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Functional belief and judgmental belief

  • Kate NolfiEmail author
S.I. : The Epistemology of Ernest Sosa


A division between functional (animal) belief, on the one hand, and judgmental (reflective) belief, on the other, is central to Sosa’s two-tier virtue epistemology. For Sosa, mere functional belief is constituted by a first-order affirmation (or, perhaps, a simple disposition to affirm). In contrast, a judgmental belief is an intentional affirmation; a performance which is partially constituted by the believer’s endeavor to affirm truthfully, and reliably enough. If, qua performance, judgmental belief is like the hunter’s shot or the baseball player’s swing, mere functional belief is much more like a heartbeat. This paper explores whether we should accept Sosa’s distinction between mere functional belief and judgmental belief, and, if we should, how recognizing this distinction ought to shape our epistemological theorizing. Accordingly, the first aim of this paper is expository. It is to further clarify Sosa’s contrasting categories of functional belief and judgmental belief and to attempt to characterize explicitly the role that the division between functional belief and judgmental belief plays in Sosa’s two-tier virtue epistemology. The second aim of this paper is more critical. It is to articulate and begin to evaluate a series of concerns regarding whether Sosa’s division between functional belief and judgmental belief is well-founded, and so to explore whether a virtue-theoretic performance epistemology ought to embrace the sort of two-tiered account of cognitive performance that Sosa favors.


Belief Cognitive performance Judgment Reflection Virtue epistemology Epistemic evaluation Cognitive agency 


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of VermontBurlingtonUSA

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