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In this paper, I defend the unorthodox view that there cannot be false, justified beliefs. Our best accounts of warranted assertion tell us that the norms that govern assertion enjoin us to refrain from asserting falsehoods. There cannot be false, justified beliefs if there cannot be false, warranted assertions. Mistaken beliefs might serve to excuse wrongdoing, but they do not justify our actions. There cannot be false, justified beliefs if the justification for including a belief in deliberation depends upon whether that belief is true. The orthodox view is that justification and truth are conceptually related but distinct components of knowledge.1 The truth of a belief does not ensure that it is justified. The falsity of a belief does not ensure that it is unjustified. The orthodox view is mistaken. There are true, unjustified beliefs, but the false, justified belief is a myth. Two independent lines of argument support my thesis: Factivity: S’s belief that p is justified only if S’s belief is true. First, Factivity is a consequence of our best accounts of warranted assertion. Second, we need Factivity to make sense of our moral intuitions. It would be naïve to think that in the space of a single paper I could convince the reader that Factivity is true. My aim is more modest. In this paper, I hope to convince the reader that Factivity deserves serious consideration. The objections to Factivity are actually quite weak. My arguments for Factivity may rest on assumptions that are controversial and intuitions that are not universally shared, but the crucial assumptions nevertheless enjoy wide acceptance. If I’m wrong about Factivity, it’s only because much of what many take to be true of justification is not. The paper will unfold as follows. In §1, I shall address the three objections to Factivity I’ve found in the literature. In §2, I shall try to make good on my claim that Factivity is a consequence of our best accounts of warranted assertion. In §3, I shall try to show that we need Factivity to make sense of our moral intuitions. 1. DEFENDING FACTIVITY I shall address three objections to Factivity. The first is that Factivity leads to skepticism. The second is that it fails to do justice to the idea that justification is a normative notion. The third is that Factivity conflicts with our intuitions about justification ascription. These objections fail. The only arguments that could show that Factivity leads to skepticism are arguments that would vindicate the skeptic. We can argue for Factivity on the grounds that justification is a deontological notion, so it can hardly follow from the fact that justification is a deontological notion that there can be false, justified beliefs. It only appears that Factivity is counterintuitive when we neglect an important distinction between two kinds of justification ascriptions. In the course of addressing objections to Factivity, I hope to offer some positive characterization of the notion of justification. 1.1 FACTIVITY AND SKEPTICISM Epistemologists tend to agree that there must be some sort of conceptual connection between justification and truth beyond the trivial fact that to justify believing p we must justify believing p to 1
be true. Beyond this, there is little about the so-called ‘truth-connection’ that is uncontroversial apart from the idea that the connection is weaker than entailment. In this passage, Cohen explains why he thinks that the truth-connection must be weaker than entailment: 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.2 Cohen thinks that Factivity entails infallibilism, but this is because he’s assuming that the only conditions that could determine whether our beliefs are justified are those common to us and our demonically deceived epistemic counterparts (i.e., those who are in precisely the same non-factive mental states that we are but deceived by a Cartesian demon).3 Without this assumption, his argument fails. If someone thought that the only factors that determine whether our beliefs are justified are factors that strongly supervened upon the factors that are common to all of our possible epistemic counterparts, they would be committed to skepticism if they also held that there can be no false, justified beliefs. All this shows is that you should not combine internalism about justifying conditions with externalism about the conditions necessary for justification. While you could respond to this skeptical worry by rejecting the externalist idea that the justification of our beliefs depends upon more than just what is ‘in the head’, you could just as easily reject the internalist assumption that the only factors that go towards determining whether our beliefs are justified are the factors that determine how things seem to us. Externalists should distinguish between the conditions that determine whether someone beliefs are justified and the conditions that determine what someone’s justification is or what someone’s grounds are. For example, a reliabilist could say that my grounds for believing that I’m now typing on a laptop include my visual and tactile experiences. Our reliabilist will go on to say that the conditions that determine whether my belief based on these grounds is justified include conditions that determine the likelihood that beliefs based on such grounds will turn out to be true. These further conditions do not strongly supervene upon my non-factive mental states and so two subjects could have the same justification to offer for their beliefs while having beliefs that turn out to have different justificatory statuses. Similarly, two subjects could offer the same justifications for failing to assist someone in need (e.g., that they had made a promise to be elsewhere) where only one subject acts with justification because the reasons for one subject to break that promise were stronger than the reasons for the other subject to break hers. Those who defend Factivity could say 2
that my grounds consist of the sorts of things that are common to all of my epistemic counterparts, but the conditions that determine whether the justification I would offer for my beliefs is a justification offered for a belief that truly is justified includes the conditions that determine whether my experiences are veridical. We can show that Factivity leads to no problematic skeptical conclusions. Consider the view that says that a belief is justified iff that belief constitutes knowledge.4 If you know that p is true, it must be that p is true. According to the knowledge account of justified belief, the facts in virtue of which your justified beliefs are justified entail that those beliefs are true. If Cohen is going to show that this view leads to skepticism, he has to show that knowledge is unattainable. Of course, if he can show that knowledge is unattainable he could show that Factivity leads to skepticism, but then the (alleged) skeptical consequences of Factivity would not be so troubling. For what it’s worth, I don’t think that we should identify justified beliefs with items of knowledge. It seems that the propositions we know we believe with justification but there are justified beliefs that do not constitute knowledge. If we revise the knowledge account of justified belief as I think we should, we would weaken the account and say that something less than knowledge is necessary for justified belief. Any argument from Factivity to skepticism that addressed these accounts would have to show that these conditions are conditions that our beliefs cannot satisfy, but as these conditions would be necessary for knowledge, the argument from Factivity to skepticism would have to include an argument that our beliefs do not satisfy some condition necessary for knowledge. Again, this would only show that the (alleged) skeptical consequences of Factivity would not be so troubling. Of course, since we know that we have knowledge, we know that these arguments that purport to derive a skeptical consequence from Factivity are unsound unless additional arguments are produced that show that more is necessary for justifiably believing p than knowing p. While there may be cases of knowledge without justification, such cases are not typical. In the typical case if someone says that you knew p, they cannot then say that you shouldn’t have believed p or that you didn’t believe with justification.5 I doubt these additional arguments are forthcoming, so it seems there’s no argument from Factivity to skepticism. 1.2 JUSTIFICATION AND EPISTEMIC DUTY Justification is often taken to be a normative or deontological notion, and many of those who say that justification is a deontological notion subscribe to the view that justification is an internalist notion.6 These writers say that we should reject Factivity because it fails to do justice to the idea that justification is a deontological notion. What do people mean when they say that justification is a deontological notion? According to Steup: … I take the concept of epistemic justification to be a deontological one. I believe that epistemic justification is analogous to moral justification in the following sense: Both kinds of justification belong to the family of deontological concepts, concepts such as permission, prohibition, obligation, blame, and responsibility … A belief that is epistemically justified is a belief that is epistemically permissible, a belief for which the subject cannot justly be blamed, or a belief the subject is not obliged to drop.7 Before him, Alston offered us this: The terms, ‘justified’, ‘justification’, and their cognates are most naturally understood in what we may term a “deontological” way,
as having to do with obligation, permission, requirement, blame, and the like.8 Before him, Ginet wrote: One is justified in being confident that p if and only if it is not the case that one ought not to be confident that p: one could not be justly reproached for being confident that p.9 These authors seem to think that if justification is a deontological notion, there is this important connection between blame and justification: anyone who believes without justification can be blamed for so doing. According to Alston, it is “obvious” that a belief can be deontologically justified without being true.10 Indeed, it is obvious that if blamelessness sufficed for justification, there could be justified, false beliefs. Some beliefs are non-culpably mistaken. It seems, however, that the deontological theory is wrong if it is committed to the view that blamelessness suffices for justification. Perhaps someone that has been brainwashed cannot be blamed for believing that prominent members of the Republican Party are lizards that disguise themselves to look like humans. Someone suffering from mental illness cannot be blamed for believing that their dog is giving them orders. It doesn’t follow that these beliefs are justifiably held.11 If the objection to Factivity amounts to the claim that Factivity is inconsistent with a theory of justification that is itself quite clearly false, nothing further needs to be said in response to the objection. It does seem that justification is a deontological notion in this sense. You should never believe without justification. If your beliefs are justified, there is no epistemic obligation to rid yourself of them.12 If there are epistemic duties, you cannot believe with justification if you violate some epistemic duty of yours with no overriding reason to do so. If your epistemic duties are fulfilled, however, your beliefs are justified. It is possible that the authors above have simply confused permissibility with blamelessness.13 We can save the deontological theory of justification from the deontologists who equate justification with blamelessness by explaining how permissibility and blamelessness differ. There are two ways (at least) in which blamelessness and justification come apart. First, it seems that denials of responsibility can show that someone shouldn’t be blamed for their attitudes or actions even if those attitudes and actions are not justified. Second, it seems that excuses can show that someone shouldn’t be blamed for their attitudes or actions even if those attitudes and actions are not justified. In offering a denial of responsibility, we are (predictably) denying that the subject can be held responsible for her actions or attitudes whereas in offering an excuse we allow that the subject has the capacities that allow us to properly hold her to account but cite factors that show the subject’s attitudes or actions in such a favorable light that blame seems inappropriate.14 This distinction is important, because it helps us see what is wrong with another common objection to externalist accounts of justification. Cohen suggests that externalist views of justification fail to do justice to the idea that justification is a normative notion.15 As he sees it, it is quite possible for a subject to be rational or reasonable in her beliefs while failing to satisfy the conditions externalists say are necessary for justified belief. This seems right. If the externalist says that theirs is a view of justified belief only, he thinks this response fails: First of all, ‘reasonable’ and ‘rational’ are virtual synonyms for ‘justified’. But we need not quibble over semantics. If the Reliabilist wants to distinguish ‘justified’ from ‘reasonable’ or ‘rational’ he may do so. But clearly the important epistemic concept, the one epistemologists have been concerned with, is what the Reliabilist would call ‘reasonability’ or ‘rationality’.16
The first point is incorrect. Justified beliefs are permissibly held beliefs. Just as blamelessness does not suffice for permissibility, neither does rationality or reasonability. Think about the distinction between excuses and denials of responsibility. Excuses for wrongdoing or wrongfully held beliefs do not suffice to justify these actions or beliefs. To show that an action or attitude is justified is to show that there is not an undefeated reason not to have the attitude or perform the action whereas to show that an action or attitude is excused is to show the agent’s conduct or attitude in a positive light in spite of such reasons. To show the agent’s conduct or attitude in a positive light (without offering a crypto-justification), among the things we have to do is show that the agent was rational or reasonable for having done or believed what she did or believed in spite of the fact that there were reasons for her not to do or believe what she did. If we cannot explain how it is that the agent was reasonable in having taken it that there were no such undefeated reasons, we cannot offer an excuse. At that point, we can remove blame only by offering a denial of responsibility by trying to show that the subject could not have exercised the kinds of capacities that would enable us to hold her accountable. In response to the second point, he is probably right that a notion that has interested epistemologists is better described as reasonability or rationality. If this notion comes apart from the concept of justification, it does not follow that the concept of justification isn’t interesting. If rationality/reasonability do not suffice for justification because rationality/reasonability is necessary for an excuse and excuses do not provide permissions, the question remains as to whether epistemic permissibility is a notion best understood in externalist terms. The notion of justification is still an interesting notion because of its connection to the notion of permissibility. The question, ‘What should I believe?’ is one of the central questions in epistemology. It follows from the fact that justification is distinct from rationality that an account of epistemic rationality will not address this question. While epistemic rationality might be an internalist notion, there is a further question as to whether justification is and whether two internal duplicates always manage to fulfill their epistemic duties equally well. Can we fail to fulfill our epistemic duties or violate our epistemic obligations without being anything less than fully reasonable or fully rational? I think so. There are (at least) three such epistemic duties; namely, the duties we have to conform to these norms: (T) You should not believe p unless p is true.17 (W) You should not believe p if you lack sufficient warrant to assert p. (A) You should not believe p if it is not proper for you to treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some pdependent choice. Someone might rationally or reasonably believe something false. According to (T), there is always a reason for them not to do so. Below, I shall argue that anyone who violates (T) violates (W) and (A) as well. Before we get to these arguments, I want to take the opportunity to provide an initial argument for Factivity. This argument is driven by theoretical considerations rather than one that rests on intuitions as the arguments below do. It is a common, but controversial view, that the attitude of belief is constitutively governed by a truth norm.18 If belief is governed by (T) and someone violates it, it seems that they believe something they should not. It seems that there is no overriding epistemic reason that enjoins us to believe a proposition that we can believe only by violating (T), so it seems that whenever someone believes a falsehood there is an undefeated reason for the subject to refrain from so doing. If the justification of a belief depends, inter alia, upon
showing that the subject does not believe or act against an undefeated reason, there can be no justified beliefs that violate (T). At best, such beliefs should be excused. While it is controversial whether belief is constitutively normative, critics of this normativity thesis often agree with those who defend the normativity thesis that (T) governs belief.19 If this argument for Factivity is unsound, perhaps it is because I have failed to take account of an overriding epistemic norm that gives us reason to violate (T) that would show that violations of (T) are only prima facie wrongful. So far as I can tell, however, there are no norms to provide such reasons. There are other epistemic norms that govern belief such as evidential norms, but it seems that these norms derive from (T).20 An evidential norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing without sufficient evidence could not provide us an overriding reason to violate (T) since it states only a prohibition. What about an additional evidential norm that enjoins us to believe once we have sufficient evidence? This does not seem to be the sort of thing that could supply the overriding reason that could justify forming beliefs in violation of (T). First, if evidential norms derive from the truth norm, we would have to say that (T) gives us a reason to refrain from believing falsehoods while at the same time giving rise to an overriding reason to believe falsehoods by means of the derivative evidential norm that enjoins us to believe what we have sufficient evidence to believe. Second, it is hard to see how to reconcile the suggestion that there are further norms that identify features our beliefs might have (e.g., supported by adequate evidence) that would provide us with an overriding reason to believe falsehoods since it does not seem from the first- or third-person perspective that we can ever knowingly judge that the thing for a subject to believe is p in spite of the fact that ~p. This suggests that believing the false is not like breaking a promise, something that regrettably must be done on occasion for some greater good. As Williams observed, when we have conflicting desires or reasons for action, we can knowingly judge that we ought to do what the reason we take to be the stronger reason would have us do while rationally regretting that we do not get to act on the defeated reason.21 There is no such thing as epistemic residue or grounds for regretting that we cannot believe what the defeated epistemic reasons would have us believe. When we know that p is the thing to believe, the evidence we once saw as evidence for ~p is now seen as misleading and no longer exerts any force on us. This argument depends upon assumptions about the relationship between justification and the norms governing belief that some might think is controversial. Although he thinks that belief is governed by (T), Bird thinks that there can be false, justified beliefs: Anything short of knowledge is failure. But some failures are worse than others. And in particular some failures can be laid at the door of the believer, because the source of failure is one or more of the believer’s mental states, and some failures can be ascribed to mischance, in that the failure is due to some mentally extraneous factor. The role of the concept of justification is to mark the difference between these different sources of failure.22 I think this is a mistake. Anyone who opts for this sort of view concerning the role of justification has to choose between two unattractive theoretical options. The first is to say that we can successfully justify an action or attitude in spite of the fact that there is an undefeated reason not to do or believe what we successfully justify. This severs the connection between justification and permissibility.23 The second option is to preserve the connection between justification and permissibility but insist that it is permissible to violate a norm even if there is no overriding reason to do so. If the view is that there is no reason not to violate a norm, then I think the view is incoherent. Oughts imply reasons. If instead the idea is that the reasons associated with these norms demand something less than full conformity, nothing I have said yet shows that the view is 6
untenable.24 The view is wrong, but this is something I hope to show later. So far as I can tell, this view is the only theoretical option for someone who says that (T) governs belief while saying that there can be false, justified beliefs.25 1.3 INTUITION There is one final objection to Factivity to consider.26 Consider two subjects in precisely the same non-factive mental states. In w1, our first subject knows that p is true on the basis of her veridical perceptual experiences. In w2, p is false, but our second subject believes p on the basis of an hallucinatory experience indistinguishable from our first subject’s veridical experience. It seems intuitive to say that these subjects are equally justified in their beliefs. This suggests that it is counterintuitive to say that the conditions necessary for having a justified belief include conditions that do not strongly supervene upon a subject’s non-factive mental states. Thus, Factivity is counterintuitive. To motivate the crucial intuition, Audi says this, speaking for the victim of hallucination: … given the vivid hallucination, I am in no way at fault for believing what I do, nor do I deserve criticism. Far from it. I am like a surgeon who skillfully does all that can be expected but loses the patient. There I should feel regret, but not guilt; I should explain, but need not apologize; and when we know what my evidence was, we approve of what I did, we consider it reasonable.27 Of course, he is right. It is reasonable for someone to believe on the basis of hallucinations indistinguishable from veridical experiences. He is also right that such a subject is justified in believing what she does even if her beliefs are false. We should note that he seems to want to establish something about the normative status of the subject’s attitudes by establishing something about the subject. The attitude must be justified since the subject who holds it is reasonable, or something along these lines. The thing for an externalist to say is that there are reasons to confine a kind of epistemic evaluation to the things that are internal to the subject, but those reasons are not reasons to confine our assessment of the subject’s attitudes to these facts. We cannot fully assess a subject’s attitudes until we determine whether the subject’s attitudes conform to the norms that govern those attitudes. Our assessment of the subject does not depend, however, upon whether the subject’s attitudes conform to the norms that govern them. The subject’s attitudes might conform to those norms as a matter of good luck and the subject’s attitudes might not conform to those norms as the result of bad luck. If a subject’s attitudes conform to the norms that govern them in spite of, say, that subject’s fallacious reasoning, the fact that they conform to these norms gives us no reason to refrain from criticizing her. If the subject’s attitudes fail to conform for reasons she cannot have taken account of, the fact that they fail to conform gives us no grounds for criticizing her. If, however, the norms that govern belief have application conditions that do not strongly supervene upon the subject’s non-factive mental states, there will be some external facts that we need to take account of to assess the subject’s attitudes that play no direct role in the assessment of the subject herself. We can use the concept of justification in both kinds of assessment, but as the thing being assessed differ and the facts that matter to the assessment differ, we need to distinguish between two different kinds of ascription.28 Ascriptions of personal justification ascribe a property to the believer and ascriptions of doxastic justification attribute a property to the subject’s belief. The appeal to intuition does not constitute an objection to Factivity, not because the intuitions behind it are defective, but because those intuitions are intuitions about personal justification. Factivity is a 7
thesis about the justification of beliefs, not what is involved in justifying persons who hold those beliefs. Since ascriptions of personal justification of the form ‘S is justified in believing p’ do not entail that ascriptions of doxastic justification of the form ‘S’s belief that p is justified’, we can say that personal justification strongly supervenes upon a subject’s non-factive mental states while denying that the same is true of doxastic justification. Thus, the intuition that the truth of a subject’s belief is not necessary for that subject to be justified in holding that belief is, if correct, perfectly compatible with the claim that truth is necessary for that subject’s belief to be justified. Compare. It doesn’t follow from the fact that S’s beliefs did not conform to the norms that govern belief that S was not justified in believing what she did. It does, however, follow from the fact that S fails to conform to the norms governing belief that those beliefs are not justified. If this much is right, intuition causes trouble for Factivity only if intuition is taken to show that (T) is not among the norms governing belief. Because few seem to want to go so far as to say that, perhaps the thing to say is that everyone is getting something right and the personal/doxastic justification distinction is useful in capturing what it is that we’re getting right. I’ve said that ascriptions of personal justification do not entail ascriptions of doxastic justification, but I didn’t provide much motivation for that claim and some have denied it.29 Here’s why I think the distinction is not unmotivated. When we justify something, we seek to defend it from criticism. This is a thesis about pleas, but it suggests that we can say something about the properties of being justifiable and defensible. If we identify the conditions under which a successful defense or justification can be given with the conditions in virtue of which something has the property of being justifiable or defensible, then it seems to follow that something has the property of being justifiable iff it has the property of being defensible. Of course, it does not make sense to speak of defending something simpliciter, things are defended from criticism. The criticism that the agent needs to be defended from is a charge to the effect that the agent was somehow unreasonable or irresponsible. The criticism that an agent’s beliefs need to be defended from is one that charges that there were undefeated reasons for the subject not to have those beliefs. In other words, we try to show that the agent’s attitudes either conformed to the norms that govern those attitudes or failed to conform to some only because there were overriding reasons provided by other norms. Insofar as it seems we can defend the agent without thereby undertaking a defense of the agent’s actions or attitudes by offering an excuse and showing that the agent was reasonably mistaken in thinking that her actions or attitudes were permissible, it seems that unless the defensible and the justified come apart, S can be justified in Φ-ing even if S’s Φ-ing cannot be justified. If (T) is among the norms that govern belief, when we say that ‘S is justified in believing p’ we are saying that S can be defended from the charge that S could not have reasonably taken herself to conformed to (T). Because it is the facts internal to the subject’s perspective that determine whether she is reasonable in having taken herself to have conformed to (T), someone who opts for an externalist account of epistemic permissibility can explain why there is an internalist notion of justification. On the other hand, since you cannot defend the attitude without showing that the attitude conformed to the norms that govern belief, it seems that the conditions internal to the subject’s perspective should not suffice to justify that subject’s belief if belief is governed by (T) unless there are overriding reasons to believe falsehoods provided by other norms. If (T) is a norm that governs belief, there are no false, justified beliefs because there are no epistemic norms that give overriding reason to form beliefs that contravene (T). The upshot is this. Believers can be justified in forming beliefs that contravene the norms that govern belief if they can rationally take themselves to have conformed to the norm that govern belief but the beliefs they form will not be justified. You cannot object to Factivity on the grounds that Factivity is counterintuitive when it is 8
part of an explanation as to why the relevant intuitions are correct. To show that Factivity is not true, someone has to show that the personal/doxastic justification distinction cannot be drawn in the way I’ve suggested, show that doxastic justification does not depend upon whether the justified belief conforms to the norms that govern belief, show that (T) does not govern belief, or show that there is a norm that gives overriding reason to violate (T). Because this hasn’t been done, we can see that the view is not only consistent with widely held intuitions, it seems to be motivated by a widely accepted view about the norms of belief. 2. WARRANTED ASSERTION In this section, I shall argue that anyone who violates (T) also violates (W): (T) You should not believe p unless p is true. (W) You should not believe p if you lack sufficient warrant to assert p.30 If this is right, it’s hard to see how Factivity could be wrong. If you do not have warrant to assert that p is true, you should not believe p. If you should not believe p, you might believe p, but you could not believe 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, Factivity is true. It is puzzling that more people do not find this general line of argument more attractive. My guess is that they don’t find it attractive because they think that one or more of the objections to Factivity we’ve discussed is decisive. Having dealt with those objections, I hope the reader will reconsider. Although it is controversial, I think assertion is governed by the following norm: (WT) You should not assert p unless p is true. This is an obvious commitment of the knowledge account of assertion since the knowledge account tells us that we should never assert what we do not know to be true.31 It is also obviously a commitment of the truth account of assertion, the account that identifies (WT) as the fundamental norm of assertion.32 The obvious argument for Factivity is the argument that derives (T) from the combined assumptions of (W) and (WT) and then derives Factivity by means of the additional assumptions that justification is a deontological notion and that there’s no norm that takes precedence over (T). 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. (W) 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. So, it seems that if there is a problem with the argument for (T), the problem has to do with (WT) rather than (W). While this strikes me as a reasonable theoretical rationale for (W), there is another route to Factivity to consider. If assertion is governed by (WT), it seems that the following principle is true: 9
(ENM) 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.33 If someone’s assertion convinces you that p is true when in fact p is false, you have suffered an epistemic harm. So, if (ENM) 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 (ENM), 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. It is controversial whether knowledge is necessary for warranted assertion. It is more widely thought 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 (ENM) with (KSW) 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, (ENM) says that you cannot have sufficient warrant to assert that (1) or (2) is true. It follows from this and (KSW) 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 potential explanation is that your belief in (1) and (2) cannot be justified unless p is true. I cannot see how this explanation could be right unless Factivity is true. 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 potential explanation is that your belief in (1) and (2) cannot be true unless p is true. This explanation clearly assumes that Factivity is true. The third potential explanation is that you cannot believe (1) and (2) unless p is true. 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. Neither of these last two explanations invoke Factivity, but neither of them is the slightest bit plausible. There’s no reason to think that someone is incapable of believing (1) or (2) just because p is false. There’s no reason to think that someone will be in a Gettier case whenever p is false but they believe with sufficient justification that (1) and (2) are true. Thus, 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 epistemically permissible belief. Thus, if epistemic justification is a deontological notion in the seemingly trivial sense that you shouldn’t 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 10
seems that our best accounts of warranted assertion are committed to Factivity.34 If accepting our assertions causes our audience to suffer an 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 of this surprising fact assume Factivity. If these arguments fail to convince, it is likely because the reader is not already convinced that truth is necessary for warranted assertion. If the reader concedes that the arguments above show that she has to choose between (WT) and Factivity, I will have succeeded in the modest aim of convincing the reader that Factivity deserves serious consideration as Factivity is entailed by the knowledge account of assertion without being susceptible to some of the more persuasive objections to that account. In the paper’s final section, I shall offer a final argument for Factivity and the intuitions that support this argument should provide intuitive support for (WT). 3. ACTIONABLE INTELLIGENCE In this section, I shall argue that anyone who violates (T) also violates (A): (T) You should not believe p unless p is true. (A) You should not believe p if it is not proper for you to treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some p-dependent choice. If this is right, we have another argument for Factivity. It seems that if you should not include the belief that p in deliberation for epistemic reasons, p is not the sort of thing that you should believe in the first place. It is not as if there are two processes of normative assessment, one that determines whether it is permissible to believe p and one that determines whether it might be permissible to treat p as a reason for the purposes of deliberation. If you should not believe p, you might be reasonable in believing p, but you could not believe with justification. Anyone who violates (T) violates (A). This is because among the norms that govern beliefs is this norm that enjoins us to exclude falsehoods from deliberation: (AT) You should not treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some p-dependent choice if ~p.35 While I will not offer an account of actionable intelligence here, I will argue justification accounts of actionable intelligence are not stable alternatives to accounts that accommodate (AT): (AJ) It is proper to treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some p-dependent choice if you justifiably believe p.36 While I’m inclined to agree with those who say that there is something almost trivial to the suggestion that whatever it is that ensures that you have a justified belief that p is the case ought to ensure that there is a permission to treat p as a reason for action or premise in deliberation, these justification accounts only deliver the right verdicts if they accommodate (AT). Thus, if you accept (AJ), you ought to accept Factivity as well. Suppose (AT) is true. For reasons discussed in the previous section, it follows from (AT) and (A) that false beliefs might be excusably held, but not justified. In this section, I shall argue that we need (AT) to make sense of our moral intuitions. Intuition suggests that an agent’s mistaken beliefs can excuse an action. Theoretical considerations suggest that if an agent’s failure to do what she should stems from a non-culpably mistaken belief, the mistaken beliefs that either figure in an
agent’s deliberations or the mistaken belief that the agent ought to pursue some course of action is itself unjustified. Let’s start with an example: Loan Shark 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.37 Suppose the story continues as follows: A 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. Concerning Loan Shark A, it seems natural to say this: (*) Peacock would act rightly if she decided to do nothing or intervened on behalf of the man Mustard intends to shoot (i.e., on behalf of Green’s twin). Suppose the story had unfolded differently: B 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. Concerning Loan Shark B, it seems intuitive to say: (**) Peacock would only act rightly if she decided to do nothing or intervened on behalf of Mustard. What explains these intuitions? It seems that part of the reason that the range of permissible options open to Peacock differs in these stories is that Mustard loses the right to non-interference in Loan Shark A but not in Loan Shark B. Someone might say that the fact that Peacock is permitted to use force to intervene shows that Mustard’s intended course of action in Loan Shark A is impermissible, but I’m not quite convinced that this is right.38 It isn’t obvious to me that it’s wrong to use force to prevent someone from pursuing a course of action they are nevertheless permitted to pursue. Instead, I think the thing to say is this. If an agent’s actions are wrongful, it is wrongful to assist them in carrying out those actions. Since it would be wrongful for Peacock to assist in Loan Shark A but not in Loan Shark B, this further principle about permissible assistance suggests that Mustard’s intended courses of action in Loan Shark A and Loan Shark B do differ in deontic status. The action in Loan Shark A is excusable at best. The action in Loan Shark B was regrettable, but justified on grounds of self-defense. 12
There are further ways to bolster the intuition. 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 that 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: (***) 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 (***) is true. If, however, her duty to Peacock is a duty of reparation, it is easy to see why (***) is true. However, duties of reparation are duties to respond to previous wrongs. I don’t see that a view that denies (AT) 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 (*), (**), and (***) provide us with an argument for (AT). These intuitions suggest that Mustard’s conduct in Loan Shark A was impermissible and that White’s conduct was impermissible as well. They ought to be excused if their relevant mistaken beliefs were reasonably held, but the fact that these beliefs were reasonably held does not prevent us from saying that there was a decisive reason for them to refrain from doing what they did that they failed to respond to in the way that they should have. In other words, it seems that given (*), (**), and (***), the natural thing to say is that: (1) Mustard and White acted impermissibly in Loan Shark A. Both Mustard and White acted on their beliefs that they should do what they did. What does (1) tell us about the deontic status of their respective normative beliefs? Consider the normative requirement that enjoins us to be enkratic: (E) If you believe that you should Φ and it’s not the case that you shouldn’t believe you should Φ, it’s not the case that you shouldn’t Φ.39 If this is a valid normative requirement, we can say that once we’ve established that Mustard and White acted impermissibly, we’ve established that the beliefs their beliefs that they should do just what they were doing are beliefs neither of them should have formed. In other words, it follows from (1) that: (2) If Mustard and White both believed that they should perform the actions they performed, their beliefs were unjustified. Boiled down to its essentials, here is the argument for Factivity. Suppose there is a situation in which S knows she oughtn’t Φ if ~p, S knows she’s permitted to Φ if p, S quite reasonably believes p, but ~p. If S’s belief that p is reasonably held, S’s acting on the belief that p 13
and thereby Φ-ing might be excused but S’s Φ-ing cannot be justified. What of S’s belief? S can justifiably believe p only if (i) there is no reason for her not to believe p or (ii) the reasons that S has not to believe p are defeated. It would seem that if (ii) is true, the reasons that (allegedly) justify believing p that (allegedly) defeat whatever reasons there are not to believe p would justify acting on the belief that p. However, given our assumptions, there’s nothing that justifies acting on the belief that p, so it seems we can rule out (ii). It would seem that if (i) is true, the reasons not to Φ do not provide so much as a reason not to believe p in spite of providing decisive reasons not to act on the belief that p. However, the reasons not to act on the belief that p would provide reasons not to believe p if (E) is a genuine normative requirement. As (E) is a genuine normative requirement, it seems we can rule out (i). Thus, S’s belief that p might be held excusably, but it cannot be justified. Earlier, we saw that there were some who think that beliefs and actions might be governed by norms and that the actions and beliefs might be justified even if they fail to conform to those norms. In the passage quoted earlier, we saw that Bird endorses the view that there can be justified beliefs that do not constitute knowledge, but he also believes that knowledge is the norm of belief. He is hardly alone in this. Gibbons, Huemer, and Williamson also say that knowledge is the norm of belief but deny that knowledge that p is true is necessary for justifiably believing that p is true. Similarly, Conee and Feldman suggest that we have a goal of believing only what is true but deny that the truth of a belief is necessary for it to be permissibly held. I doubt that they think that the goal of avoiding false beliefs is an optional goal, so perhaps they would agree that belief is governed by (T) but agree with the authors I’ve mentioned in thinking that justified beliefs need not conform to the norms that govern belief. We can now see why intuition causes trouble for this sort of view. It seems that you should never act against an undefeated reason and that you should never believe p when there is an undefeated reason that demands that you refrain from believing. When these authors claim that there are epistemic norms that enjoin us to refrain from believing falsehoods and these norms are formulated in terms of what we ‘ought’ or ‘should’ refrain from believing it seems that they cannot really think that there are justified false beliefs since justified beliefs are permissibly held beliefs. One way to try to make sense of what seems to be an incoherent set of views is to say (i) that epistemic norms provide reasons, say, to refrain from believing what is false, what we do not know, or what we lack adequate evidence to believe and (ii) that a belief can never be justified when there is an undefeated reason that demands that the subject abandons the belief because (iii) the reasons associated with these norms are reasons to try rather than reasons to succeed. Provided that you do everything that can be expected of you to conform to the norms governing belief, the reasons associated with these norms demand nothing further. Thus, the justification of a belief does not depend upon whether you have successfully conformed to these norms and the epistemic assessment we need to carry out in order to determine whether a belief is justified is, as Bird suggests, a matter of assessing how the subject tried to conform to the norms governing belief rather than the external facts that determine whether they tried and thereby succeeded in conforming to the norms governing belief. The problem with (iii) emerges when we think about what happens in the wake of a subject’s failed attempt to conforming to some norm. If these subjects did everything that the reasons demanded of them in trying to conform to the relevant norms, how can someone who accepts (iii) explain the intuitive judgments that suggest that these agents nevertheless engaged in wrongdoing? If among the things that the reasons demanded was that the agent did things differently, it does not seem to be in general true that reasons are reasons only to try. If practical reasons are reasons that demand full conformity, there might be some reason to think that theoretical reasons differ from practical reasons in this respect, but I think Gibbons is right that at a 14
certain level of abstraction we ought to expect that practical and theoretical reasons are similar since they are both reasons.4041 To resist the argument’s conclusion, someone might object that (E) is not a valid normative requirement if it is interpreted in the way it must be for my argument to work. The worry is that my argument works only if an epistemic ‘ought’ can be derived from a non-epistemic ‘ought’. So, while (E) seems intuitive and may be true on a particular reading, it is not true on a reading that would allow us to infer (2) from (1). Consider two ways of reading (E): (E1) (SBOmΦ & ~SOm~BOmΦ) ~SOm~Φ (E2) (SBOmΦ & ~SOe~BOmΦ) ~SOm~Φ On the first reading, (E1), someone morally oughtn’t judge that they ought to Φ when they are morally obliged to refrain from Φ-ing. On the second, (E2), someone epistemically oughtn’t judge that they should Φ when they are morally obliged to refrain from Φ-ing. We can state the worry as follows. My argument requires (E2), and while (E) is intuitive, it is (E1) captures the kernel of truth contained in (E). There are a number of things to say in response to this worry. According to (E1), all that follows from the fact that S oughtn’t Φ for, say, moral reasons, is that S is under a moral obligation to refrain from believing that she ought to Φ. According to (E2), it follows from the fact that S morally oughtn’t Φ that S epistemically oughtn’t believe that she should Φ. It seems relatively uncontroversial that (E) is a genuine normative requirement. The suggestion that there can either be non-epistemic reasons in virtue of which you can be non-epistemically obliged to refrain from believing or epistemic reasons in virtue of which you can be epistemically obliged to act in accordance with your normative judgments seems rather implausible. While this proposal, if true, would undermine my argument for Factivity, it is hard to see how this view could accommodate the intuition that someone who violates (E) is a way that they oughtn’t be as I doubt that those who have the intuition are inclined to accept (E) because they believe in moral reasons not to believe or epistemic reasons to act. Moreover, I don’t think that (E1) is all that plausible. If I’m right and there is not typically a moral obligation to refrain from believing that you should Φ whenever there is a moral obligation to refrain from Φ-ing, then typically the antecedent of (E1) will be true whenever the agent happens to believe that she morally ought to Φ. However, I take it that it is not true in each of these cases that S is permitted to Φ. Think about Loan Shark A. Mustard believes he ought to fire on the man approaching. If, like me, you think he morally should do no such thing but you do not believe that morally he ought to refrain from believing this, you have to say that Loan Shark A shows that (E1) is false. If this much is correct, I don’t think someone can say that (E) is true only when read as (E1). To see why (E2) is the right reading of (E), consider a case in which a subject knows that she shouldn’t Φ. She knows all of the relevant internal and external facts in virtue of which she shouldn’t Φ. Suppose she also knows that she shouldn’t judge that she should Φ. If this subject is anything like me, she will also think that the reasons in virtue of which she morally shouldn’t Φ are reasons in virtue of which she epistemically shouldn’t judge that she should Φ. This is in the good case, the case where the subject knows pretty much everything there is to know that matters. Consider a second subject in the bad case, a case where the subject is mistaken about the external surroundings. Her mistaken beliefs are all about non-normative matters and all her beliefs about non-normative matters are mistaken. It might be that owing to such factual ignorance the subject doesn't know what reasons bear on whether to act or not, but it doesn’t seem to follow from the fact that the subject suffers from factual ignorance that the relations between the reasons that bear on whether to act and whether to believe she should act differ from the relations that these reasons
stand in had this subject been in the good case. If these relations varied between the good case and bad, the subject’s knowledge of the relations between the reasons in these cases would not be apriori knowledge, but knowledge that depended, inter alia, upon knowledge of those contingent matters of fact that bear on whether to act. I take it, however, that the subject’s knowledge of the relations between the reasons that bear on whether to Φ and whether to judge that she should Φ is independent from this empirical knowledge. If these points are both correct (i.e., that in the good case the reasons that bear on whether to Φ are just the reasons that bear on whether to believe to Φ and that in bad cases the relation between the reasons that bear on whether to believe and whether to act don’t change), then it seems whether the subject is in the good or bad case the subject knows that the reasons that bear on whether to act and whether to believe she should act are just the same thing. If one is inaccessible in the bad case, so is the other. If one is accessible in the bad case, so is the other. To deny (E) understood as (E2), it seems you'd either have to (i) deny that in the case of full information the subject doesn’t know that the reasons that bear on action and belief are the same or (ii) say that an agent’s ignorance changes that relations between the reasons that bear on whether to act or believe. As (i) seems to be something we observe to be correct and the denial of (ii) seems rather implausible, perhaps we should just accept (E2). To sum up, mistaken beliefs can often serve as excusing conditions but they serve as excusing conditions for action only if the mistaken beliefs themselves are beliefs that the subject shouldn’t have. If, in deliberating about whether to Φ where Φ-ing would be a p-dependent choice, there are decisive reasons to refrain from deliberating from the belief that p, there are decisive reasons to refrain from believing p. I should add that if the arguments in this section show that (AJ) entails (AT), similar arguments should support (WT) and the argument from (WT) to Factivity. If a subject shouldn’t Φ, the reasons that constitute decisive reasons for the subject not to Φ provide decisive reasons for speakers not to tell this subject that she should Φ. Are these non-epistemic reasons to refrain from saying that the subject should Φ? Perhaps, but there will also be epistemic reasons to refrain from asserting that the subject should Φ for pretty much the same reason that we should accept (E2). The only plausible explanations as to why you should not assert that S should Φ when S shouldn’t Φ assume (W). Given (AT), we can infer (WT). Given (WT) and (W), we can infer (T). Given (T), we can say that there are no false, justified beliefs. 4. CONCLUSION I’ve tried to show that there are two routes to Factivity. If truth is necessary for warranted assertion, truth is necessary for justified belief. The reasons that count against asserting something false count against forming the false beliefs. If there is a decisive case against asserting falsehoods, there is a decisive case against believing falsehoods. While this line of argument seems to me to be promising, it does not seem to me to be particularly deep. The more fundamental argument for Factivity is the argument that focuses on belief’s deliberative role. We’ve seen that there’s some reason to think that an agent’s acting on a non-culpably mistaken belief might be grounds for an excuse if the agent fails to live up to her obligations, but it does not show that her actions were justified. This point cannot be granted by someone who thinks that there can be false, justified beliefs because someone who denies Factivity would then have to say that the justification of a belief would not depend upon whether the belief is properly included in deliberation. We use the concept of justification to distinguish those beliefs that can properly figure in deliberation from those that cannot, and so once we’ve established that false beliefs cannot do what beliefs are supposed to do in deliberation (i.e., correctly represent the reasons that bear on whether to conclude deliberation in one way rather than another) we’ve established that the false belief is not 16
something that can be justified. When acting on the mistaken belief that p, having an excuse for the belief is the best we can hope for.
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Langsam, H. 2008. Rationality, Justification, and the Internalism/Externalism Debate. Erkenntnis 68: 79-101. Littlejohn, C. Forthcoming a. The Externalist’s Demon. Canadian Journal of Philosophy. ____. Forthcoming b. Moore’s Paradox and Epistemic Norms. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. ____. Forthcoming c. Must We Act Only on What We Know? Journal of Philosophy. Lowy, C. 1978. Gettier’s Notion of Justification. Mind 87: 105-8. Moore, M. 1993. Placing Blame. New York: Oxford University Press. Moser, P. 1989. Knowledge and Evidence. New York: Cambridge University Press. Neta, R. forthcoming. Treating Something as a Reason for Action. Nous. Robinson, P. 1996. Competing Theories of Justification: Deeds v. Reasons. In A. Simester and A. Smith (eds.), Harm and Culpability. New York: Oxford University Press. Scanlon, T. 2008. Moral Dimensions. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Shah, N. and D. Velleman. 2005. ‘Doxastic Deliberation’. Philosophical Review 114: 497-534. Southwood, N. 2008. Vindicating the Normativity of Rationality. Ethics 119: 9-30. Steglich-Petersen, A. 2006. No Norm Needed: On the Aim of Belief. Philosophical Quarterly 56: 499-516. Steup, M. 1999. A Defense of Internalism. In L. Pojman (ed.), The Theory of Knowledge. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. Strawson, P. 1962. Freedom and Resentment. Proceedings of the British Academy 48: 1-25. Sutton, J. 2005. Stick To What You Know. Nous 39: 359-96. Wedgwood, R. 2002a. Internalism Explained. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65: 349-69. ____. 2002b. The Aim of Belief. Philosophical Perspectives 16: 267-97. Weiner, M. 2005. Must We Know What We Say? Philosophical Review 114: 227-51. Williams, B. 1978. Ethical Consistency. In J. Raz (ed.) Practical Reasoning, Oxford University Press, pp. 91-110. Williamson, T. 2000. Knowledge and its Limits. (New York: Oxford University Press).
Parts of this paper were presented at the Eastern APA last year. Thanks to Emily Given for her comments. Thanks also to Philippe Chuard, Mylan Engel, John Gibbons, Robert Howell, Leo Iacono, Bruce Russell, Jonathan Sutton, Steve Sverdlik, John Turri, and three anonymous referees also provided really helpful feedback. 2 Cohen (1984: 281). Conee and Feldman (2004) offer essentially the same objection. Jackson (forthcoming) alleges that if Factivity were true we couldn’t have beliefs justified by inductive inference. His objection to Factivity fares no better than Cohen’s. We know his objection cannot work because you can have inductive knowledge. If you identify justified beliefs with items of knowledge, you could say both that we have justified beliefs formed by means of inductive inference and that every justified belief is, inter alia, a true belief. If you reject this identification because you think that there is less to justified beliefs than items of knowledge, you still can consistently say that there are justified beliefs formed by means of inductive inference and that there are no false, justified beliefs. What you cannot do is add the further assumption that S’s belief that p is justified and formed by means of inductive inference only if anyone who believes p on the basis of S’s inductive grounds forms a justified belief. These authors are right that it does not follow from the fact that S justifiably believes p that a description of the subject’s justification or the subject’s reasons for believing entails that p is true. What these authors miss is that it does not follow from the fact that S justifiably believes p that a description of the subject’s justification or the 18
subject’s reasons for believing that the subject’s belief is justified. We should not assume from the outset that it is impossible for two subjects to believe p for just the same reasons with only one subject justifiably believing p. Couldn’t situations arise where there are reasons for one of these subjects to refrain from believing that are not reasons for the other subject to refrain from believing? Isn’t the justification of a belief going to be determined both by facts about the subject’s reasons for believing and facts about reasons for the subject to refrain from believing? One of points I hope to establish in this discussion is that there are reasons to refrain from believing that do not strongly supervene upon a subject’s mental states and so we should not expect that it is necessarily the case that two subjects that come to believe p for just the same reason will thereby form beliefs with the same justificatory status. 3 If someone defines infallibilism as the view that S’s belief that p is justified only if p, then Factivity is committed to infallibilism but it is not obvious that infallibilism, so understood, leads to skepticism. If someone defines infallibilism as the view that S’s belief that p is justified only if S’s evidence entails p, then Williamson is committed to infallibilism because Williamson identifies a subject’s evidence with the propositions that subject knows to be true. Although Dodd (2007) has argued that Williamson is committed to skepticism because of his commitment to this version of infallibilism, I think he is mistaken. (It is interesting to note that some of Williamson’s critics say that p is justifiably believed by S only if p is part of S’s evidence and it seems that his critics are committed to a kind of infallibilism that says that S cannot justifiably believe p unless S’s evidence entails that p is the case. (Comesaña and Kantin (forthcoming) and Fantl and McGrath (forthcoming) defend this view about the relationship between evidence and justified belief.) If Unger (1972) and Williamson (2000) are right that all evidence must consist of truths, these authors are committed to Factivity. This argument for Factivity is something to discuss later as we don’t have the space to give the issue careful consideration here. The infallibilist thesis that seems to lead to skepticism is the infallibilist thesis Cohen (1988) discusses, which is that S knows that p on the basis of e only if e entails p. It doesn’t seem that Factivity is committed to this sort of infallibilist view. 4 Sutton (2005) defends this view. 5 Here are two views committed to Factivity that I think generate no untoward skeptical consequences. According to the first, S’s belief that p is justified iff S’s belief that p is true is based on something that shows that p is true and S can reasonably take it to be that she is cognizant of something that shows that p. You can show that p is true by pointing to considerations that do not themselves entail that p is true, but you cannot show that p is true unless p is true. On this view, there can be no false, justified beliefs. To show that this view leads to the skeptical conclusion that none of our beliefs are justified, someone has to argue for the skeptical conclusion that there is nothing that we are cognizant of that shows that our beliefs are correct. According to the second view, S’s belief that p is justified iff that belief faithfully and faultlessly represents how things are. Your belief cannot faithfully represent how things are unless it is true. To show that this view leads to the skeptical conclusion that none of our beliefs are justified, someone has to argue for the skeptical conclusion that none of our beliefs are both true and reasonably assumed to be true. I cannot decide which of these two views I prefer, but I prefer them to the knowledge account. According to the knowledge account, if your belief that p is true fails to constitute knowledge for any reason at all, you are obliged to refrain from believing p. Fake barn cases seem like pretty good counterexamples to this sort of view. If someone sees a barn and believes correctly that what they see is a barn, it seems that they are not obliged to refrain from believing that there is a barn before them if they are reasonable in believing that there is a barn in front of them given their evidence. 19
There are important differences between internalist views such as mentalism that say that the conditions that determine whether our beliefs are justified are limited to those that strongly supervene upon our mental states and access internalist views that say that justifiers are things we have special access to, but the differences do not matter much for our discussion. 7 Steup (1999: 375). 8 Alston (1988: 257). 9 Ginet (1975: 28). 10 Alston (1989: 98). 11 As noted by Audi (1993: 28) and Wedgwood (2002a: 349). 12 There are passages in which Conee and Feldman seem to deny that they defend a deontological theory of justification, but there are also passages where they assert the view that I’ve described as a version of the deontological theory. In fact, they assert something stronger than I think is defensible when they write, “We hold the general view that one epistemically ought to have the doxastic attitudes that fit one’s evidence. We think that being epistemically obligatory is equivalent to being epistemically justified” (2004: 87). Perhaps they only mean to distance themselves from the view that in epistemology the right is prior to the good. 13 Moser (1989: 39) alleges that this is so. There is some debate as to whether there can be proper attributions of blame in spite of the fact that the agent’s actions or attitudes are justified, but we need not enter into this debate. 14 See Gardner (2007: 121-41) and Horder (2004: 103) for discussion of the differences between excuses and denials of responsibility. Strawson (1962) recognized a similar distinction, but he referred to denials of responsibility as ‘exemptions’. 15 I take it that his targets include both reliabilist views and more radical externalist views that incorporate Factivity. 16 Cohen (1984: 284). Audi (2001), Gibbons (forthcoming), Huemer (2006), and Langsam (2008) also say that reasonable beliefs or beliefs rationally held are justified beliefs. 17 Bird (2007), Sutton (2005), Unger (1972), and Williamson (2000) think that belief is governed by the knowledge norm and they formulate the norm in such a way that the norm enjoins us to refrain from believing whatever we do not know. Since knowledge entails truth, they also think that belief is governed by (T). Boghossian (2003), Shah and Velleman (2004), Steglich-Petersen (2006), and Wedgwood (2002b) all defend the view (T) governs belief. Some authors distinguish between subjective and objective readings of ‘should’ and ‘ought’. Because I defend a deontological theory of justification according to which S’s belief that p cannot be justified if S oughtn’t believe p, the question naturally arises as to whether this should be read in an objective or subjective sense. When I say ‘If S oughtn’t believe p, S’s belief that p cannot be justified’, I intend the ‘ought’ to be as objective as the ‘ought’ that figures in the formulation of the norms of assertion. When I use the term ‘justified’, I intend that to be as objective as the notion that figures in the debates between traditional externalists (e.g., the reliabilists like Goldman (1986) and proper-functionalists like Bergmann (2006)) and the traditional internalists (e.g., the evidentialists like Feldman (1988)). 18 For defenses, see Boghossian (2003), Shah and Velleman (2004), and Wedgwood (2002b). 19 For example, see Steglich-Petersen (2006). He thinks (T) governs belief, but he rejects the normativity thesis. 20 If Williamson (2000) is right and these norms derive from the norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing what we do not know, (T) still governs belief and the evidential norms would give us reason to refrain from believing what we are not in a position to know but if (K) is formulated as 20
a prohibition it seems that the derivative evidential norm would not give us reasons that demanded that we believe falsehoods for the same sort of reasons that (T) would not give rise to reasons to believe falsehoods that would defeat whatever reasons we had to refrain from believing falsehoods. 21 For discussion, see Williams (1978). See also Adler’s (2002: 69) discussion of the differences between practical and theoretical deliberation. 22 Bird (2007: 95). Just to be clear, Bird believes that belief is governed by (T) because he believes that belief is governed by a norm that enjoins us to refrain from believing what we do not know. Along with Williamson (2000), Bird thinks that a justified belief can violate this norm even if there is no overriding reason to violate this norm. 23 Perhaps this is too quick. Perhaps the permissibility of Φ-ing depends upon whether there are undefeated reasons that the subject is cognizant of or that the subject should be cognizant of. I shall later argue that ignorance and mistaken beliefs ought to be regarded as excusing conditions for action and should also be regarded as excusing conditions for belief. 24 If there is a reason for S to Φ, S has not conformed until S Φ’s. Someone could hold the view that reasons are, typically, reasons to succeed and so a reason for you to Φ is a reason to successfully bring it about that you Φ. Alternatively, someone could adopt a view on which reasons to Φ are, typically, reasons to try to Φ. For a discussion of the relationship between reasons to succeed and reasons to try, see Gardner (2004). He defends the view that reasons are reasons are typically reasons to succeed and it is not surprising that if you ought to Φ, justification depends upon whether the agent successfully Φ’s. Someone could hold, as Dancy (1999) does, that the only reasons that bear on whether someone should Φ are reasons that pass through some sort of ‘epistemic filter’, but the objections I present to the view that treats reasons as reasons to try apply to this sort of view as well. 25 This is not the place to give a full defense of the view that belief is governed by (T). Some argue that we need to assume that belief is governed by (T) to understand the transparency of belief to truth. See Shah and Velleman (2004). Some have argued that we can explain the sense in which true beliefs are correct and false beliefs are incorrect by pointing to the fact that belief is governed by (T). Some argue that we need to assume that belief is governed by (T) to explain the incoherence of certain Moorean absurd beliefs (e.g., the belief that I believe p but ~p). See Littlejohn (forthcoming b). 26 In Littlejohn (forthcoming a), I argue that we can use the personal/doxastic justification distinction to make sense of the intuitions of internalists and externalists. In that paper, I also explain what the distinction amounts to and address critics (e.g., Kvanvig and Menzel (1990) who think that there is no real difference between personal and doxastic justification. 27 Audi (2001: 23). 28 Lowy (1978) uses this distinction to defend Gettier from critics who thought that his cases were not genuine counterexamples to the JTB analysis. This distinction was later used by Bach (1985) and Engel (1992) to address critics like Cohen (1984) who say that externalist accounts of justification cannot accommodate the intuition that the subject that is systematically deceived is justified in believing what she does. Moore (1997) argues that we need to distinguish justified agents from justified acts to make sense of cases of ‘imperfect’ self-defense, a case in which a subject would have acted rightly by taking the means she believes necessary to defend herself when she is in fact in no danger at all. 29 Kvanvig and Menzel (1990) argue that ascriptions of doxastic and personal justification are logically equivalent, and if they were right, this would undermine my strategy for defending of Factivity. Their arguments, if sound, would show that ‘S’s Φ-ing is F’ is true iff ‘S is F in Φ-ing’. 21
It seems perfectly sensible to me to think that someone’s Φ-ing could have been indefensible even though the subject can be defended for having Φ’d. If that’s right, this suggests that their argument proves too much. If someone grants this point about defensible agents and defensible acts but insists that it is a different matter when it comes to justification, they cannot offer Kvanvig and Menzel’s arguments and they need to explain the difference between the defensible and the justified. 30 Adler (2002), Kvanvig (forthcoming), and Sutton (2005) defend this thesis. Kvanvig thinks that the knowledge account of assertion is false because knowledge is not necessary for justified belief but thinks that justified beliefs are beliefs we have warrant for asserting are true. Sutton thinks that the knowledge account of justified belief is true, in part, because he thinks that knowledge is necessary for warranted assertion and thinks that the same epistemic standards are used to evaluate belief and assertion. 31 Adler (2002), DeRose (2002), Hawthorne (2004), Slote (1979), Stanley (2005) Sutton (2005), Williamson (1996), and Unger (1975) defend the view that knowledge is the norm of assertion. It isn’t clear whether Adler accepts Factivity or not. Sutton identifies justified beliefs with items of knowledge, so he does endorse Factivity. The arguments in this section suggest that these authors cannot have it both ways. Either knowledge is not needed for warranted assertion or truth is needed for justified belief. 32 Weiner (2005) argues that truth is the norm of assertion, but he denies that truth is necessary for justified belief. The arguments I’m offering in this section seem to show that he cannot have it both ways. 33 The principle needs to be restricted. If I assert that p is true and that pragmatically implies that q is true, it isn’t clear that I’ve violated an epistemic norm by asserting that p is true if q is false. I might have violated a conversational norm, but that’s a different matter. If I say ‘Mustard hasn’t been drunk in days’ and you infer mistakenly that he had been drunk a time or two in the past, I don’t want to say that I’ve violated (ENM) if Mustard has never been drunk. Here’s the fix. If I say that there’s sufficient reason to believe p, it seems someone cannot both believe my assertion and suspend judgment as to whether p, so let’s say that (ENM) enjoins us to refrain from causing those epistemic harms that cannot be avoided on the condition that the subject accepts our assertion. Those harms that can be avoided if only some conversational implicature had been cancelled might be conversationally inappropriate but not epistemically inappropriate. Thanks to an anonymous referee for raising this issue. 34 Of course, not everyone thinks that our best accounts of warranted assertion include those that say that (WT) is a norm that governs assertion. Lackey (2007) criticizes the knowledge and truth accounts of assertion. She criticizes these accounts because she thinks that there is a sense in which it is proper to assert falsehoods when you have good evidence that the false claim is true and she thinks that we shouldn’t distinguish assessments of the speaker from assessments of the speaker’s assertions. I’ve explained why we should distinguish between these two sorts of assessment above and in the next section I’ll try to elicit intuitions that suggest that our best accounts of warranted assertion do incorporate (WT). 35 Because knowledge is factive, (AT) is a consequence of Hawthorne and Stanley’s (2008) account of actionable intelligence. They say that it is proper to treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some p-dependent choice iff you know p (KT). A choice between options x1 … xn is “p-dependent” if and only if the option most preferable of x1 … xn conditional on the proposition p is not the same as the option most preferable of x1 … xn conditional on the proposition that not-p. Arguments for (KT) are arguments for (AT), but for reasons that we 22
cannot get into here, I think we shouldn’t place too much weight on their arguments. In this section, I’m assuming that the agent’s deliberations are p-dependent deliberations. For discussion, see Littlejohn (Forthcoming c). If p is irrelevant to your deliberations, it should be excluded from deliberation for that reason but that’s not a reason to refrain from believing p. If, however, p is relevant to your deliberations but should be excluded from deliberation, I take it that then there is some plausibility to the suggestion that there’s a case to be made against believing p in the first place. 36 Fantl and McGrath (forthcoming) defend the view that p is ‘eligible’ to justify your Φ-ing if p is justifiably believed. Gibbons (forthcoming) defends a similar constraint on reasons for action. Neta (forthcoming) defends something in the neighborhood of (AJ). He thinks that it is proper to treat p as a reason for action when deliberating about some p-dependent choice iff you justifiably believe that you know p. The arguments in this section suggest that these views are not stable alternatives to a view that incorporates (AT) and if these arguments succeed, they show that Neta’s objections to Hawthorne and Stanley’s account constitute counterexamples to his own view. Neta claims that it is proper to treat p as a reason for action if you justifiably believe you know p but claims that you do not need to know that p is true to properly treat p as a reason for action. So do Fantl and McGrath. If (AT) is true, you cannot justifiably believe you know p unless p is something you know. 37 I am borrowing the example from Robinson (1996) making a few minor changes to help with the presentation of the argument. Some of the arguments I offer are inspired by his examples, but I have no reason to assume that he would accept the arguments I am offering. 38 I think this is Robinson’s (1996) view, but consider an example. If someone is about to be killed as a side-effect, it isn’t obvious to me that this subject cannot take defensive measures against a pilot who is permitted to drop the bombs that would kill the subject if dropped. 39 See Broome (1999) for discussion of the difference between norms and normative requirements. See Broome (2001) for a discussion of this particular normative requirement. 40 Herman (1994: 94-112) tries to explain why it is that agent’s who try but fail to bring about some end can still be obliged to try again in the wake of a failure in spite of the (alleged) fact that all normative assessment is assessment of the quality of the agent’s will. (The fact that an agent did all that could be expected but failed to bring about some intended end is not a defect in the agent’s will, so I take it that her view is a version of the view that normative reasons are reasons to try rather than reasons to succeed.) She suggests that when an agent tries to bring it about that she Φ’s, she will of course pursue the means she takes to be necessary to her end and will formulate ‘maxims of response’. Perhaps in the same way that reasons to Φ are reasons to pursue the means necessary to Φ-ing, reasons to Φ are reasons to pursue the maxims of response that prescribe ways of dealing with failed attempts at Φ-ing. It seems there are two problems with Herman’s proposal. First, suppose some tries to Φ but botches things in the way that White did. She cannot do what she intended to do in the wake of her failed attempt because she had intended to protect the innocent when in fact she injured someone who was similarly trying to protect the innocent. Should she respond in the way that I’ve suggested by attending to the injuries that she caused? Of course she should. It seems a stretch to say that whether she (a) struck an innocent person on the mistaken belief that they were engaged in wrongdoing and subsequently offered painkiller to help mitigate the victim’s suffering or (b) struck someone engaged in wrongdoing to protect an innocent person she did in fact do just what the reasons demanded of her as if she did not have more reason to do (b) than (a). Second, suppose someone tries to Φ botches things when she is right to Φ but under no duty to Φ. It seems that this is also White’s situation. If an agent pursues an optional 23
end, perhaps by willing the end at t1 they thereby will the necessary means and formulate some maxims of response, but at t2 they fail, it seems that so far as the reasons are concerned they are free to either give it another go or just revise her ends. (Perhaps I oughtn’t Φ while refusing to take the means necessary to success and perhaps I oughtn’t Φ without formulating a maxim of response, but just as I’m free to revise my ends rather than pursue the means, it seems if there’s no reason that demands that I Φ in the first place, I’m free to refrain from acting on maxims of response if I simply decide to give up on Φ-ing.) It does not seem that White is free to wash her hands of the situation having caused the injury. While someone like Herman who thinks that all normative appraisal is of the agent’s will can say that there are positive obligations to promote certain ends, the thing that we want explained is how it could come to be that White has a special duty to the party that she injured. This seems to be a duty of reparation, not mere beneficence. Identifying it as such, we have to identify a past wrong and it seems that if all normative assessment is of the agent’s will, there is no defect in White’s will that we can identify that led her to strike the innocent subject. 41 My argument from (A) and (AT) to Factivity does not support Factivity in full generality. It supports the limited claim if it would be impermissible to act on the belief that p if ~p, you cannot justifiably believe p if ~p. The conclusion of this argument is nevertheless significant because the standard views of epistemic justification do not say that the epistemic standards that apply to our beliefs vary depending upon whether it is permissible to act on those beliefs. If the above argument is sound, we have a sound argument against standard internalist and externalist views of justified belief insofar as these views classify too many false beliefs as justified. If these views are correct insofar as the epistemic standards that determine whether our beliefs are permissibly held are the same regardless of whether it happens to be that acting on those beliefs will lead us to act impermissibly or not, we can say that if the argument above is sound, false beliefs are never justified.