, Volume 163, Issue 2, pp 429-452
Date: 30 Sep 2011

Rational self-doubt and the failure of closure

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Abstract

Closure for justification is the claim that thinkers are justified in believing the logical consequences of their justified beliefs, at least when those consequences are competently deduced. Many have found this principle to be very plausible. Even more attractive is the special case of Closure known as Single-Premise Closure. In this paper, I present a challenge to Single-Premise Closure. The challenge is based on the phenomenon of rational self-doubt—it can be rational to be less than fully confident in one’s beliefs and patterns of reasoning. In rough outline, the argument is as follows: Consider a thinker who deduces a conclusion from a justified initial premise via an incredibly long sequence of simple competent deductions. Surely, such a thinker should suspect that he has made a mistake somewhere. And surely, given this, he should not believe the conclusion of the deduction even though he has a justified belief in the initial premise.