«Assertion, Practical Reasoning, and Epistemic Separabilism Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies Draft – Please Cite Final Version Abstract I argue ...»
I might not necessarily be aware that I am failing to meet the conditions of the RTBNA, and my lack of awareness may be due to factors that I would not normally be expected to take into consideration. In other words, I might have a justified but false belief that I am adhering to the RTBNA, and, in such instances, it seems that we are not liable to criticize someone for making an assertion in such an instance. In other words, we can generate a general problem case for the
JFB-RTBNA: S asserts that p. S does not meet the conditions of the RTBNA (for whatever reason), although S has good reason to think that S does meet those conditions.
One is likely to judge that in such an instance S’s assertion is appropriate.
Again, I might have good reason to suspect that my epistemic support for p is stronger than it actually is. In such cases, the RTBNA alone is unable to explain what is intuitively appropriate about my assertion that p.
Ram Neta (2009) propose another kind of justification norm, again with the goal of providing a more parsimonious replacement for the knowledge norm, this time for practical
JBK-Reasons: Where S's choice is p-dependent9, it is rationally permissible for S to treat the proposition that p as a reason for acting if and only if S justifiably believes that she
Neta claims that JBK-Reasons is superior to the knowledge norm of action because it can account for all of the intuitive judgments that the knowledge norm can capture, as well as our judgments of the JFB and Gettiered cases (since, in both of those cases, the subject justifiably believes that she knows the relevant proposition). The motivation for JBK-Reasons is again to explain a wide range of intuitive judgements of instances of practical reasoning without needing to appeal to epistemic separabilism.
Neta does not specify exactly what it means for one to justifiably believe that one knows a proposition. If Neta is requiring that one forms a belief that one knows a proposition in order to appropriately treat it as a reason for acting, then this requirement seems too demanding; indeed, it seems that we rarely form such beliefs. Furthermore, although we could describe the JFB and Gettiered cases as one in which one forms a belief that one knows the relevant proposition, we certainly do not need to describe the cases in this way. If, on the other hand, Neta is requiring that one merely be propositionally justified in believing that “I know that p” (where one is propositionally justified in believing that p just in case one is in a position such that were one to form the belief that p then it would be a justified belief), then we face the same problem as the norms above, namely that one can have good reason to think that one is adhering to the requirements of JBK-Reasons while actually failing to. Once again, JBK-Reasons faces a JFB case of its own: one might be justified in believing that one is adhering to JBK-Reasons while A choice situation is “p-dependent” just in case one’s preferred choice given that p is true differs from one’s preferred choice given that p is false. The p-dependency condition is included to make sure that only the propriety of acting on propositions that are relevant given one’s situation are under the jurisdiction of the JBK-Reasons norm (see also Fantl and McGrath, 2002; Stanley and Hawthorne, 2008).
violating it, and such cases require that we explain judgments of propriety that cannot be accounted for by JBK-Reasons alone.10 The final proposal I will consider comes from Douven (2006), who proposes what he calls the “rational credibility account” for assertion: “One should assert only what is rationally credible to one” (449). Douven is explicit that he is not in the business of providing a comprehensive theory of rational credibility. Instead, for his purposes a general sketch of rational credibility needs only to fulfil the following conditions: that a theory of rational credibility coheres with our pretheoretic intuitions about what we are rationally credible in believing (457), that what is rationally credible to us is “closed under logical consequence” (458), and that beliefs in lottery propositions such as “this ticket will lose” are not rationally credible (459). Douven takes his rational credibility account to be simpler than the knowledge norm of assertion because it does not need to appeal to any notion of “excuses” for norm violation (480). Douven, then, is in the business of finding a norm of assertion that does not need to appeal to epistemic separabilism.
Douven, like many of the others we have considered thus far, is concerned primarily with accounting for the data that is problematic for the knowledge accounts: the JFB and Gettiered cases. And, like many of the other proposals we have seen, it does seem that the rational credibility account delivers the correct judgments in these cases. However, the problem with the rational credibility account is the same as the problems for the previous accounts: there are Similar concerns apply to a norm that states that one’s assertion or treatment of a proposition p for a reason for acting is epistemically appropriate when one believes that one knows that p, or in which one otherwise takes oneself to be in a position such that one knows that p, etc. Specifically, if such a view requires that one has actually formed a belief that one knows that p, then this norm is going to rule out all of those cases in which one simply didn’t happen to form the relevant belief. Having actually formed the belief that “I know that p”, however, neither seems like something we typically do, nor does it seem relevant to the propriety of our assertions or actions. If the norm requires that we would be merely disposed to form such a belief then we will again be able to have good reason to think we are adhering to such a norm when we are actually violating it. For additional concerns concerning the plausibility of this kind of rule, see Williamson (2000: 260-262).
plausibly instances in which one could be justified in believing that one has adhered to the conditions of the rational credibility account when failing to, since one might have a justified but false belief that something is rationally credible for one when it, in fact, isn’t. Once again, we cannot accommodate judgments of intuitive judgments of epistemic propriety while adhering to epistemic monism. Why, though, should we think that we can be mistaken about what is rationally credible for us? First, note that nothing in Douven’s restrictions on rational credibility entails that we cannot be mistaken about what is rationally credible for us: the factors that make something rationally credible might be ones that we can be mistaken about having11. Second, we might think that a plausible notion of rational credibility is, in fact, one that entails that I can have mistaken beliefs about what is rationally credible to me. For example, Douven places the restriction on rational credibility that lottery beliefs are not rationally credible. However, it would certainly not be odd for someone to think that the proposition “my lottery ticket will lose” is, in fact, rationally credible. Once again, we cannot accommodate judgments of intuitive judgments of epistemic propriety while adhering to epistemic monism.
Again, the proposals of Gerken, Lackey, Neta, and Douven comprise only a few of the many conceptions of a norm of action or assertion out there. However, each of them suffers from the same general problem, i.e. that we can be justified in believing that we have adhered to the norms when we are actually violating them. In such cases, we are faced with the judgement that assertions we make or actions we perform on the basis of our epistemic relationship with the relevant propositions are epistemically appropriate. In such instances, then, the defender of the relevant norm should appeal to a different kind of epistemic evaluation, one that pertains not to For example, we might think that what is rationally credible for me is a function of the total evidence that I have.
If I can have good reason to think that my evidence is different than it actually is, then I can be mistaken about what is rationally credible for me.
whether one has adhered to or violated the given norm, but to a notion that pertains to the way in which one has done so. This is just epistemic separabilism.
5. The Epistemological and the Metaepistemological Epistemic separabilism is what I have called a metaepistemological thesis: it is a claim about the way that we are evaluated when our actions are under the jurisdiction of epistemically constituted norms. Accepting the metaepistemological thesis, however, has epistemological consequences. When applied to the debate surrounding the norms of assertion and practical reasoning, the most salient consequence is that judgments of propriety or impropriety are not necessarily indicative of adherences to or violations of the norm (and thereby an indication that one is not sufficiently epistemically well-positioned towards the relevant proposition), but are potentially indicative of how epistemically well-positioned we are towards the conditions of the norm themselves. As I have argued above, accepting epistemic separabilism does not crowd the conceptual space, does not require us to give conjunctive advice, and cannot be avoided by positing norms that, on first glance, appear to accommodate cases that are problematic for the knowledge norms.
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