Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 8, pp 2043–2066 | Cite as

Second best epistemology: fallibility and normativity

  • Joshua DiPaoloEmail author


The Fallibility Norm—the claim that we ought to take our fallibility into account when managing our beliefs—appears to conflict with several other compelling epistemic norms. To shed light on these apparent conflicts, I distinguish two kinds of norms: norms of perfection and norms of compensation. Roughly, norms of perfection tell us how agents ought to behave if they’re to be perfect; norms of compensation tell us how imperfect agents ought to behave in order to compensate for their imperfections. I argue that the Fallibility Norm is a norm of compensation, and that thinking of it like this helps us make progress in debates surrounding disagreement, higher-order evidence, and coherence.


Fallibility Normativity Imperfection Disagreement Coherence 



I owe thanks to many people for helpful comments, discussion, and encouragement concerning this paper. Thanks are especially due to Hilary Kornblith, Chris Meacham, and Katia Vavova. Thanks also to Jeff Behrends, Asia Ferrin, Bruce Glymour, Scott Hill, Daniel Immerman, Graham Leach-Krouse, Han Li, Jon Mahoney, Luis Oliveira, Gina Schouten, Robert Simpson, Mike Titelbaum, and several anonymous referees. Finally, I’m grateful to Doug Portmore for initiating my reflection on the relationship between ideal and non-ideal theory. As an undergraduate in Doug’s Ethical Theory class in the early 2000s, I made a bad inference about the normative relationship between the ideal world and our non-ideal world. I’ve learned a lot from thinking about the brief discussion I had with Doug as a result of making this inference.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyKansas State UniversityManhattanUSA

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