A number of philosophers have recently claimed that unjustified beliefs can be defeaters. However these claims have been made in passing, occurring in the context of defenses of other theses. As a result, the claim that unjustified beliefs can be defeaters has been neither vigorously defended nor thoroughly explained. This paper fills that gap. It begins by identifying problems with the two most in-depth accounts of the possibility of unjustified defeaters due to Bergmann (Justification without awareness. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006) and Pryor (Philos Issues 14:349–378, 2004). It then offers a revised version of Pryor’s account. On this proposal, an unjustified belief can be a defeater if it is rational, all things considered. If a belief is rational, all things considered, it can require one to abandon other beliefs with which it conflicts—even if it is unjustified. Finally, this paper shows that the proposed account of unjustified defeaters is one that can and should be embraced by leading accounts of justified belief as diverse as reliabilism and evidentialism.
KeywordsIrrational Belief Justify Belief Rational Belief Total Evidence Propositional Justification
Versions of this paper were given at the central meeting of the American Philosophical Association, the Midsouth Philosophy Conference, and the metaphysics and epistemology reading group at Iowa State University. I would like to thank participants at those events for their feedback. For detailed feedback on earlier versions of this paper I would like to thank Michael Bergmann, Sommer Hodson, Stephen Biggs, and two anonymous reviewers of Erkenntnis.
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