Evidentialism in action
Sometimes it is practically beneficial to believe what is epistemically unwarranted. Philosophers have taken these cases to raise the question are there practical reasons for belief? Evidentialists argue that there cannot be any such reasons. Putative practical reasons for belief are not reasons for belief, but (to use a distinction from Pamela Hieronymi) reasons to manage our beliefs in a particular way. Pragmatists are not convinced. They accept that some (or perhaps all) reasons for belief are practical. The debate, it is widely thought, is at an impasse. But this debate fails to address what is puzzling and interesting about the cases. By focusing on reasons for belief, the debate completely overlooks the role of action in relation to belief. We should be talking about the reasons for actions that shape our beliefs, which I will call belief management. I argue for three related theses: (1) the interesting cases that motivate the debate are about belief management; (2) Evidentialism is irrelevant to belief management; (3) agents have practical reasons to manage their beliefs with the aim of forming true beliefs. These reasons are categorical in nature and result in the tension of conflict cases.
KeywordsEthics of belief Evidentialism Pragmatism Practical reasons for belief Philosophy of action
This paper received generous feedback at many venues, and I am grateful to more people than I can name. I am especially thankful to Baron Reed, Selim Berker, James Fritz, Jessica Wright, Luis Rosa, Andy Mueller, Andrea Robitzsch, Lisa Benossi, Jakob Ohlhorst, Cory Davia, and an anonymous referee for formative conversations that shaped this paper.
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