. That my act lacks moral worth does not show that I have acted impermissibly and so does not show that my act lacked justiﬁcation. Similarly, that my action was not supererogatory similarly does not show that my action calls for a justiﬁcation. Huemer oﬀers no reason to think that a comprehensive evaluation of belief would concern only a belief’s deontic status. Thus, even if we assume ETK, it would not be surprising if some of the conditions necessary for knowledge were not necessary for permissible belief. We should be given some reason for thinking that a comprehensive epistemic endorsement is only concerned with properties that are of deontic signiﬁcance, and he gives us no such reason. We have already seen some reason to think that the permissibility of believing p does not turn on that belief’s being properly endorsed along all lines of epistemic evaluation. Suppose you thought that if a belief constitutes knowledge, that belief is more valuable from the epistemic point of view than a belief that fails to so constitute knowledge. Along one line of evaluation, a true belief someone is justiﬁed in holding might be less valuable than an item of knowledge. (Think of Gettier cases and covert lottery beliefs.)
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The additional value that attaches to beliefs that constitute knowledge would only be necessary for permissible belief if we were to say that you should never harbour covert lottery beliefs or hold beliefs in Gettier cases. So, we either have to say that a comprehensive epistemic endorsement concerns more than just that which bears on the permissibility of belief or deny the evaluative claim that items of knowledge are epistemically more valuable than beliefs that fail to do so. If a comprehensive epistemic endorsement concerns more than just those properties of a belief that are of deontic relevance, a belief might not be one we can endorse and not amount to knowledge even if it is permissibly held. Maybe this worry is relatively minor. This next worry is much more serious. While the knowledge account does seem to follow from MCP and ETK, you also get the result that you should not believe p unless you know that you know that you know (etc. . . ) that p. Clearly, the argument needs revision. It is not hard to ﬁnd the needed ﬁx. We simply have to rewrite MCP and say that consciously believing p requires that you should not believe yourself to fail to satisfy the standards of a comprehensive epistemic endorsement while also consciously believing p. This revision is independently motivated. It is simply not true that if you permissibly believe p, you ought to believe that your belief satisﬁes a comprehensive epistemic endorsement. Failing to have any belief about whether you know p when you happen to believe p (and happen not to be wrong to do so) is no sin at all. What rationality requires is that you revise your beliefs if you believe that you cannot comprehensively endorse them (i.e., by judging that they are false, that they don’t amount to knowledge, etc. . . ). We should replace MCP with: Consciously believing p rationally commits you, upon reﬂection, to refrain from believing both p and that p cannot satisfy the standards of a comprehensive epistemic endorsement (MCP2 ). If we replace MCP with MCP2 , we undermine the argument for the knowledge account. According to ETK and MCP2 , all that permissibly believing p requires is that you do not both believe that you do not know that p while holding the belief that p, and that is a requirement you could easily satisfy even if you did not know that p. All it takes to satisfy this requirement is not forming the belief that you do not know p. Adler oﬀers a similar argument for the knowledge account, but it seems not to suﬀer from the same diﬃculties.19 He thinks we can use our intuitive sense of which combinations of attitudes would constitute Moorean absurd combinations to tell us something about the norms governing those attitudes and is as follows. According to MA, if any judgment that expresses the belief that p is coupled with the acknowledgement that some condition C does not obtain, you are cognizant that, by holding these beliefs, you violate rational requirements on holding those beliefs. The judgment expressed by ‘p but I do not know it’ is incoherent in the way Moorean absurdities are. Therefore, in judging that you
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do not know p, you know there is something wrongful in believing p—namely, that you do not know p. This is an advance because the argument does not assume the Metacoherence Principle. Instead, it relies on the incoherence test: If it is incoherent in the way Moorean absurd statements are to φ while acknowledging that C does not obtain, in acknowledging that C does not obtain, you are cognizant of something that makes it wrong to φ—namely, that C does not obtain (IT). Given our methodological assumption concerning the proper resolution of Moore’s Paradox, it seems we can test proposals concerning the norms of belief as follows. If it is incoherent to simultaneously believe p while believing C does not obtain in the way a Moorean absurd thought is (i.e., apparently contradictory without being a belief in a contradiction), there is a norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing p when C does not obtain. For example, it seems incoherent to believe the following: (1) I believe Custer died at Little Big Horn, but he did not. In representing the belief about Custer as being false, it seems we have an incoherent combination of attitudes without a contradiction. Perhaps this is due to the fact that belief is governed by the truth norm. It seems similarly incoherent to believe: (2) I believe Custer died at Little Big Horn, but there is no reason for me to think that. On the assumption that the only thing that could be a reason for me to believe is a piece of evidence, it seems we can infer from the fact that (2) is a Moorean absurd thought that the belief about Custer is governed by an evidential norm. It has been observed that it is incoherent to believe both that p is true and that this belief fails to satisfy one of the conditions necessary for knowledge. It is also incoherent to believe that p but that p is not known to be true. So, by similar reasoning, it seems that we ought to accept that knowledge is the norm of belief. Unfortunately, this test is insuﬃciently discriminating and might only be useful for uncovering normative requirements governing combinations of belief rather than useful for uncovering the norms that govern those beliefs individually. To appreciate the ﬁrst problem, consider an example: (3) God hates my atheism and it is raining outside. This is a Moorean absurd thought.20 However, there is no norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing that it is raining outside unless God forgives the non-believer. It is no mystery as to why (3) is incoherent. It is incoherent because the belief that God hates my atheism is a Moorean absurdity in its own
is a modiﬁed version of an example from Sorensen 1988.
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right. At the very least, IT needs to be reformulated to avoid these sorts of example. Even if we grant that for every incoherent pair of attitudes there is something you are cognizant of that makes one of the attitudes you are conscious of wrongful, we could say what makes it wrongful is precisely that it is held in combination with the belief that C does not obtain. It might be that this belief alone is absurd, irrational, or contravenes an epistemic norm. We might say, as it were, that whenever believing p while believing C does not obtain constitutes a Moorean absurdity, all that follows is that: (4) You should not believe: p and that C does not obtain. That is diﬀerent from: (5) If C does not obtain you should not believe p. The former is a normative requirement and the ‘ought’ takes wide scope. The latter is a norm in which the ‘ought’ takes narrow scope. The former tells us what combinations of attitudes we ought to avoid. The latter tells us what sorts of conditions bear on whether to hold the belief in question. As we are trying to derive norms such as the knowledge norm (i.e., if you do not know p you must not believe p) from judgments about rational combinations of attitudes (i.e., it is irrational to believe both that p is true and not known to be true), we need some reason to think that we can proceed from intuitive judgments about irrational combinations of attitude to judgments about attitudes we have reason to refrain from holding when certain non-mental conditions obtain (i.e., that we have reason to refrain from believing falsehoods or those beliefs not known to be true even when we have no clue that our beliefs are false or fail to constitute knowledge). Maybe these problems are not insuperable. To deal with the ﬁrst, we can revise IT as follows: IT2 : If it is incoherent in the way Moorean absurd statements are to φ while acknowledging that C does not obtain and the belief that C does not obtain is not itself incoherent, in acknowledging that C does not obtain, you are cognizant of something that makes it wrong to φ—namely, that C does not obtain. To deal with the second and more fundamental problem, we might say this. The reason that it is irrational to believe both that p is true and that C does not obtain is that in representing your present situation as one in which C does not obtain you thereby appreciate that if that belief is correct, you should expect there to be reason not to believe p. Moreover, if that belief is incorrect it is still by your lights a situation where there is reason not to believe p. To believe against what you take to be good reasons is itself a kind of epistemic wrong. Perhaps this suﬃces to address the diﬃculties that arose for IT. We might have saved the test, but the revised version of the test does not support the knowledge account. To see this, note that the test only applies when the belief that C does not obtain is a belief that is not incoherent taken on its own. While
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we might grant that if C is a condition necessary for knowledge it is incoherent to believe both that p is true and that C does not obtain, we only ﬁnd conﬁrmation of the knowledge account if we assume also that for any condition C such that C is a condition necessary for knowledge it is coherent to believe on its own that C does not obtain. This is not what we ﬁnd. It is not incoherent to believe that you do not know p because p is false. So, according to IT2 there is a norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing the false. It is not incoherent to believe that you do not know p because your evidence does not put you in a position to know whether p. So, according to IT2 , there is a norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing without evidence. What of the other conditions necessary for knowledge? So far, we have only conﬁrmed that you should not believe the false and not believe without evidence. The belief that my belief about p is Gettiered, like the belief that God will not forgive my atheism, is incoherent taken on its own. There are many ways to Gettier a belief, but I shall focus on two. In the ﬁrst sort of case, your evidence for believing p is undermined thanks to true propositions of which you are unaware. In the second sort of case, your evidence for believing p only accidentally leads you to the correct judgment concerning p. It is reasonably clear why you cannot coherently and correctly believe yourself to be in the ﬁrst sort of case. To believe yourself to be in such a case, you have to believe of some piece of evidence (i) that you are unaware of it and (ii) that it would, if combined with your present evidence, undermine the justiﬁcation you have for believing p. However, you would have this evidence in mind if you were to believe this. The case is not possible. If you were aware of the evidence you would no longer be justiﬁed in believing what you did. This means this would not be a Gettier case. What about the second sort of Gettier case? In this case, you fail to know p is true due to the accidental connection between your grounds and the truth. You cannot coherently believe that you fail to know that p simply because you are only accidentally related to the truth about p. To believe that your connection to the truth is accidental is (roughly) to believe that if p turns out to be true, this is not to be expected. The judgment that you are in this sort of Gettier case amounts to the complex judgment that p is true but that you are not in an epistemic position to expect that it is true. This is a Moorean absurdity in its own right. We can account for its absurdity by noting that someone with such attitudes would take their belief that p is true to fail to fulﬁl the evidential norm since what is to be expected is a function of the evidence available. The subject’s taking it to be the case that the truth of the relevant belief is not to be expected is acknowledging that by her lights she cannot expect to be right given her evidence. IT2 fails to conﬁrm that this condition is necessary for permissible belief. The challenging case for those who do not think knowledge is the norm of belief is this one: (6) p but I do not know p. If you take yourself not to know that p because you take yourself not to believe
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p, say, then we have a situation where your second-order belief is transparently falsiﬁed by a fact about your own mind. If you take yourself not to know that p because you take it to be that p is false, we can explain the incoherence by appeal to the truth norm. If you take yourself not to know that p because you have insuﬃcient evidence by your own lights, we can explain this in terms of the evidential norm. That norm in turn can be derived from the truth norm in just the way Williamson suggested earlier. And, if you take yourself not to know because you take yourself to be in a Gettier case, we have already seen how the evidential norm can explain the incoherence of that attitude. It seems that we have our bases covered. If we were to assume that the solution of Moore’s Paradox should be given in normative terms and assume that MA is true, while the knowledge account might have the resources to explain the absurdity of the thoughts we have thus considered it seems the knowledge account is unnecessary for explaining why Moorean absurd thoughts strike us as contradictory. It seems we can explain the same data using either the truth norm combined with the evidential norm or the evidential norm taken on its own. So, while some might think that MA is a dubious assumption and dispense with the very idea of using Moore’s Paradox as a way of uncovering the norms of belief, MA properly understood does not lead us to endorse the idea that the reason that the concept of knowledge is signiﬁcant is that it plays an essential role in the formulation of the norms of belief.
Truth and Reasonable Belief
In dealing with lottery cases and cases of Moorean absurdity, the real work is done by two assumptions. The ﬁrst is that you cannot reasonably believe outright what you know you are not in a position to know. The second is that you should not assert what you cannot reasonably believe. Since you can reasonably believe false propositions, say, if you happen to be the same on the inside as someone who believes a true proposition on the basis of adequate evidence, it is not at all clear what work the TNA can do in an account of warranted assertion. Perhaps Williamson is right that TNA commits you to ENA, but I can think of no reason why ENA would commit you to TNA. Should we say that ENA is the norm that governs assertion and an assertion is warranted iﬀ the speaker is reasonable in believing that the proposition she asserts is true? The view that is emerging in the literature as the main rival to the knowledge account of assertion takes seriously the idea that belief and assertion are governed by common epistemic standards, notes that belief is governed by a norm that says, in eﬀect, that it is proper to believe p iﬀ you justiﬁably believe p, and then says something similar for assertion. The external components that distinguish knowledge from justiﬁed belief are conditions that have nothing to do with warranted assertion. The view denies TNW on the grounds that either JA or RA is correct. Myself, I think this is a mistake. How should we approach this issue? There is a debate between some writers
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as to whether the point of assertion is to say something true or say something you know. For reasons we have already discussed, I do not think that assertions aim to express knowledge and do not think that there is any norm that tells us that you should refrain from asserting what you do not know even in cases where you have assumed responsibility for testifying to the truth of something for the beneﬁt of another. The debate between those who accept a truth norm and those who deny that there is any such norm is not really about the point, aim, purpose, or goal of assertion. Both parties agree that in telling someone p, you tell them that p is true and so you fail to in your aim, in some sense, if you speak falsely. One side thinks this is normatively signiﬁcant and the other does not. The side that denies TNW does not deny that the norms governing assertion have something to do with truth. If I understand their view, they think that we cannot fail to live up to our responsibilities or fail to meet our duties simply because we speak falsely even if what we are trying to do is speak the truth. The thought is that the right to do something cannot depend upon something external like truth, not because there are overriding reasons to speak falsely. There can be, but those are non-epistemic reasons and they are not needed. You can have warrant to assert something that happens to be false provided that you were reasonable in taking yourself to speak the truth. The debate, then, between those who defend TNW and those who defend RA as an alternative that allows for false, warranted assertions is similar to debates about product liability. There are some who think that your obligation is to exercise due care and that your obligation must end there. There are some who think that a strict liability standard determines whether you have lived up to your obligations. According to Thomas Nagel, strict liability is an irrational moral doctrine.21 Perhaps he would not be terribly keen on it as an epistemological doctrine, either. In its place, he and others might say we should take reasonable care or caution but deny that the permissibility of anything can turn on factors of which we have no knowledge if we are non-culpable in our ignorance. On what grounds would they say this? They seem to deny that a strict liability standard governs assertion by oﬀering a blanket denial that genuine normative standards are ever strict. Those who defend RA sometimes say that the what is impermissible always involves fault and what can reasonably taken to be right cannot be wrong.22 Lackey writes: [T]here is an intimate connection between our assessment of asserters and our assessment of their assertions. In particular, asserters are in violation of a norm of assertion and thereby subject to criticism when their assertions are improper. An analogy with competitive basketball may make this point clear: suppose a player steps over the free throw line when making his foul shot. In such a case, there would be an intimate connection between our assessment of the player and our assessment of the free throw—we would, for instance, say that
21 See 22 In
1979, pp. 31 addition to Kvanvig and Lackey, see Douven 2006, pp. 477 for an instance of this.
CHAPTER 6. ASSERTION the player is subject to criticism for making an improper shot.23
She argues that TNW does not govern assertion precisely because it does not follow from the mere fact that someone asserts something false that the speaker is herself properly subject to criticism. While she is right that a speaker is not properly criticized for asserting something false, per se, it seems her criticism of TNW rests on the assumption that the reasonable is the mark of the permissible. We have already seen that you cannot be fully excused for having φ’d unless it was reasonable for you to think it is permissible to φ and the excusable is not the mark of the permissible. There might be an argument that shows that assertion is somehow special insofar as there is a tight connection between assessment of the speaker and the speaker’s speech acts, but what we are looking for is an argument. Like Lackey, Kvanvig also thinks there is a close connection between the assessment of the speaker and the assertion. He remarks: This point should be self-evident . . . norms of assertion are norms governing a certain type of human activity, and thus relate to the speech act itself rather than the content of such an act. Notice that when we look at the four conditions for knowledge above [i.e., truth, belief, absence of defeaters, and justiﬁcation], the only ones regarding which apology or regret for the speech act itself is appropriate are the belief and justiﬁcation conditions. There is, therefore, a prima facie case that knowledge is not the norm of assertion, but rather justiﬁed belief is.24 The upshot is supposed to be that if some condition makes it wrongful to act or assert, the very same condition makes it appropriate to regret having acted or asserted and to apologize. From this it is supposed to follow that the internal conditions necessary for knowledge determine whether an assertion is warranted. The external conditions that distinguish reasonable belief from knowledge are normatively insigniﬁcant because you need not apologize for having asserted something false and need not regret having asserted something false. I can see why someone would say that what you should apologize for is what you can be faulted for and what you can be faulted for is what you should apologize for. I agree with Kvanvig that you canot be faulted simply for asserting something false. Having said that, I do not see how to convert his remarks into an argument for the reasonable belief account of warranted assertion. You should not engage in any wrongdoing, excusable or otherwise. If you do engage in excusable wrongdoing, it is not entirely clear that an apology is in order. An explanation might be in order and you might have an obligation to make reparations, but it seems that you oﬀer an apology in recognition of the fact that someone else can properly take up reactive attitudes against you. If, however, you ought to be excused for your action, it would be inappropriate for someone to take up reactive attitudes against you. So, it seems that if there is a close
23 Lackey 24 Kvanvig
2007, pp. 595. 2009, pp. 147.
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conceptual connection between what you should apologize for and what you can be faulted for, there is not a close conceptual connection between the conditions under which it is appropriate to apologize and the conditions under which you act wrongfully. Perhaps whenever you ought to apologize, you committed some wrong, but it is not at all obvious that whenever you commit some wrong, you owe an apology. Having said that, if I am wrong on that point, it is likely because I am wrong in thinking that you only ought to apologize when someone can properly fault you for what you did. If we sever that connection and say that you can owe an apology even for an excusable wrong, it seems that you should sometimes apologize for having done something you could not have reasonably expected at the time of action to be wrong. If this is so, there is no argument for internalism here. What about regret? Regret is complicated. We have already seen that an agent can act with justiﬁcation but regret having so acted when duty requires her to act against some defeated reason. The agent might rightly regret having φ’d even though she knows she must φ. The regret is not the recognition that she ought to have done things diﬀerently. She regrets that she could not have done things diﬀerently given what her obligations were and regrets that meeting her obligations necessitated acting against the defeated reason. That you regret having φ’d does not mean that you ought to have done something else. Perhaps what Kvanvig is saying is this. Regret is not the mark of the impermissible; rather, if something is not the sort of thing that you can properly regret, it is not the sort of thing that has any bearing on whether to φ. To convert this point into an argument for an internalist approach to warrant, we have to assume that you cannot properly regret asserting something that you reasonably took to be true. The problem with the argument seems to be this very assumption. I think Oedipus can rationally regret that he married his mother. I think I would have regretted telling Oedipus that Jocasta made quite the catch. Intuitively, it seems that we can regret bringing about outcomes we did not know we were bringing about. My own intuitions might be idiosyncratic, but if I am wrong on this point, it is not because it is true in general that you should only regret that you φ’d if you could have known at the time how to avoid φ-ing. In situations of moral conﬂict, you know that you cannot avoid wrongdoing whatever you end up doing. Still, you can regret acting against a reason however you decide to act. if the unforseeable is not regrettable, it is not because you ought not regret what you do not know how to avoid. The unavoidable can be regrettable. One of the issues that separates those think you have suﬃcient warrant to assert what you reasonably believe from those who do not seems to be an issue about the relation between an assessment of the speaker and an assessment of the speaker’s speech acts. DeRose and Weiner, for example, both deny that you have suﬃcient warrant to assert p if ∼p, but agree that there is something proper about asserting p even if ∼p. Weiner remarks: Someone who reasonably believes that she is complying with a norm is in some sense acting properly, even if she is in fact violating the norm; and vice versa. If I have every reason to think that I know that
CHAPTER 6. ASSERTION Alice is in her oﬃce, when in fact she has slipped out through the window, you may not condemn me for asserting that Alice is in her oﬃce, even though in so doing I violate the knowledge norm or the truth norm (whichever applies). This is because my assertion was secondarily proper even if it violated the primary norm of assertion. We will deal largely with cases in which the distinction between primary and secondary propriety does not arise because the speaker knows exactly what her epistemic situation is.25
This talk of primary and secondary propriety is something Weiner picked up from DeRose.26 The distinction they draw is an important one, but I wish they would use diﬀerent language for drawing it. So far as I can tell, this is just the distinction between the permissible and the excusable. If something is merely secondarily proper, it is wrong. It is not just pro tanto wrong, it is wrong all things considered. The agent cannot be blamed for having committed a wrong, so the agent ought to be excused or the agent cannot be held responsible. If, however, the agent’s acts are primarily proper, they just are permissible. They satisfy the demands that the norms governing the act place upon the agent. Williamson oﬀers us this defense of TNW: Suppose that I rationally believe myself to know that there is snow outside; in fact, there is no snow outside. On the BK and RBK accounts [that say that you have warrant to assert what you believe you know or you reasonably believe yourself to know], my assertion ‘There is snow outside’ satisﬁes the rule of assertion. Yet something is wrong with my assertion; neither the BK nor RBK account implies that it is. They can allow that something is wrong with my belief that I know that there is snow outside, for it is false, but that is another matter. The BK and RBK accounts lack the resources to explain why we regard the false assertion itself, not just the asserter, as faulty.27 While he is right that there is something defective with the assertion, those who deny TNW might say that these defectiveness intuitions are weak evidence. Someone who acts rightly might bring about regrettable side-eﬀects and these might be defects of a kind, but by hypothesis, the agent acted rightly. Not only that, Williamson might have given his opponents just what they need, an explanation as to why the assertion seems faulty. The false assertion would dispose someone who trusted the speaker to believe something false and, as Williamson notes, there is something wrong with the false belief. Since he thinks such beliefs are nevertheless permissibly held, it is not at all clear why the defect he has focused on makes the assertion wrongful. I want to try to shore up the support for TNW by taking aim at this idea that the test that determines whether someone has lived up to her responsibilities
25 2005, 26 See
pp. 229. DeRose 2002. 27 Williamson 2000, pp. 262.
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is that the agent can be said to have been responsible in trying to meet them. This seems to be the position of those who defend RA, and I think the view does not get the cases right. Let’s start with an example: Peacock just moved into the apartment next to Plum’s. To welcome her to the building, Plum cooked her dinner. She did not realize that the mushrooms she used in making her dinner were poisonous. (So far as this is possible, imagine that she is not culpable or blameworthy for her ignorance. She used a ﬁeld guide for distinguishing safe from unsafe mushrooms, but it contained a few errors.) Plum has on hand the stuﬀ to give people who eat poisoned mushrooms, but only enough for one person. It just so happens that her other neighbor, Mustard, is suﬀering from food poisoning because he ate a can of bad peaches. (So far as this is possible, imagine that he is non-culpably ignorant). Plum’s stuﬀ could help Mustard just as well as it could help Peacock. It’s good stuﬀ. Now, Mustard and Peacock are equally sick and Plum can help only one. It seems intuitively clear that Plum has a more stringent duty to assist Peacock than to assist Mustard. She did poison Peacock, after all (Cook). The example suggests that when it comes to an agent’s action, it is possible for two agents to be internal duplicates up to the point of action but then diﬀer with respect to whether they acted permissibly. We could easily imagine a story similar to Cook in which there were no poisonous mushrooms where it is clear that some internal duplicate of Plum’s does nothing wrong in cooking a dish for her new neighbor. If Plum’s duty to Peacock was just some prima facie duty of beneﬁcence, it would be diﬃcult to see how the duty to Peacock could be more stringent since Mustard’s needs are just as great as hers. Thus, it’s tempting to think that Plum’s duty is no mere duty of beneﬁcence. My hypothesis is this. The reason that Plum’s duty to Peacock is more stringent is that Plum is righting some past wrong of hers by assisting Peacock. Whereas reasons having to do with beneﬁcence count in favor of helping both Mustard and Peacock, the reparative duty gives a reason that breaks the tie. We cannot make sense of how there could be this wrong on any internalist view for the simple reason that it seems there is no ground for wrongdoing that is constituted by or strongly supervenes upon the internal conditions that determine how things seem to Plum and Plum’s counterpart. The reason she ought to assist Peacock ﬁrst is that she poisoned Peacock by serving her poisonous mushrooms, and this fact is something that is not accessible to Plum. Someone might say that while Plum has a more stringent duty to assist Peacock, it doesn’t follow that this is a duty to address some prior wrong she’s committed. Perhaps it is no mere duty of beneﬁcence, but it is not a reparative duty if such duties are understood as responses to past wrongs that the agent has committed. To give this kind of duty a name, we can speak of reparative* duties. A reparative* duty is similar to a reparative duty insofar as they are duties one can be under only if the agent brought about some bad state of
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aﬀairs, but they are like the duty of beneﬁcence insofar as they can arise without any prior wrongdoing on the agent’s part. Why not say that the diﬀerence in stringency is due to the fact that there is a prima facie duty to assist both Peacock and Mustard, but a stronger duty to Peacock because there is the additional reparative* duty that gives her a pro tanto reason to assist Peacock? That way, we can accommodate intuition without giving up internalism about the justiﬁcation of action. The problem with this response is with this idea of reparative* duties. If this is merely a reparative* duty, then we would have to say that this is a case in which Plum did not act against any pro tanto reason to refrain from giving Peacock the poisoned dish. (Otherwise, we would have to say that this was a reparative duty.) But, then it seems quite odd to think that Plum could have such a duty because it would have to combine two features. First, it would have to give Plum a reason to act that a similarly situated but causally idle agent would not have. (Otherwise, we would say that the reparative* duty was really a mere duty of beneﬁcence. It would be the very duty that, say, Green would have if he had just the same amount of stuﬀ to give to someone who has been poisoned as Plum has.) Second, it would have to be a reason for Plum to act over and above a reason associated with a mere duty of beneﬁcence to address some bad state of aﬀairs when she could know full well that she never had any reason not to bring that bad state of aﬀairs about in the ﬁrst place. On this account, there would be a resultant moral diﬀerence between Plum and Green’s duties (i.e., both would have reasons of beneﬁcence to assist either subject but Plum would have the additional reason to discharge a reparative* duty) that alters the range of permissible options available to them that arose in virtue of a causal diﬀerence that was not coupled with any normative diﬀerence. That sounds quite odd. Better, I think, to say that the reason that this causal diﬀerence between Plum and Green makes a normative diﬀerence because it was in virtue of a causal relation between Plum and the bad state of aﬀairs that she acted against a pro tanto reason unknowingly and now has the knowledge necessary to see that her actions were wrongful and there is a wrong that needs to be addressed. This is why Peacock has a stronger claim on Plum’s assistance than Mustard does. But, this is why there is a reparative duty that Plum ought to discharge, not a reparative* duty. Let’s add a further detail to the story. Suppose Plum didn’t know what to make Peacock to welcome her to the building. She asked White. White said that she should use the mushrooms in the garden to make her dish and Plum followed his advice. Should White have said this? Here’s a principle that seems pretty plausible: If an advisee oughtn’t φ and there is no reason to give insincere advice, the advisor oughtn’t assert that the advisee ought to φ (Advice). Why? If it is false, the reasons that speak against φ-ing do not constitute reasons to refrain from encouraging someone to act against those reasons by advising them to do so. That seems to go against everything we know about
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giving sincere advice. Yes, sometimes we should give insincere advice but the principle takes account of that. If the argument above is correct, a kind of non-culpable ignorance works as an excusing condition. When such excusing conditions obtain, the agent can only act rightly if there is some justifying reason for giving the neighbor the poisoned dish. There is none in the story I have just told. That is true of the action and the assertion that the action should be performed. Now we have our case against RA: (1) Circumstances can arise in which a decisive case can be made against φ-ing where the reasons not to φ are grounded in considerations the agent is non-culpably ignorant of (e.g., Cook). (2) In such cases, an advisor might also be reasonably ignorant of the reasons that constitute a decisive case against φ-ing. (3) In such cases, there is nevertheless a decisive case to be made against the advisor’s asserting that the advisee ought to φ. (C) Circumstances can arise in which a decisive case can be made against the advisor’s assertion that the advisee ought to φ where the considerations that constitute this case are considerations the advisor is non-culpably ignorant of. Since you cannot have warrant to assert that p is the case when there is a decisive case to refrain from asserting that p is the case, Cook is a counterexample to RA. Now, someone could resist this and say that the assertion was merely morally defective, not epistemically defective. The eﬀect of this would be to undercut the motivation for RA. So far as I can tell, the motivation for RA is the general thought that if an agent is fully responsible in how she conducted herself, she could not have failed to live up to her responsibilities. As we have seen, it is hard to square this view with the intuitive data. In the next chapter, we will see further evidence that supports the view that a strict liability standard makes good moral sense and epistemic sense, but insofar as the reason to reject TNW seems to be the denial of this point, I deny that RA is well-motivated.
Justiﬁcation and Warrant
In the previous section, I argued that there are cases in which someone reasonably believes p where they lack suﬃcient warrant to assert p. The argument is supposed to show that there are cases in which the fact that an assertion is false (or the facts by virtue of which it is false) constitute a decisive reason not to assert that the proposition asserted is true. In this section, I shall argue that if someone justiﬁably believes p, cannot lack suﬃcient warrant to assert p.
Here, I shall argue that if truth is necessary for warranted assertion, it is necessary for justiﬁed belief. Of course, not everyone agrees with me that there
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cannot be false, warranted assertions and that excuses are needed if someone speaks falsely in a context where their overriding responsibility is to serve as a testimonial source for another. There are a fair number of writers who do agree with me.28 The aim of this section is to argue that they cannot have it both ways. There cannot be false, justiﬁed beliefs because there cannot be false, warranted assertions. The explanation for this is that you cannot lack warrant for asserting what you have the right to believe. So, the right to believe requires truth because it provides warrant and warrant requires truth. Consider two further norms: (TNJ) You should not believe p unless p is true. (WNJ) You should not believe p if you lack suﬃcient warrant to assert p. In this section, I shall argue that anyone who violates TNJ violates WNJ (i.e., if you believe a false proposition, you cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert that what you believe is true). If you do not have warrant to assert that p is true, you should not believe p. You might believe p even if you should not, but not with justiﬁcation. If among the norms of assertion is a norm that enjoins us to refrain from asserting falsehoods, there is a norm that similarly enjoins us to refrain from believing falsehoods. Since there are norms that enjoin us to refrain from asserting falsehoods, FactivityJ is true. Key to the argument is the assumption that TNA governs assertion and that you should not assert p unless p is true. An obvious argument for FactivityJ derives TNJ from the combined assumptions of TNA and WNJ. It then derives FactivityJ by means of the additional assumptions that justiﬁcation is a deontological notion and that there’s no norm that takes precedence over TNJ. The argument depends on the assumption that the conditions that determine whether our beliefs are justiﬁed can only ensure that our beliefs are justiﬁed if they thereby give us the right to assert that our beliefs are true. WNJ seems to me to be rather plausible. If you don’t have sufﬁcient warrant to assert p, you epistemically shouldn’t assert that p is the case. If you shouldn’t assert that p is the case in this sense, there is an undefeated reason for you to refrain from asserting that p is the case. If it is nevertheless the case that your belief is justiﬁed, that is either because the reason to refrain from asserting is not a reason to refrain from believing or because there is an overriding reason to believe that does not provide a justiﬁcation for asserting. The suggestion that the (alleged) reason to refrain from asserting on epistemic grounds would not constitute a reason to refrain from believing is obscure, as is the suggestion that the (alleged) overriding reason to believe could not provide an overriding reason to assert what there is (allegedly) a reason not to assert. So, it seems plausible to maintain that belief and assertion are held to common rather than divergent epistemic standards.
28 DeRose 2002, Weiner 2005, and Williamson 2000 all deny that there can be false, warranted assertions but all believe there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs.
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While this strikes me as a reasonable theoretical rationale for WNJ, there is another route to FactivityJ to consider. If assertion is governed by TNA, it seems the following principle is true: If S were to assert that p is true and cause S’ an epistemic harm by convincing S’ to believe p, S should not assert that p is true (Non-Maleﬁcence). If someone’s assertion convinces you that p is true when in fact p is false, you have suﬀered an epistemic harm. So, if Non-Maleﬁcence is true, you should not assert false propositions. Suppose I know are curious as to whether p is true and I assert: (1) There is suﬃcient justiﬁcation for believing p. As there cannot be suﬃcient justiﬁcation for believing p unless it is permissible for you to believe p, it follows from (1) that: (2) It is permissible for you to believe p. When p is false, it seems that my assertion that (1) is true or that (2) is true could cause the very same epistemic harm as my assertion that p is true. Thus, if you accept Non-Maleﬁcence, it follows that you cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert (1) or (2) if p is false. Suppose that this much is right. Let me add an additional assumption. While it seems safe to say now that knowledge is not necessary for warranted assertion, it is relatively uncontroversial that knowledge is suﬃcient for warranted assertion. Remember that the notion of propriety that ﬁgures in an account of warranted assertion is epistemic and it is hard to see what more than knowledge that p is true could be needed for properly saying that p is true. If knowledge, justiﬁed belief, or truth suﬃces for warranted assertion, knowledge suﬃces for warranted assertion. If knowledge is not enough for warranted assertion, situations should arise where we can properly say something like, ‘He knew that p, but he was in no position to claim that p was true’. I doubt such situations would arise with any frequency. Combine the Non-Maleﬁcence with the thesis that knowledge suﬃces for warranted assertion and you get the result that you cannot know that (1) or (2) is true if p is not true. If p is not true, Non-Maleﬁcence says that you cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert that (1) or (2) is true. It follows from this and the thesis that knowledge suﬃces to warrant assertion that you do not know that (1) or (2) is true. Why can’t you know that (1) or (2) is true if p is false? Let’s run through the potential explanations. The ﬁrst is that your belief in (1) and (2) cannot be justiﬁed unless p is true. This explanation assumes Factivity. We often have suﬃcient warrant to ascribe justiﬁcation as we do not infrequently ascribe knowledge to one another. If the fact that p is false does not prevent someone from justiﬁably believing p on its own, why would it prevent the speaker from having suﬃcient justiﬁcation to believe that there is suﬃcient justiﬁcation for the ﬁrst-order belief that p is true? The second is that your belief in (1) and
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(2) cannot be true unless p is true. This explanation also assumes FactivityJ . The third potential explanation is that you cannot believe (1) and (2) unless p is true. This does not assume FactivityJ , but it is crazy. The fourth potential explanation is that if p is false, anyone who believes (1) or (2) fails to know (1) or (2) for purely Gettierish reasons. This also does not assume FactivityJ , but it has no plausibility. So, it seems that the only two plausible explanations as to why it follows from the fact that p is false that someone cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert (1) or (2) assume that it cannot be that someone justiﬁably believes p when ∼p. Let’s take stock. If truth is required for warranted assertion and common epistemic norms govern assertion and belief, truth is required for having the right to believe. I would not say that this is because you have the right to believe only what you have the right to assert. This seems to get the order of explanation the wrong way around. The evidence suggests that assertion and belief are governed by common standards, and so a sign that truth is required for justiﬁed belief is that it is required for warranted assertion. At least, it is in some cases. Since there cannot be more to having the right to assert p than is involved in the right to believe p, both require truth. If epistemic justiﬁcation is a deontological notion in the seemingly trivial sense that you should not believe without justiﬁcation, it seems to follow that there can be no false, justiﬁed beliefs. Even if we should not work from the assumption that beliefs and assertions are governed by similar norms, it seems that our best accounts of warranted assertion are committed to FactivityJ . If accepting our assertions causes our audience to suﬀer a direct epistemic harm, we should not have asserted what we did. When we assert that p is true when in fact p is false, we can harm our audience in a way that is epistemically objectionable. Intuitively, it seems that asserting that there is suﬃcient justiﬁcation to believe a proposition that turns out to be false causes the exact same harm. It follows that if p is false we cannot have suﬃcient warrant to assert p and so cannot know that there is suﬃcient justiﬁcation to believe p when ∼p. This fact calls out for explanation and the only remotely plausible explanations assume FactivityJ .
Earlier in our discussion, I argued that we ought to think of justiﬁcation in externalist terms because we ought to think of reasons for action as constituted by facts about the situation rather than facts about us. Belief is supposed to provide us with reasons from which we can then reason. Beliefs that do not ﬁt the facts pass of spurious reasons as if they were genuine. In this section, we look at another link between belief and action. Here, I shall argue that internalism fails as an approach to justiﬁcation because it cannot do justice to our moral intuitions or the thought that there is an internal connection between the normative standing of a belief and the actions that the belief rationalizes. Rather than look for an argument for externalism in the external conditions that bring reasonably held beliefs “closer” to knowledge, we should look inwards towards the role that beliefs play in deliberation. We shall see that orthodox internalist views fare poorly as do orthodox externalist views. For they too cannot provide us with an adequate account of the relation between a belief’s normative status and the normative status of the actions we perform in light of what we believe.
Knowledge and Action
When is it epistemically proper or permissible to treat something as a reason for action? According to Hawthorne and Stanley, knowledge is the norm for practical reasoning. They say that knowledge and action are related as follows: Where your choice is a p-dependent choice, it is appropriate to treat the proposition that p as a reason for action iﬀ you know that p (RKP).1
1 Hawthorne and Stanley 2008, pp. 578. A choice between options is p-dependent iﬀ the most preferable option conditional on p is not the most preferable option conditional on ∼p.
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To some, the claim that nothing beyond knowledge of p’s truth could be necessary for properly acting on p might seem perfectly harmless.2 The notion of propriety we are concerned with is epistemic, not practical. What more could we possibly need to properly treat p as a reason for action? Superknowledge? Perhaps the main reason that RKP is controversial is that it asserts that nothing short of knowledge of p’s truth could warrant acting on p. In this section, I shall argue that you can have suﬃcient warrant to act on p even if you do not know that p is true and address Hawthorne and Stanley’s arguments for RKP. In support of RKP, Hawthorne and Stanley write: Consider . . . how blame, judgments of negligence and so on interact with knowledge. If a parent allows a child to play near a dog and does not know whether the dog would bite the child, and if a doctor uses a needle that he did not know to be safe, then they are prima facie negligent.3 It is hard to know what to make of this passage because of the qualiﬁcation ‘prima facie’. Let us ignore this qualiﬁcation for now and consider the proposal that: In cases where you ought not φ unless p is true, you can be blamed for φ-ing if you do not ﬁrst know that p is true (Fault4 ). Given the plausible assumption that it is not proper to treat p as a reason to φ when you can be blamed for treating p as a reason to φ, it seems Fault1 does lend support to RKP. Note that judgments of blame, negligence, and the like also seem to interact with ascriptions of justiﬁcation: If you can be properly blamed for believing p, you are not justiﬁed in believing p (Fault5 ). To deny Fault5 , you would have to say that the facts in light of which someone can be properly blamed for believing p do not threaten the justiﬁcatory status of that belief. This would be an odd stance to take for someone who argues for RKP by means of the assumption that if you can be blamed for treating p as a reason for belief, it is not permissible to treat p as a reason for belief. Problems arise for any view that incorporates both Fault4 and Fault5 . Combined, these assumptions entail that if your belief that p is true is practically relevant, your belief cannot be justiﬁed unless it constitutes knowledge.4 To use their example, suppose that you should not use a needle unless it is clean. From Fault4 , it follows that you can be blamed for using the needle if you use it but do not know that it is clean. It seems, intuitively, that you can be properly blamed for using the needle only if you are not blameless in the belief that it is clean. It follows
2 Brown 2008 criticizes the claim that knowledge that p is true is suﬃcient for properly treating p as a reason for action. See Neta 2009 for a response to Brown’s criticism. 3 Hawthorne and Stanley 2008, pp. 572. 4 Let’s say that your belief that p is the case is practically relevant iﬀ you faced with some p-dependent choice.
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from Fault5 , that you cannot be justiﬁed in believing that the needle is clean. Two objections should suﬃce to show that we should not accept both Fault4 and Fault5 . Given that Fault5 is relatively uncontroversial it seems that the objections below, if sound, give us good reason to deny Fault4 . First, according to the JTB analysis of knowledge, if Audrey is justiﬁed in believing p and her belief is true, she knows p. We all know that this analysis will not do. Audrey and Cooper are on a cross-country trip and stopped this afternoon to have lunch in the land of fake dollar bills. Neither knows that they are in the land of fakes. That is why we can say that they are justiﬁed in believing that they have cash and not counterfeit bills in their pockets. Audrey recalls that she owes Coop ten dollars. She reaches into her pocket, pulls out ten dollars, hands it to Coop, and says that they are now even. While her belief that her debt is repaid is true and she is justiﬁed in that belief, she does not know that her debt has been repaid. Or, so the story goes. If, however, she does not know that her debt has been repaid, it follows from Fault1 that she can be blamed for acting on her belief that p. In turn, she can be blamed for believing p. In turn, it follows from Fault2 that her belief that p cannot be justiﬁed. In turn, it follows that Gettier cases are not possible. Here is a second objection. I do not think that epistemic justiﬁcation supervenes upon our non-factive mental states. Those who think that epistemic justiﬁcation does supervene on our non-factive mental states will typically also assert that the conditions that determine culpability and blameworthiness supervene on these internal conditions. They will deny that it is possible for situations to arise in which two subjects in precisely the same non-factive mental states φ and only one of these subjects is properly blamed for φ-ing. Externalists about epistemic justiﬁcation often accuse internalists of conﬂating this perfectly harmless claim about blame and the perfectly false claim that justiﬁcation supervenes on the same internal conditions. As part of the error theory that purports to explain why the internalists are mistaken about epistemic justiﬁcation, they will say that the conditions that determine culpability and blameworthiness that do supervene on the internal states are distinct from the conditions that determine deontic status. The internalist’s mistake about justiﬁcation is due to their mistaken view that conditions you cannot be culpable for failing to take account of cannot aﬀect the justiﬁcatory status of your beliefs. Justiﬁcation and permissibility, they will say, can come apart from culpability. Suppose, as seems plausible, that the conditions that determine blameworthiness and culpability do supervene upon a subject’s non-factive mental states. If you combine this supervenience thesis with Fault1 , you get the result that you can only blamelessly believe p if every possible internal duplicate of you knows p. This in turn commits you to an infallibilist conception of epistemic justiﬁcation according to which it is permissible to believe p only if the reasons for which you believe entail p. Such a view about justiﬁcation is quite clearly at odds with ordinary intuition. Such a view, arguably, leads to skepticism given the plausible additional assumption that next to nothing we believe about the external world we believe on the basis of infallible grounds.
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At this point, Hawthorne and Stanley might remind us of an important qualiﬁcation. They said that someone who acts on p without knowing p is, “prima facie negligent”. If what they meant to say was that someone who violates RKP appears negligent but need not in fact be negligent, I do not see how blame judgments interact with knowledge. Their discussion of the interaction between knowledge, blame, and negligence would have been a distraction. Perhaps what they should say (and seem to say in some passages) is that anyone who violates RKP fails to reason in the way that they ought to. However, they might add, someone might not be blameworthy for having reasoned in a certain way if they are non-culpably ignorant of the conditions in light of which they fail to reason as they ought to. Let us assume that this is the picture that they are working with. If they reject Fault1 , they can avoid the two diﬃculties we have considered thus far, but rejecting Fault4 will not save RKP. Consider this passage: Consider also how knowledge interacts with conditional orders. Suppose a prison guard is ordered to shoot a prisoner if and only if they are trying to escape. If the guard knows someone is trying to escape and yet does not shoot he will be held accountable. Suppose meanwhile he does not know that someone is trying to escape but shoots them anyway, acting on a belief grounded in a baseless hunch that they were trying to escape. Here again the person will be faulted, even if the person is in fact trying to escape. Our common practice is to require knowledge of the antecedent of a conditional order in order to discharge it.5 If a guard shoots a prisoner on a baseless hunch they can be faulted for doing this, but there is a world of diﬀerence between knowingly shooting a prisoner trying to escape and doing so on a baseless hunch. You do not need RKP to explain what is wrong with shooting an escaping prisoner on a baseless hunch. If RKP is correct and the guard has good reason to believe mistakenly that a prisoner is trying to escape, the guard ought not shoot the prisoner if the guard’s belief is mistaken. The fact that the guard was reasonable in assuming that they were doing what they ought is an excuse of the shooting, not a justiﬁcation. This seems right. Suppose that as the guard raises the riﬂe to take a shot at Tobias. He looks just like a prisoner escaping. A second guard standing nearby the ﬁrst knows that Tobias is really an aspiring actor spending the weekend in the prison preparing for his upcoming role in a ﬁlm as frightened inmate number two. The second guard might mace the ﬁrst guard to stop him from shooting Tobias. The reason it is not wrong for him to mace the guard knowing how painful it will be for the guard to be sprayed with mace is that the ﬁrst guard is about to do something he ought not. He’s lost the right to non-interference as a result. While RKP gets this sort of case right it seems it gets them right for the wrong reasons.
and Stanley 2008, pp. 572.
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To see this, forget about cases of reasonable but mistaken beliefs. Forget about the cases of aspiring actors that look like prisoners trying to escape and think about aspiring escapees who surround themselves with aspiring actors. According to the order, George, who is a prisoner and not an actor, ought to be shot if he tries to escape. According to the order, Tobias, who is an actor but not a prisoner, ought not be shot. Assume George tries to escape. According to the order, the guard ought to shoot him before he makes his escape. Because unbeknownst to the guard there are aspiring actors like Tobias dressed like prisoners, the guard does not know George ought to be shot. He merely reasonably and correctly believes George ought to be shot. According to RKP, it is wrong to act on the one premise that could justify shooting George (i.e., that he is a prisoner trying to escape). George ought not be shot. It seems to follow that the guard ought to shoot George and ought not shoot George. That seems like a contradiction. You are going to run into trouble if you combine RKP with the view that it is possible for there to be positive duties to φ if p is true if p is the sort of thing someone can non-culpably fail to know to be true when it is. If it is possible for circumstances to arise in which p is true where p cannot be known to be true, it follows that you both ought to φ and ought not φ. That seems like a contradiction. Similar diﬃculties arise if you combine RKP with the knowledge account of assertion. According to the knowledge account, you ought not assert p unless you know p. It follows that you have a conclusive reason to refrain from asserting p if you do not know p. It follows from this and RKP that you ought not assert p unless your belief that you know p constitutes knowledge. Since not everything you know is something you are in a position to know that you know, a problem arises, which is that knowledge of p’s truth is not invariably going to ensure that you have suﬃcient warrant for asserting p. However, the view that knowledge of p’s truth is suﬃcient for having epistemic warrant for asserting p is surely more plausible than the view that knowledge of p’s truth is necessary for having that warrant. So, it seems you ought not accept both RKP and the knowledge account of assertion. It seems the easiest way to sort out these messes is to deny RKP. Earlier I suggested that if you combined RKP with Fault4 , you had to deny that Gettier cases were possible. That seems pretty costly. You can avoid paying that cost if you deny Fault4 , but by denying Fault4 you do not avoid all the diﬃculties caused by Gettier cases. It seems that if RKP is true, there is a prima facie reason for anyone who fails to know p to refrain from reasoning from p. Now, if your belief about p is mistaken, I can see that the consequences of acting on the mistaken belief might be terrible. Because of this, we might be inclined to say that your having acted on p was wrongful. If your belief about p is unreasonably held, I can see how your acting on p might manifest the kinds of bad motives or intentions that show that you can be faulted for having acted on p. It is not hard to see the normative signiﬁcance of negligence or recklessness. It is not hard to see why someone might think that RKP rightly says that you ought not act from unreasonably held beliefs or mistaken beliefs.
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What is hard to grasp is the idea that there are considerations beyond those that have to do with the accuracy of your beliefs and the reasonableness of holding those beliefs that have an additional kind of normative signiﬁcance. If Audrey hands Coop the ten dollars she owes him, her bills are genuine, and she has no reason to think anything is amiss, precisely what is it that was wrong with her acting from the belief that by handing that bill over she’d repay her debt? I cannot fathom it. From Coop’s point of view, it is not as if he would care whether she repaid the debt knowingly at home or unknowingly in the land of fake bills. If I imagine myself as an outside observer who knows that Audrey does not know she will repay the debt merely because she is trying to repay that debt in the land of fake bills, I am not at all inclined to think that the advisory judgment ‘You should not act from the assumption that you will repay that debt’ is correct. It seems that the very same examples that show that we cannot identify knowledge with true beliefs we are justiﬁed in holding show that knowledge of p’s truth is not needed to properly rely on p in practical reasoning. Surely we have all we need to rightly reason from p if our belief about p is true and not unreasonably held. We have seen reasons to think RKP must be wrong, so we have good reason to be suspicious of arguments for RKP. The ﬁrst argument we are oﬀered draws heavily on ordinary usage. Hawthorne and Stanley write: Suppose . . . Hannah and Sarah are trying to ﬁnd a restaurant, at which they have time-limited reservations. Instead of asking someone for directions, Hannah goes on her hunch that the restaurant is down a street on the left. After walking for some amount of time, it becomes quite clear that they went down the wrong street. A natural way for Sarah to point out that Hannah made the wrong decision is to say, “You shouldn’t have gone down this street, since you didn’t know that the restaurant was here”.6 It is natural enough for Sarah to say this and for us to construe this as criticism of Hannah. The case provides little support for RKP however, because Hannah’s belief fails to constitute knowledge for a variety of reasons (e.g., her belief is really no better than a hunch and her hunch is mistaken). To test RKP properly, it seems we should consider three variants on the example: Hannah and Sarah are trying to ﬁnd a restaurant, at which they have time-limited reservations. Instead of asking someone for directions, Hannah relies on her usually impeccable memory and decides to go left. She has been eating at this restaurant regularly for years. After walking for some amount of time, it becomes quite clear that they went down the wrong street. Unbeknownst to Hannah, the restaurant had caught ﬁre three days ago and was working from an alternative location two blocks away (Restaurant1 ). Hannah and Sarah are trying to ﬁnd a restaurant, at which they have time-limited reservations. Instead of asking someone for directions,
and Stanley 2008, pp. 571.
CHAPTER 7. ACTION Hannah goes on her hunch that the restaurant is down a street on the left. They ﬁnd the restaurant just in time when Hannah declares, “That was lucky, I was just guessing that it would be this way.” (Restaurant2 ) Hannah and Sarah are trying to ﬁnd a restaurant, at which they have time-limited reservations. Instead of asking someone for directions, Instead of asking someone for directions, Hannah relies on her usually impeccable memory and decides to go left. She has been eating at this restaurant regularly for years. After walking for some amount of time, it becomes quite clear that they went down the wrong street. Unbeknownst to Hannah, owners of a rival restaurant managed to trick all the local papers and news outﬁts into running a story according to which the restaurant burnt down and would be serving at an alternative location (Restaurant3 ).
In Restaurant1-3 , Hannah does not know that the restaurant is to the left. However, it is only in Restaurant1 and Restaurant2 that it seems natural for Sarah to say, “You should not have gone down this street, since you did not know that the restaurant was here”. The defender of RKP cannot say that the reason it seems unnatural to say this in Restaurant3 is that Hannah is blameless in that example, because she is blameless in Restaurant1 and yet Sarah’s remark seems natural. The defender of RKP cannot say that the reason it seems unnatural to say this in Restaurant3 is that there is no reason for Sarah to say this so long as they arrived at the restaurant because it is natural for Sarah to say this in Restaurant2 . I cannot see how either the original restaurant case or these modiﬁed versions provide any more support to RKP than they to do the thesis that knowledge is merely a matter of, say, true beliefs that are not baselessly held. There is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this pattern that does not assume RKP. We often use “knows” loosely as if it served to pick out true beliefs or not horribly unreasonable true beliefs.7 Unfaithful lovers will speak this way when they think someone “knows” of their secret rendezvous. Thieves speak this way of cops who “know” about the heist. In conversational contexts like this, the propriety of using “knows” does not depend upon what is known. That Sarah’s remarks only seem proper in Restaurant1 and Restaurant2 suggests that we are dealing with conversational contexts like this. Observing how “knows” functions in such contexts provides no real support for RKP. At least, no more support than it does for the hopeless view that knowledge is merely a matter of ﬁrmly held true belief.
Justiﬁcation and Action
Any condition that distinguishes knowledge from justiﬁed belief is normatively insigniﬁcant. If this is correct, justiﬁcation is the norm of practical reason, not
Goldman 2002, pp. 183.
CHAPTER 7. ACTION knowledge: Where your choice is a p-dependent choice, it is appropriate to treat the proposition that p as a reason for action iﬀ you justiﬁably believe that p (RJP).
This view or views similar to it have been defended by a number of people as an alternative to the knowledge account defended by Hawthorne and Stanley. Those who have defended the view have worked with an orthodox account of justiﬁcation in the hopes of shedding some light on what it is to properly treat something as a reason for action. We shall see below that RJP is true only if we reject the orthodox view that insists that there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs. If the arguments below are successful, the project of trying to use the concept of justiﬁcation to make sense of when it is proper to treat something as a reason for action is a failure. We should work from the other direction. What it is for a belief to be justiﬁed is for a belief to be ﬁt for the purposes of deliberation. If we can work out an account of when it is improper to treat something as a reason for action, we can say what is required to believe with justiﬁcation.
The Incoherence and the Subtraction Arguments
Suppose there is a diﬀerence between knowing p and justiﬁably believing p. According to RKP, it is proper for you to treat p as a reason for action if you know p and your choice is p-dependent, but improper to treat p as a reason if you merely justiﬁably believe p even if you know your choice is p-dependent. Suppose you know you ought to φ if p but ought to ψ rather than φ if ∼p. You justiﬁably believe p, know that you ought to φ if p, but it seems RKP says that you should not treat p as a reason for deciding to φ since you do not know p. Suppose p is true. Suppose you reason from your belief in p, your belief that you ought to φ if p, to the conclusion that you should φ. The conclusion is a belief, not an action or intention. It is a belief with a practical subject matter, but a belief nevertheless. Is it wrong to treat p as a reason to believe that? Of course not, you might think, this is what J-Closure tells us. So, it seems that taken in combination, RKP and J-Closure tell us that you should not treat p as a reason for φ-ing even if you treat p as a reason for believing you should φ and there is nothing at all wrong with doing that. This seems incoherent. If you justiﬁably believe p, you can justiﬁably include your belief about p in deliberation when you know p bears on the proper outcome of that deliberation. According to RKP, if you can properly treat p as a reason for action in the course of deliberating about whether to φ and either intending to φ or φ-ing, you know p. According to J-Closure, you can properly treat p as a reason for beliefs about whether to φ if you justiﬁably believe p and know that you should φ if p. If justiﬁed belief suﬃced for knowledge, there would be no problem here, but justiﬁed belief is not knowledge. So, if you think that having the right to treat p as a reason for judging that you should φ comes with the right to treat p as a reason for intending to φ or for φ-ing, it seems you either
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need to say that justiﬁed belief suﬃces for knowledge, deny J-Closure, or deny RKP. Of the options, denying RKP seems best. Three claims form an inconsistent triad. The ﬁrst is that justiﬁed belief is not suﬃcient for knowledge.8 The second is that justiﬁed belief is suﬃcient for it to be epistemically proper to treat something as a reason for action. The third is that you know p if it is epistemically proper for you to treat p as a reason. It seems odd, to me, to acknowledge that justiﬁed belief both falls short of knowledge and falls short of giving you the right to rely on p in your deliberations, especially once we are clear that the kind of propriety, right, permissibility, etc... at issue is epistemic. The incoherence argument urges those who think justiﬁed belief falls short of knowledge to reject the idea that knowledge rather than justiﬁed belief is the epistemic norm for practical reasoning. It is strikingly similar to the incoherence argument from the previous chapter that purported to show that it is a mistake to say that knowledge rather than justiﬁed belief is the norm of assertion. If knowledge is justiﬁed belief, it makes sense to say that knowledge determines a normative standard for belief, assertion, action, etc..., but Gettier cases seem to show that the antecedent of that conditional is false. Hawthorne and Stanley ﬂoat the suggestion that there is a principled link between knowledge and reasons for belief that is akin to their principle linking knowledge and reasons for action.9 This would be ﬁne if they were willing to go further and say that since you have to know p to properly treat p as a reason for belief, you have to know p to justiﬁably believe p as Sutton does. I see no indication that they are willing to say that knowledge is necessary for justiﬁcation and Gettier suggests that they would be wrong to do otherwise. So, their view seems susceptible to the incoherence objection. Sutton avoids it, but only by oﬀering us an account of justiﬁcation that is hard on intuition and forces us to say awkward things about fake barn cases. The incoherence argument is similar in some ways to an argument of Fantl and McGrath’s. In support of something in the neighborhood of RJP, they run the subtraction argument: (1) If you know p, it is permissible for you to treat p as a reason for action or for belief.10 (2) Holding ﬁxed knowledge-level justiﬁcation while subtracting from knowledge any combination of truth, belief, and being unGettiered makes no diﬀerence as to whether it is permissible to treat p as a reason for action. (C) If p is knowledge-level justiﬁed, it is permissible to treat p as a reason for action or for belief.11 The key diﬀerence between their argument and mine is that they work with an orthodox conception of justiﬁcation on which you can have suﬃcient justiﬁcation
2005 and Unger 1975 deny this. and Stanley 2008, pp. 577. 10 For a defense, see Fantl and McGrath 2009, pp. 72. 11 Fantl and McGrath 2009, pp. 99.
9 Hawthorne 8 Sutton
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for believing p even if you do not happen to believe p, your belief is Gettiered, or p is not true. In my argument, the notion of justiﬁcation operative is a purely deontic notion. A justiﬁed belief is a belief you can hold while fulﬁlling your epistemic duties. In other words, the justiﬁed belief is the permissibly held belief, whatever that happens to come to. I made no substantive assumptions about what justiﬁcation is, such assumptions are defended on the grounds that we need them to understand how justiﬁed beliefs do what justiﬁed beliefs are supposed to do. We have too tenuous a grip on the notion of justiﬁcation to use that concept to cash out the permissible use of a belief in deliberation and so would be wary of using some independent notion of justiﬁcation to argue that, say, the truth of p does not matter when it comes to properly treating p as a reason for action. Below, I shall argue that the subtraction argument is unsound. While it does not matter whether your belief is Gettiered when it comes to determining whether you have suﬃcient warrant to treat what you believe as a reason for action, the truth matters. Since the truth matters to determining whether it is proper to treat p as a reason for action, beliefs must be true to be justiﬁably held.
Fantl and McGrath defend RJP on the grounds of the subtraction argument as well as an argument similar to my incoherence argument. As they see it, the right to believe p comes with the right to treat p as a reason for action or belief. They do not say, however, that p must itself be a reason if it is to be justiﬁably treated as one. So, while we agree that RJP is true, we still ﬁnd plenty to disagree about. One of the primary points of disagreement between us has to do with our understanding of the relation between the normative standing of normative judgments and the normative standing of the intentions and actions they rationalize. For reasons that will emerge, they defend Segregationism and I defend Uniﬁcationism: The demands of practical and theoretical reason can diverge in such a way that it can be practically improper to treat p as a reason for action even if it is epistemically proper to treat p as a reason for action (Segregationism). The demands of practical and theoretical reason cannot diverge and so if it is epistemically proper to treat p as a reason for action, it is practically proper to do so as well (Uniﬁcationism). It might appear at ﬁrst that they defend Uniﬁcationism because they say: any proposition that is warranted enough to be a reason you have for belief is also warranted enough to be a reason you have for action or anything else. We can see the plausibility of the Unity thesis by reﬂecting on our habits of deliberation. When trying to determine what is true ... we draw conclusions from the reasons we have. The
CHAPTER 7. ACTION same goes for trying to decide what to do ... We bring reasons into our reasoning knowing that we might draw all sorts of conclusions from them along the way, some practical and some theoretical.12
Appearances can be misleading. While they think you have suﬃcient epistemic warrant to treat what you justiﬁably believe as a reason for action, belief, or anything else, they think there are counterexamples to the stronger claim that you also have suﬃcient practical warrant to treat what you justiﬁably believe as a reason for action. Because of this, they cannot link the normative standing of normative judgment to action in the way the uniﬁcationists do. In the course of explaining why they think that you can justiﬁably believe p even if p is not a genuine reason, they ask us to consider this example: Coop tries to make two gin and tonics. He uses the last of the gin on the ﬁrst. He grabs a new bottle to make the second, but accidentally mixes Audrey a Bernard (i.e., a petrol with tonic and fresh lime). Fill in the details however you like so that Coop is perfectly reasonable in thinking that he has just made two gin and tonics. He gives Audrey her Bernard believing it to be a gin and tonic. She drinks and she becomes violently ill. This date is not going well, Coop nearly killed Audrey (Gin and Tonic). For reasons already discussed, I would not say that Coop’s belief that the stuﬀ he gave to Audrey was a gin and tonic was justiﬁed and so I need not agree with them in saying that it was proper for Coop to treat that this is a gin and tonic as a reason to give Audrey the poisonous concoction. Myself, I think he should not have given her the drink and so should not have thought he should, should not have thought that the stuﬀ was gin, etc... Predictably, they disagree. They say that Coop’s action was perfectly justiﬁed: Notice if we asked the unlucky fellow why he did such a thing, he might reply with indignation: ’Well, it was the perfectly rational thing to do; I had every reason to think the glass contained gin; why in the world should I think that someone would be going around putting petrol in the gin bottles!?’ Here the unlucky subject, in our view, is not providing an excuse for his action ...; he is defending it as the action that made the most sense for him to do and the proposition that made most sense to treat as a reason. He is providing a justiﬁcation, not an excuse.13 I think this is all wrong, of course. The action could not be excused unless it made sense for Coop to do what he did and he could have reasonably taken himself to have acted rightly. This is something to return to later, but notice that if Fantl and McGrath reject Uniﬁcationism it is not because of the way that Uniﬁcationism treats cases of error or mistaken non-normative belief.
12 Fantl 13 Fantl
and McGrath 2009, pp. 125. and McGrath 2009, pp. 125.
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If they reject Uniﬁcationism and say that the epistemic warrant someone has to treat p as a reason for action does not always come with a further practical warrant to treat p as a reason for action, there must be cases where the epistemic and practical warrant come apart. In conversation, they said that they did not think cases of mistaken non-normative belief were the right sort of case to provide a counterexample. They look to cases of mistaken normative belief to motivate their segregationist view: Coop has a prima facie duty to be in Austin and a prima facie duty to be in Boston. He cannot be in both places. He knows of both duties and their grounds. He thinks there is a weightier reason to be in Austin and, let us assume, that this is something he is reasonable to believe. There are, however, weightier reasons to be in Boston. So, that is where he ought to be. (Austin and Boston). Suppose Coop acts on his reasonable but mistaken belief about where he ought to be. Fantl and McGrath are waiting for him in Boston and they accuse him of wrongdoing. I can imagine Coop saying in response, “Well, it was the perfectly rational thing to do; I had every reason to think I ought to be here in Boston rather than Austin for as you both agree, this was the rational thing to believe. Here I am, the unlucky subject, and I am not providing an excuse for an action. I’m defending it as the thing it made most sense for me to do given not just what I believe, but what I ought to believe.” Myself, I think that if Coop’s defense works in Gin and Tonic, it works just as well in Austin and Boston. I think it works as a way of defending himself from criticism (i.e., as an excuse), but think it succeeds in neither case as a defense of what Coop did (i.e., a justiﬁcation). I might be wrong about this, but I doubt their defense succeeds in one case rather than the other. Perhaps they ought to be convinced by the defenses they oﬀered on Coop’s behalf initially in defending his behavior in Gin and Tonic. Perhaps they should say that cases of mistaken belief are not counterexamples to the Uniﬁcationist view. If they reject the Segregationist view, they can either opt for a view that classiﬁes Coop’s actions in both cases as justiﬁed or says that he didn’t act with justiﬁcation in either case. My preference is for the latter view, but such a preference needs to be defended.
There has to be some connection between the normative status of the beliefs that rationalize action and the actions and intentions such beliefs rationalize. If you judge that you ought to φ and ψ instead knowing that you were ψ-ing rather than φ-ing, it seems that you would be deeply irrational in acting in the way that you have. It seems plausible that you should not be irrational in this way. So, if there is some normative relation between beliefs that rationalize actions and the actions rationalized, what is it? Could it be this? If you believe you ought to φ, you ought to φ (NSO).
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I think not. NSO allows for factual detachment. For counterexamples to NSO, see any movie about Nazis. If “ought” takes wide-scope, we can block factual detachment: You ought to see to it that: if you believe you ought to φ, you φ (WSO). You cannot ﬁnd counterexamples to WSO in movies about Nazis. If someone believes he should φ but he should not believe this, WSO does not allow us to detach the conclusion that he should φ. The trouble with WSO is not that it allows factual detachment, it is that it is not at all clear that it represents the normative relation between normative belief and the actions such beliefs rationalize. Suppose that, in some sense, someone ought to believe she ought to φ. If she ought to believe and does believe, can we detach the conclusion that she ought to φ in accordance with her judgment? If she ought not φ and so ought not φ in accordance with her judgment, can we say that she ought not believe she ought to φ? It is unclear. Those who like WSO might say that once you determine what you ought to do and then you do it accordingly, this is not some fallacy of practical reason. This is precisely how reasoning should go. As such, there has to be some principle that allows for a kind of detachment. You cannot rightly detach the conclusion that you ought to φ simply given that you believe you ought to φ, but surely you can if you believe it and you ought to. The trouble here is making sense of what happens when an agent’s reasoning can be represented as follows: (1) She ought to believe she ought to φ and she does. (2) She ought to see to it that: if she believes she ought to φ, she φ’s. She does. (3) She φ’s just as she ought to. It looks like this kind of reasoning is good because it seems ﬁne to say (6) follows from (4) and (5): (4) She ought to φ and she does. (5) She ought to see to it that she ψ’s if she φ’s. (6) She ought to ψ. The trouble is that this seems diﬀerent from: (7) She ought to believe p and she does. (8) She ought to see to it that: if she believes p, she φ’s. (9) She ought to φ. If (7) is true, it must be because there are certain kinds of epistemic reasons by virtue of which the agent is obligated to believe something. If (7) and (8) entail (9), how are we supposed to interpret (9)? She cannot have an epistemic obligation to φ. There is no such thing as an epistemic obligation to act. If we
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want to get a practical obligation out, we can try to put a practical obligation in, but I have no idea what a practical obligation to believe would be. Whatever they are supposed to be, they have nothing to do with the sorts of cases that interest us. The move from a belief about what you ought to do to the action it rationalizes is not some exotic thing that happens when, say, someone gives you practical reason to induce a belief that creates a practical obligation to make yourself into a believer. The principles that capture the spirit of the uniﬁcationist view have to allow for mixed deontic detachment. That is to say, they have to allow us to detach a practical obligation from statements about epistemic obligation and some linking premise that tells us how the epistemic and practical obligations mesh. And, it has to allow us to detach an epistemic obligation from statements about practical obligation and the same linking premise that tells us how the practical and epistemic obligations mesh. Just so that we are clear, Uniﬁcationism should accept the following conditionals that tell us when mixed deontic detachment is allowed: If you believe you oughtP to φ and oughtE to believe you oughtP to φ, you oughtP to φ (MDD1 ). If you oughtP not φ, you oughtE not believe you oughtP to φ (MDD2 ).14 The segregationist denies that these conditionals are true. Fantl and McGrath denied that Gin and Tonic were counterexamples to MDD1 and MDD2 , but they thought Austin and Boston constituted a counterexample to the claim. To take one of these cases to be a counterexample requires cutting the link between the reasonable and the permitted that suggested that the plea they oﬀered on Coop’s behalf would not be convincing in Gin and Tonic. So, one rationale for MDD1 and MDD2 might be the thought that if the reasonable is the mark of the permissible in either the practical or theoretical domain, it is the mark of the permissible in both. Those who take it to be the mark of the permissible in both might be attracted to these principles since it seems that denying them requires allowing that it is possible that the thing you ought to do is to act against your own impeccable normative judgment. Such a thing could never be reasonable. If the reasonable is the mark of the permissible, you would be permitted to act on your judgment. The putative counterexamples would be defused. Of course, some of us do not think that the reasonable is the mark of the permissible. Those of us who deny that the reasonable is the mark of the permissible have to defend MDD1 and MDD2 on diﬀerent grounds. Some of this will involve deﬂecting objections. One objection that I have heard that has little force has it that MDD1 and MDD2 clash with the idea that the reasons that bear on whether to believe or act either depend upon our perspective or have to pass through some sort of “epistemic ﬁlter”. Defending MDD1 and MDD2 does
14 To say that you ought to φ is to say that in light of the practical reasons, you ought to P φ. To say that you oughtE to believe is to say that in light of the practical reasons, you ought to believe.
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not force you to deny that the reasons that bear on whether to act or believe depend, in some sense, upon our perspective. It might seem that way because MDD2 lets you say that you ought not believe something simply because there is a practical obligation you are under not to act on that belief. Notice, however, that all MDD2 says is that the reasons that oblige you not to act must have passed through an epistemic ﬁlter if that is what reasons must do to oblige you. To deny MDD2 it seems you would have to say that the reasons that determine what to do do not thereby determine what to believe, and that would seem to require reasons that determine your obligations that are not available to you. So, if you think reasons depend upon perspectives, you should probably like MDD1 and MDD2 . Of course, some of us deny that reasons have to pass through an epistemic ﬁlter to determine what you ought to do or believe. Some of us deny that the reasons that apply to you depend upon your perspective. I think we have some sense of how we can respond to putative counterexamples and know better than to think that MDD1 and MDD2 force you to deny that reasons have to be available to you. I know of no other objections to MDD1 and MDD2 , but the reader might harbor doubts. Let me oﬀer two points in support of Uniﬁcationism. First, think about the incoherence argument for RJP and against RKP. Assuming that we do not need to know p to treat p as a reason for action, I said that there was something strange to the view that says that you can properly treat p as a reason in deliberation if that deliberation is concerned with determining what to believe but not if it is concerned with determining what to do. I think similar worries arise for Segregationism. With apologies to Judith Thomson, please consider an example: Plum: Mustard, I have a problem. We’re at war with a villainous country called Bad, and my superiors have ordered me to drop some bombs at Placetown in Bad. Now there is a munitions factory at Placetown, but there is a children hospital there too. Some people tell me that I should drop the bombs to help with the war eﬀort but some tell me that we should avoid killing innocents. I am so confused, I just do not know what to think. Should I believe this is a necessary evil or what? Mustard: Look, Plum, given what you have said, it is clear that you should appreciate that dropping the bombs is a necessary evil. Weeks later: White: Plum, you really should not have dropped those bombs. You killed scores of children in that attack on the munitions factory. Plum: Mustard, can I get a little help here? Mustard: What’s the problem? White: I told Plum that she should not have dropped the bombs. Mustard: She’s right, you shouldn’t have.
CHAPTER 7. ACTION Plum: But you told me that I should think of dropping the bombs as a necessary evil. Mustard: That’s right, and I stick by that. That is what you should have believed. Isn’t that right, White? White: Certainly, that’s just what you should have believed. But, as I’m sure Mustard would agree, what you should have done is not dropped the bombs. I’m really more concerned with action, Mustard is more concerned with belief. We agreed to not disagree. I think Mustard has the epistemology right and we both think I have the ethics right. Mustard: Precisely.15
I have little sympathy for this. I’m troubled by the thought that the epistemologist and the ethicist can agree not to disagree by denying that the oughts that concern one have any bearing on the oughts that concern the others. If, like me, you think that if someone ought to think of something as a necessary evil, she should gnash her teeth and do what she thinks she must, you probably have some sympathy for Uniﬁcationism. Let me oﬀer a second rationale for MDD1 and MDD2 . If either MDD1 or MDD2 is false, it has to be possible for situations to arise where there is a decisive case against acting that does not constitute a decisive case against believing you should act in that way. In other words, there is suﬃcient epistemic reason to believe you ought to φ but suﬃcient practical reason not to φ. Suppose, then, we imagine two cases. In the ﬁrst, the subject knows she ought to φ and knows that the reasons by virtue of which she ought to φ are the reasons by virtue of which she should believe she should φ. In the bad, the subject believes mistakenly that she should φ. Really, she should not φ. Perhaps what the subject should believe in the good case and bad is determined by the evidence, or her perspective, or how things seem. What the subject should do, we might say, depends upon the facts. Since the facts do not ﬁt the beliefs in the bad case, we need a bad case to cause trouble for MDD1 and MDD2 . At this point, however, it seems the segregationists have to explain why one sort of reason depends upon things available to us when the other does not. I take it that such diﬀerences cannot be brute.16 The explanation, however, either has to appeal to something about the reasonness of reasons, the epistemicness of epistemic reasons, or the practicality of practical reasons. The explanation cannot be grounded in something having to do with the concept of a reason, both epistemic and practical reasons are reasons. We cannot say that the epistemicness of epistemic reasons or the practicality of practical reasons will provide us with the explanation we seek. The diﬀerence between the epistemic and the practical is that the former is
15 Inspired by example taken from Thomson 1991. She used her example to tell us something about intention and permissibility, not something about the relation between the normative standing of belief and action. 16 This expands on an argument from Gibbons Forthcoming. He thinks “Don’t be an idiot” is a categorical imperative and that anyone who acts against their own justiﬁed judgment about what to do is an idiot.
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concerned with truth and knowledge whereas the latter is concerned with the good. That diﬀerence does not help us see why one sort of reason applies to us only if it is available to us when the other does not. So, since it cannot be a brute fact that the reasons diﬀer this way and it seems there is nothing that could explain why the reasons bearing on belief and action would diﬀer in this way, perhaps the alleged fact about reasons is no fact at all. Either both sorts of reason depend upon your perspective rather than the facts, depends upon the facts rather than your perspective, or depends upon both.
From Uniﬁcationism to Externalism
In this section, I shall argue that Uniﬁcationism requires a kind of externalism. Uniﬁcationists should deny that there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs. The cases of mistaken belief and ignorance we shall consider below are better conceptualized as cases of excusable wrongdoing rather than regrettable right action. Given MDD1 and MDD2 , we shall see that if an agent who reasonably judges she should φ nevertheless fails to meet her practical obligations, she has failed to meet her epistemic obligations as well. For among those obligations is the obligation not to include beliefs in deliberation that pass oﬀ non-reasons as if they are reasons. Mistaken normative judgments ought to be excluded from deliberation and facts about what you should do depend (in part) upon contingent facts external to you, not just facts about you and your own mental states. Let’s begin with a story: Mustard is behind in his payments to Green, the loan shark. Green gave Mustard a severe beating last week and a warning that if he missed another payment, Green would kill him. The payment is due today and Mustard does not have the money. He borrows a revolver and hangs out at Peacock’s restaurant hoping that Green will leave him alone in public. He is shocked when he sees a man with a menacing look he takes to be Green come in and walk straight towards him. Mustard says ‘I won’t let you get me Green!’ and he pulls out his revolver and takes aim (Loan Shark).17 Suppose the story continues as follows: Peacock has a pipe. She knows that the man Mustard takes to be Green is really Green’s twin brother. She knows that while he might look dangerous, he is a threat to no one. She knows that to stop Mustard from ﬁring at Green’s twin, she will need to club him with her pipe. She does so, intervening on behalf of Green’s brother (Loan Shark A). Concerning Loan Shark A, it seems natural to say this:
17 The example is taken from Robinson 1996. The argument is similar to his in some respects, but we shall see that it needs supplementation and modiﬁcation.
CHAPTER 7. ACTION (1) Peacock would act rightly if she intervened on behalf of the man Mustard intends to shoot (i.e., on behalf of Green’s twin).
The story could have unfolded diﬀerently. We could have changed our cast of characters a bit: Peacock knows that the man Mustard takes to be Green is really Green, not Green’s twin. As Green approaches, Mustard produces the revolver, pulls the trigger, but nothing happens. He is out of bullets. Peacock intervenes and knocks Green unconscious with her pipe (Loan Shark B). Concerning Loan Shark B, it seems intuitive to say: (2) Peacock would only act rightly if she decided to intervene on behalf of Mustard. What explains these intuitions? The reason that the range of permissible options open to Peacock diﬀers in these stories is that Mustard loses the right to noninterference in Loan Shark A but not in Loan Shark B. I think that this tells us something about the deontic status of the acts Mustard intends to perform in Loan Shark A and B. This can be contested, of course, and we shall look at the way that it has been contested momentarily. Suppose for now that I am right. Suppose that Mustard is permitted to use force in one case but not the other. What follows? Consider: (3) It is consistent with views that deny FactivityJ that Mustard’s beliefs are justiﬁed in both cases. (4) So, views that deny FactivityJ should allow that if we took the trouble to ﬁll out the details of the case, we could ﬁll them out in such a way that Mustard justiﬁably judges that he should use force to defend himself from the man approaching in both Loan Shark A and B. (5) Given Uniﬁcationism, however, that would mean that Mustard is permitted to use force in Loan Shark A and B. (6) But, this simply is not so. In one case, he is permitted to use force and in the other he is not. (7) Thus, given Uniﬁcationism, views that deny FactivityJ have to say that reasonably held mistaken beliefs do not merely excuse, they obviate the need to justify acting against undefeated reasons. (8) Thus, given Uniﬁcationism, views that deny FactivityJ cannot do justice to our moral intuitions. We might agree that there is certainly something bad about shooting someone who just happens to look just like a loan shark, but how do we decide whether the shooting would have been bad and impermissible or merely regrettable? From
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my own experience, the intuitions that favor internalist views are strongest when we ask what someone should do or believe and do not let the story continue from there. Externalist intuitions start to get their grip on us when the let the story continue and ask what should be done in the wake of some untoward chain of events. Think about the injuries that Green suﬀers in Loan Shark B. He gets a nasty bump on the head and a massive headache waiting for him if he ever wakes up. Suppose we add in some detail to Loan Shark A. In Loan Shark A, White sees Peacock swinging her pipe at Mustard. White believes that Green’s twin is Green and believes that Peacock must be helping the loan shark rub Mustard out. White grabs a pipe and swings it at Peacock on the reasonable but mistaken belief that she is helping to defend Mustard from a loan shark and an accomplice. White connects and knocks Peacock unconscious, but only after Peacock connects and knocks Mustard unconscious. The story is complicated, but at the end of the story we have two unconscious subjects. Mustard was knocked unconscious by Peacock because she knew that Mustard was going to shoot an innocent person if she did not intervene. White knocked Peacock unconscious just as she was striking Mustard. After the police come, White sees Green and Peacock begin to stir. She has enough pain-reliever to help one of these subjects but not enough to help both. It seems intuitive to say: (9) Given just enough pain-reliever to help one, White ought to assist Peacock rather than Mustard. If this is right, why is her duty to Peacock stronger than her duty to Mustard? If her duties to Peacock and Mustard were both just duties of beneﬁcence, it seems that given that I’ve stipulated that she can help both equally and both are equally badly oﬀ, we would be at a loss to explain why (9) is true. If, however, her duty to Peacock is a duty of reparation, it is easy to see why (9) is true. However, duties of reparation are duties to respond to previous wrongs. I don’t see that a view that denies that the justiﬁcation of action depends upon certain facts external to the agent can easily explain how it could be that White’s actions were wrongful. White, we might assume, was perfectly reasonable in her beliefs and had her beliefs been correct we might all agree that she did just the thing that she should have done. Unfortunately for Peacock, however, her beliefs were not correct and if we say that she acted impermissibly we can say that the intuitions that support (1), (2), and (9) will cause trouble for views that deny that the truth of a belief matters to whether it can properly ﬁgure in deliberation. In conversation, some have suggested that the intuition that White owes something to Peacock rather than Mustard has everything to do with the fact that there is a causal chain that connects White to Peacock.18 Perhaps the thought is that our intuition is sensitive to this fact and this fact about the source of our intuition helps explain it away and undercut the support it is supposed to provide for (9). While someone could say this, I think it does little to blunt the
Robert Howell and Sarah Wright suggested a response along these lines.
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force of the intuition. We might easily imagine that White is ambidextrous and wields two clubs. Striking both someone engaged in wrongdoing and someone trying to help stop wrongdoing, we can imagine there are causal chains leading from one agent to two bumps. We can ask again which of these bumps White should do something about ﬁrst, which bump she has stronger reason to respond to, etc... If your intuitions are anything like mine, they suggest that White has a stronger duty to the party trying to help rather than the party up to no good. Now it seems we have two sorts of intuition putting pressure on the uniﬁcationist to accept FactivityJ . There are intuitions about the justiﬁed use of force in intervention and intuitions about reparative duties owed in the wake of an action. With the argument now before us, we can consider a number of ways in which someone might try to resist the conclusion. Some might contest the intuitions, some might contest their signiﬁcance, and I suspect many will contest both. Below, I do my best to dispel these various doubts.
Conﬂicts of Justiﬁcation
One way to resist the argument is to push back against the idea that intuitions about the permissible use of force in intervention are a way of determining something about the justiﬁcatory status of an agent’s actions. It might seem that the argument rested on the following assumption about the right to noninterference: It is permissible for an agent to use force to prevent another agent from acting only if that agent’s intended course of action was impermissible (Non-Interference).19 Unfortunately, it seems that Non-Interference is false. Even if the only way for two agents to resolve some conﬂict is by the use of force, it is hardly obvious that at least one of these agents had intended to something impermissible even if we include using force to resolve the conﬂict. If this is so, it is hard to see how someone could argue from the observation that an agent lost the right to non-interference by intending to φ to the conclusion that it would have been wrong for her to φ. Various examples make it diﬃcult to defend the view that justiﬁcations cannot conﬂict. Suppose Plum’s niece has been kidnapped and hypnotized. She has been sent to steal the medication from Mustard. Without this medication, Mustard will surely die. Mustard is quite frail and he can only defend himself from Plum’s niece by shooting her. Plum’s niece, we might imagine, would not survive the shooting and Plum feels obliged to protect her niece. Must we really say that morality obliges either Plum to do nothing and so do nothing to protect her innocent niece if her intervention means Mustard’s death? Must we really say that morality obliges Mustard to do nothing to protect himself from this
19 I believe Robinson 1996 appeals to a principle in the neighbrhood of this one to argue that cases of mistaken belief are cases of excusable wrongdoing. He defends the deeds theory of justiﬁcation on which the justiﬁcation of the action depends upon its objective characteristics and not (just) the reasons the agent took to count in favor of its performance.
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little innocent aggressor? Or, less realistically, suppose there is only one life preserver left and both Green and White need it to survive.20 Does morality really require them to ﬁnd a coin to ﬂip and condemn them if they wrestle for it? Morality might condemn one of them for kicking, biting, or gouging during the match and would surely condemn Green if he threw sand in White’s eyes, but I do not think it would condemn White for being quicker and more agile if she used agility and speed to get the last remaining life preserver in a fair match. What to do? While I agree that Non-Interference is questionable, cases that call it into question might give us a clue as to how to present the argument for FactivityJ . Consider: Cooper intends to bomb a munitions factory. Destroying the factory is an important step towards winning a just war. If the bombs hit the factory, the explosion will destroy the apartments that abut the factory. Audrey is among the non-combatants who live in those apartments whose deaths count as acceptable losses. Audrey realizes that she can defend herself and her family by manning an anti-aircraft gun and ﬁring at Cooper’s plane. Someone could say that Audrey’s decision to try to stop Coop from carrying out his mission was justiﬁed and that Coop’s decision to bomb the factory was justiﬁed (Anti-Aircraft). According to Non-Interference, Audrey’s intervention would be justiﬁed only if Coop’s intended course of action was not justiﬁed. But that seems like a mistake. It is not wrong for those non-combatants whose deaths are permitted by a just war theory to take arms against just actors who would cause their deaths unintentionally if they weren’t stopped by aggressive means. Surely if Audrey decides to allow herself to be killed by Coop’s actions because she hoped that his side would win, she has gone beyond the call of duty. Surely circumstances can arise in which Coop could justiﬁably act in a way that would predictably cause Audrey’s death. Notice that in this example, Audrey has a range of permissible options available to her. She can intervene on behalf of Coop and die for the cause or she can intervene to protect herself and her loved ones from Coop. It would be wrong for her to intervene on behalf of, say, the forces of the despotic tyrant that is sending planes to intercept Coop. In Loan Shark A and B, there is a range of permissible options available as well. The agent can rightly do nothing or rightly intervene on behalf of one party, but they do not have free choice as to which party to assist. So, perhaps the way to state the challenge is this. The best explanation as to why agents are permitted to assist diﬀerent parties in Loan Shark A and B has to do with the fact that it is wrong to assist someone engaged in wrongdoing and the parties engaged in wrongdoing diﬀer in these cases. We can free ourselves from relying on the mistaken thought that you can
20 For a discussion of these kinds of examples (and whether they actually involve conﬂicting justiﬁcations), see Husak 1999.
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never justiﬁably use force to interfere with someone who is also acting (or trying to act) with justiﬁcation. So, we can remain agnostic as to whether there can be conﬂicts of justiﬁcation.
Obligations and Outcomes
In trying to bolster the intuition that the conditions that determine whether it is permissible to act include facts having to do with the circumstances in which the agent acts and not (just) facts about the agent’s take on things, I appealed to intuitions about reparative duties. It is possible, I claimed, for two agents to be perfectly alike in all respects that matter to the justiﬁcation of her beliefs apart from the truth of her belief, for these agents to judge that they ought to φ, for them to φ accordingly, and for only one of them to owe reparations for having φ’d . Thus, whether someone acted permissibly or not can depend upon the facts that determine whether the agent’s reasonably held attitudes are correct and not just whether they are indeed reasonably held. This kind of argument can be resisted in two ways. First, it might be possible to account for the intuition that these reparative duties are owed in an internalist framework. Second, it is possible to argue that we have no such reparative duties in these cases. Herman has described a way that someone could reconcile the Kantian view that all moral evaluation is concerned with the agent’s will rather than the states of aﬀairs the agent brings about with the further thought that an agent’s obligations can depend, in part, upon the results of her actions. Her view is not that the character of someone’s will is determined by the states of aﬀairs she brings about. Whatever her general views about moral luck might be, she is not advocating the view that simply by virtue of having caused some bad state of aﬀairs, your will must be defective in some way. The Kantian thinks that the deontic status of an action depends upon the maxims on which an agent acts rather than the outcomes of having acted on that maxim. In cases where good intentions go awry, we should focus both on both the maxim on which the agent acted as well as supplementary maxims of response. We can think of maxims of response as the measures that the agent will take if things do not go as planned. So, let us consider her example: Suppose someone fully intends to return a borrowed clock and has a maxim of so acting that is adequate to her intentions. On the occassion of executing the return, however, she trips and the clock breaks. If the moral assessment of actions is based on the assessment of the agent’s maxim, the maxim we have to work with in this case is the maxim of good intentions. And if, as in this case, the maxim of good intentions is itself without fault, there appears to be no way for the theory even to register (no less assess) the failure of execution: a failure to bring about what was intended or willed, a failure to return what was owed.21
1993, pp. 97.
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Her suggestion is that we can capture the thought that the agent’s duties do not end with the breaking of the clock by saying that the agent who is required to adopt the end is required to take the means adequate to bring that end about, and that will require adopting further strategies when the initial attempt is not met with success. Built into the obligation to, say, return the clock or keep a promise is the obligation to pursue adequate means, and in this way the Kantian can explain how the moral story continues. This all seems perfectly sensible, but I wonder if her treatment of this case really covers the cases we need it to. In her example, the agent had an obligation to φ, could anticipate that her attempts to φ could fail, knows that she must pursue some means by which she could φ and so is under a persistent obligation to φ if her initial attempts failed. What happens, however, if the agent misses her opportunity to φ? Can she then wash her hands of the situation? Or, what happens if the agent was not obligated to φ in the ﬁrst place? In Herman’s example, you are obligated to return a clock. The necessity of the end makes it necessary to pursue means eﬀective to that end, and so when you know that the duty persists and know that your initial attempt fails, you know that you must either adopt a new end or adopt new means. However, since you know the end is non-optional, you know that you must adopt new means. This, I take it, is how the Kantian would look at it. Suppose, however, that the clock in question cannot be replaced and so the end intended is one you know now cannot be achieved. Now there is no resultant obligation to pursue suﬃcient means to the end because you know there are no such means. Intuitively, it seems there is still a resultant obligation to make amends the best you can. But, it seems that this second best thing you must do (whatever that is) is not a way of discharging your initial obligation. So, how can the Kantian explain why there is this residual duty to do the next best thing when the initial end is impossible and so no longer necessary? This worry suggests all might not be well with the Kantian approach to reparative duty, but focusing on this sort of case distracts us from the fact that there is an important diﬀerence between my cases (i.e., Loan Shark and Cook) and Herman’s case. In my cases, my agents were never under any obligation to perform the acts they performed. There was no obligation to make dinner for the new neighbor, that was just a thoughtful gesture. There was no obligation to grab a pipe and protect an innocent person from an armed loan shark, that is clearly going above and beyond the call of duty. In my cases, the agent adopts an end she is free not to have adopted in the ﬁrst place, pursues that end by means reasonably taken to be suﬃcient, but then fails. My agents are free to walk away. If the poisoned dish fell to the ﬂoor before it was handed over the neighbor, there was no necessary end adopted in the ﬁrst place that requires the agent to make another. If our heroic individual grabs a pipe, tries to help, but slips on a wet ﬂoor and fails to render assistance, she can just stay down. With no end these agents must pursue, there is nothing internal to the Kantian story that could explain the intuition that they must do something about the messes that they made. The Kantian story is partial at best, and while it is a good story for the cases it covers, it does nothing to undermine the argument oﬀered.
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In Loan Shark and in Cook, an agent comes to have reparative duties that are duties to right some past wrong and the wrong is not the failure to fulﬁll some prior obligation. So the cases do pose a serious threat to the view that moral evaluation is limited to an evaluation of the quality of the agent’s will. That is surely part of it, but outcomes also matter. Or, perhaps they do not. Perhaps there is no way to account for the thought that an agent who pursues an optional end and takes due care can come to have reparative duties simply by virtue of harming another. According to Zimmerman, none of us have the right not to be harmed by others and we have no right to be compensated for having been harmed. At most, he says, we have the right not to be put at risk of harm. So, he rejects the ﬁrst thesis but accepts the second: We have moral rights against others that they not cause us harm (Harm Thesis). We have moral rights against others that they not impose risks of harms on us (Risk Thesis).22 Whether someone is put at risk of harm is determined not by the epistemic position of the victim, but of the agent who I would allege owes compensation. If this is right, the problem with my argument was not that I drew the wrong moral from a perfectly sound intuition. The problem with my argument is simply that there are not reparative duties owed to a victim in cases like Cook. Against the claim that someone is owed compensation by those who harm them, Zimmerman says three things. First, that this leaves some needy parties (e.g., White) “out in the cold” even if this party is just as deserving of compensation. So, for example, in Cook, we had two parties who were equally deserving of assistance and it seems strange to him to suggest that one of these parties has a stronger claim on receiving that assistance. Zimmerman thinks that rights are correlative with duties: One party has a moral right against another agent that this agent φ iﬀ this agent has an obligation to this party to φ (Correlativity Thesis).23 If there is no duty to the party harmed, they had no right not to be harmed. If they had no right not to be harmed, there might be duties in the wake of an action, but not duties to the party that I have claimed in my examples. Since reparative duties are duties that relate agents to particular parties and so diﬀer from mere duties of beneﬁcence, it looks like an attack on the Harm Thesis puts me in an awkward spot. Second, he says that the party that harmed may have been just as innocent as the party harmed. The signiﬁcance of this, I take it, is that it makes no sense to hold one party accountable for making reparations to another if both are equally innocent. Third, he says that there might be some further party who is just as much at fault as the party that causes the injury
22 Zimmerman 23 Zimmerman
2008, pp. 80. 2008, pp. 78.
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that is just as deserving to be made to make amends who we know should not be made to do so. Why not haul them into the picture and make them pay some reparations? I do not ﬁnd these responses altogether convincing. We cannot determine what an agent’s obligations are by determining whether we think there is independent reason to think that they deserve to be under these obligations or made to live up to those obligations. Against the second and third point, no one deserves to be under a duty of beneﬁcence. Remember, if you have a duty of beneﬁcence, this can arise without there being any prior relation between you and the benefactor and so the duty does not require that there is any relation between you and anyone else by virtue of which you deserve to be on the hook for their welfare. We are for that often duty bound to assist others at an expense to ourselves and when we are perfectly innocent in terms of what brought it about that they need our assistance. Against the ﬁrst, I think we cannot rest too much weight on this point. Suppose Mustard had tried to poison Plum and succeeded in so doing. If White and Plum are equally faultless in ﬁnding themselves poisoned, surely they are equally deserving of assistance, but nobody would say that Mustard’s obligations to Plum are for that reason not stronger than the duties he has to those he has not tried to kill. If the ﬁrst point were applied consistently, I think it would essentially prevent us from saying that victims are owed compensation by those who put them at risk of harm for no good reason just as surely as it would prevent us from saying that victims are owed compensation for being harmed with no overriding reason to have done that. The Risk Thesis would be at the same risk as the Harm Thesis. Since it is uncontroversial that one of these theses is true, this objection cannot succeed in establishing that it is the Risk Thesis rather than the Harm Thesis that is true.
Against Internalist Uniﬁcationism
There are those who harbor internalist sympathies who like Uniﬁcationism and think that we ought to argue from a more internalist conception of justiﬁed belief than I would defend to a more internalist account of justiﬁed action than I would defend.24 They either do not share the intuitions we discussed above or they overriding reason to think their view is correct in spite of the intuitions that support my view. In this section, I want to argue that it is a mistake to reject FactivityJ if you accept Uniﬁcationism. One reason I worry about such a combination of views is that it would force us to sanction wrongdoing. At least, it seems to. If the view tries to accomodate the intuition that a subject is justiﬁed in her beliefs when it is reasonable for her to hold them,
24 Gibbons is the chief advocate of such a view. He rejects Supervenience Internalism, but he also rejects FactivityJ and thinks that you cannot be obligated to do something if you could not reasonably work out that it is your obligation. He does, however, endorse mixed deontic detachment. Zimmerman 1996 notes that some subjective views of “ought” have to deny that “ought” implies “can”, and we shall see that this sort of problem arises for Gibbons’ version of Uniﬁcationism.
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insofar as subjects with defective moral views can be reasonable in holding their views because they reason to them carefully and they are based on ﬁrmly held intuitions, the uniﬁcationist view would force us to sign oﬀ on their actions if we sign oﬀ on the attitudes that rationalize them. This was a worry we discussed earlier in discussing phenomenal conservatism. That view, we saw, condones all manner of morally abhorrent behavior. If that was right and that was a worry, I do not see how that worry does not arise again here. There is a further objection to uniﬁcationist views that deny FactivityJ . To see what the problem is, let us sketch an account of “ought to believe”. Perhaps we can say that: You ought to believe p if you have suﬃcient evidence, are concerned to settle the question whether p, and you have given the matter suﬃcient reﬂection (SE1 ). Let us say that: You have suﬃcient evidence if you have precisely the same evidence as someone who knows p (SE2 ). There are probably ways of reﬁning these claims, but for our purposes, they should do. Now, we need an example to cause trouble for the internalist. Coop gets in line to buy a snack from the vending machine. He sees that there is an infant, a puppy, and a kitten trapped inside. He knows the machine is in good working order because he has seen people using it all morning and knows that the machine was serviced yesterday. He knows he has just enough change to save either the infant, the kitten, or the puppy but not enough to save two. He thinks that puppies are worth more than kittens but thinks that infants are worth more than either puppies or kittens. So, let us say: (1) In w1 , Coop believes correctly and on exceptionally good evidence that it is better to save the infant. (2) In w1 , Coop believes correctly and on exceptionally good evidence that he can save the infant. (3) In w1 , Coop believes correctly and on exceptionally good evidence that he can save the infant. This much, I can stipulate. It is tempting to say that if he reasons from his belief that it is best to save the infant and his belief that he can save the infant that he ought to save the infant. Indeed, it is tempting to say that he knows that he ought to save the infant. But, imagine that in some possible world where Coop is in the same mental states as he is in w1 that the following is true: (4) In w2 , Coop has just the same evidence for his beliefs as he does in w1 . It seems that it follows that:
CHAPTER 7. ACTION (5) If Coop knows in w1 that it is best to save the infant, that he can do that, and that is what he ought to do, Coop ought to believe these things in w2 ((4), SE1 , and SE2 ). (6) If Coop knows in w1 that it is best to save the infant, that he can do that, and that is what he ought to do, Coop ought to save the infant in w2 ((5), MMD1 ). It is consistent with everything that has been said that: (7) In w2 , Coop cannot save the infant because the vending machine is broken. It follows that if “ought” implies “can”: (8) It is false that Coop ought to save the infant in w2 ((7)). (9) It is false that Coop ought to believe he ough to save the infant in w2 ((8), MMD1 ). (10) It is false that Coop could know both that he ought to save the infant and that the best thing to do is save the infant ((9), SE1 , and SE2 ).
So, the uniﬁcationists who accept SE1 and SE2 end up saying that those of us who do know that infants matter more than kittens or puppies cannot have suﬃcient evidence to believe we can get infants out of vending machines. Now, someone did say that we can never know what we will get out of a vending machine once we put our money in. This is a very high standard for knowledge, but really, it does not matter. Or, someone could say that we never have obligations to bring about states of aﬀairs in which, say, babies are saved from vending machines. We could change (7) to deal with such worries. Coop cannot save the infant because there is a transparent piece of glass that covers the coin slot so he cannot get his coins into the machine. Or, Coop cannot save the infant because he cannot move his arm because the sight of the infant set of a strange chain of events in his nervous system that left him temporarily paralyzed without his feeling anything strange at all. Or, Coop cannot save the infant because he cannot so much as try to do so owing to some even stranger events taking place in his nervous system. The cost of combining the uniﬁcationist view with the view that denies FactivityJ is a surprising form of skepticism. Why is it that Coop cannot know that he can free the infant? Because an epistemic counterpart of his could have just his evidence for believing this proposition and be mistaken where this mistaken belief would rationalize an action that the agent cannot perform. So, you know p only if you have no epistemic counterparts in any possible world who falsely believe p and whose belief that p would rationalize forming the intention to perform an action the agent cannot perform under those circumstances. If that’s right, is there anything we can know about the external world? Little. All it took to show that Coop did not have knowledge was to ﬁnd some possible world where he had the same evidence as he did actually but had a mistaken
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belief. Now it is starting to look like this view is committed to the view that we have suﬃcient evidence to believe p only when our evidence for believing p entails p. Seems like a strange view to adopt if you are opposed to the less demanding view that says that you ought never believe a false proposition. Unlike this view, my view does not demand that you have entailing evidence for your beliefs. If the choice is between FactivityJ and the view that is committed to a kind of infallibilism that seems to make it impossible to have justiﬁed beliefs on the grounds that such beliefs could have been mistaken and been based on the same evidence, I think my view is an attractive one to choose.
This chapter will build on “Reasons and Belief’s Justiﬁcation”. In this chapter, I discuss the signiﬁcance of the results from the previous chapters for the orthodox internalist and externalist views and develop a positive account of justiﬁcation. On the account I defend, to justiﬁably believe p is to believe p on the basis of something that shows that p is true. The view is similar to the knowledge account of justiﬁed belief insofar as both views deny that there can be false, justiﬁed beliefs. It diﬀers, however, insofar as there are Gettier cases in which it seems intuitive to say that a belief that fails to constitute knowledge is not normatively defective in any way.
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