Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 11, pp 2835–2858 | Cite as

Respecting all the evidence

  • Paulina Sliwa
  • Sophie HorowitzEmail author


Plausibly, you should believe what your total evidence supports. But cases of misleading higher-order evidence—evidence about what your evidence supports—present a challenge to this thought. In such cases, taking both first-order and higher-order evidence at face value leads to a seemingly irrational incoherence between one’s first-order and higher-order attitudes: you will believe P, but also believe that your evidence doesn’t support P. To avoid sanctioning tension between epistemic levels, some authors have abandoned the thought that both first-order and higher-order evidence have rational bearing. This sacrifice is both costly and unnecessary. We propose a principle, Evidential Calibration, which requires rational agents to accommodate first-order evidence correctly, while allowing rational uncertainty about what to believe. At the same time, it rules out irrational tensions between epistemic levels. We show that while there are serious problems for some views on which we can rationally believe, “P, but my evidence doesn’t support P”, Evidential Calibration avoids these problems. An important upshot of our discussion is a new way to think about the relationship between epistemic levels: why first-order and higher-order attitudes should generally be aligned, and why it is sometimes—though not always—problematic when they diverge.


Higher-order evidence Rationality Reliability Epistemic akrasia Epistemic levels 



This paper has benefitted greatly from helpful feedback and discussion at many earlier stages. We would especially like to thank Roger White, Miriam Schoenfield, and David Christensen. Thanks also to Adam Elga, Josh Schechter, Tom Dougherty, Alex Byrne, Dan Greco, Jennifer Carr, Alan Hazlett, Brian Hedden, Brendan Dill, Jack Marley-Payne, Bernhard Salow, Katia Vavova, Kenny Walden, and Rebecca Millsop, as well as audiences at the MIT Epistemology Group, the 2012 MITing of the Minds conference, the University of Kent, the University of Leeds, the University of Edinburgh, and the University of Cambridge. Special thanks to Stew Cohen for very helpful and extensive written comments on earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  2. 2.Rice UniversityHoustonUSA

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