Dissonance and Doxastic Resistance
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This paper focuses on the puzzling situation of having beliefs that are resistant to one’s own critical reasoning. This phenomenon happens, for example, when an individual does not succeed in eliminating a belief by evaluating it as false. I argue that this situation involves a specific type of irrationality—not yet properly identified in the literature—which I call ‘critical doxastic resistance’. The aim of this paper is to characterize this type of irrationality. Understanding such a phenomenon sheds light on the type of agency that we exercise when we reason critically. Moreover, it illustrates one relevant relationship between agential rational control of our beliefs and the rational functioning of beliefs as being responsive to reasons. I argue that critical doxastic resistance is characterized by a failure to meet the following rational norm: in critical reasoning, the results of evaluative reasoning should automatically transfer into, and be implemented by, the reasoning or beliefs under evaluation.
Thanks to Lucy O’Brien, Manuel de Pinedo, Marian David and Sam Wilkinson for valuable conversations and helpful comments on previous drafts. I’m also grateful to Tyler Burge for numerous discussions and suggestions on the various stages of this work.
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