Epistemic conservatism and bare beliefs
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My subject is the kind of Epistemic Conservatism (EC) that says that an agent is in some measure justified in maintaining a belief simply in virtue of the fact that the agent has that belief. Quine’s alternative to positivist foundationalism, Chisholmian particularism, Rawls’s reflective equilibrium, and Bayesianism all seem to rely on EC. I argue that, in order to evaluate EC, we must consider an agent holding a bare belief, that is, a belief stripped of all personal memory and epistemic context. Taking a stylistic cue from Peter Strawson, I argue that, though it does not seem to be self-contradictory to suppose that someone has a bare belief, and so it is not absolutely inconceivable that bare beliefs exist, it is, for us as we are, practically inconceivable that bare beliefs exist. It does not seem practically feasible, then, to evaluate EC on its own terms.
KeywordsEpistemic conservatism Bare beliefs Beliefs with forgotten justification Connected beliefs Quine Chisholm Rawls Bayesians Intrinsic value Memory
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