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The Importance of Being Rational

Dissertation, Princeton University (2013)

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  1. The Goals of Moral Worth.Nathan Robert Howard - forthcoming - Oxford Studies in Metaethics.
    While it is tempting to suppose that an act has moral worth just when and because it is motivated by sufficient moral reasons, philosophers have, largely, come to doubt this analysis. Doubt is rooted in two claims. The first is that some facts can motivate a given act in multiple ways, not all of which are consistent with moral worth. The second is the orthodox view that normative reasons are facts. I defend the tempting analysis by proposing and defending a (...)
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  • The Place of Reasons in Epistemology.Kurt Sylvan & Ernest Sosa - 2018 - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity.
    This paper considers the place of reasons in the metaphysics of epistemic normativity and defends a middle ground between two popular extremes in the literature. Against members of the ‘reasons first’ movement, we argue that reasons are not the sole fundamental constituents of epistemic normativity. We suggest instead that the virtue-theoretic property of competence is the key building block. To support this approach, we note that reasons must be possessed to play a role in the analysis of central epistemically normative (...)
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  • Epistemology Without Guidance.Nick Hughes - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    Epistemologists often appeal to the idea that a normative theory must provide useful, usable, guidance to argue for one normative epistemology over another. I argue that this is a mistake. Guidance considerations have no role to play in theory choice in epistemology. I show how this has implications for debates about the possibility and scope of epistemic dilemmas, the legitimacy of idealisation in Bayesian Epistemology, Uniqueness vs. Permissivism, sharp vs. mushy credences, and internalism vs. externalism.
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  • Desire and What It’s Rational to Do.Ashley Shaw - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (4):761-775.
    ABSTRACT It is often taken for granted that our desires can contribute to what it is rational for us to do. This paper examines an account of desire—the ‘guise of the good’— that promises an explanation of this datum. I argue that extant guise-of-the-good accounts fail to provide an adequate explanation of how a class of desires—basic desires—contributes to practical rationality. I develop an alternative guise-of-the-good account on which basic desires attune us to our reasons for action in virtue of (...)
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  • Ambidextrous Reasons (or Why Reasons First's Reasons Aren't Facts).Nathan Robert Howard - 2021 - Philosophers' Imprint 21 (30):1-16.
    The wrong kind of reason (WKR) problem is a problem for attempts to analyze normative properties using only facts about the balance of normative reasons, a style of analysis on which the ‘Reasons First’ programme depends. I argue that this problem cannot be solved if the orthodox view of reasons is true --- that is, if each normative reason is numerically identical with some fact, proposition, or state-of-affairs. That’s because solving the WKR problem requires completely distinguishing between the right- and (...)
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  • Rationality as Reasons-Responsiveness.Benjamin Kiesewetter - 2020 - Australasian Philosophical Review 4 (4):332-342.
    John Broome argues that rationality cannot consist in reasons-responsiveness since rationality supervenes on the mind, while reasons-responsiveness does not supervene on the mind. I here defend this conception of rationality by way of defending the assumption that reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind. Given the many advantages of an analysis of rationality in terms of reasons-responsiveness, and in light of independent considerations in favour of the view that reasons-responsiveness supervenes on the mind, we should take seriously the backup view, a hypothesis (...)
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  • Rationality and Supervenience: A Comment on Broome.Hille Paakkunainen - 2020 - Australasian Philosophical Review 4 (4):321-331.
    ABSTRACT Broome criticizes reasons-responsiveness conceptions of rationality by arguing that while rationality supervenes on non-factive mental states, reasons-responsiveness in the relevant sense does not. I give a limited defence of reasons-responsiveness conceptions of rationality against Broome’s criticisms. I argue that Broome fails to show that reasons-responsiveness conceptions of rationality are barred from regarding non-factive mental duplicates as equally rational in the sorts of ‘New Evil Demon’ scenarios that tend to motivate the intuition that rationality supervenes on non-factive mental states. Still, (...)
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  • Love, Reasons, and Replaceability.Andrea Iacona & José Antonio Díez - forthcoming - Critica.
    Lovers typically entertain two sorts of thoughts about their beloveds. On the one hand, they think that some qualities of their beloveds provide reasons for loving them. Romeo would say that he loves Juliet in virtue of the way she is. On the other hand, they regard their beloveds as irreplaceable. Romeo would never be willing to exchange Juliet with another maiden. Yet it may be asked how these two sorts of thoughts can coherently coexist. If some qualities of Juliet (...)
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  • Being Rational and Being Wrong.Kevin Dorst - manuscript
    Do people tend to be overconfident in their opinions? Many think so. They’ve run studies to test whether people are calibrated: whether their confidence in their opinions matches the proportion of those opinions that are true. Under certain conditions, people are systematically “over-calibrated”—for example, of the opinions they’re 80% confident in, only 60% are true. From this observed over-calibration, it’s inferred that people are irrationally overconfident. My question: When—and why—is this inference warranted? Answering this question requires articulating a general connection (...)
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  • Knowledge-First Evidentialism and the Dilemmas of Self-Impact.Paul Silva Jr & Eyal Tal - forthcoming - In Kevin McCain, Scott Stapleford & Matthias Steup (eds.), Epistemic Dilemmas.
    When a belief is self-fulfilling, having it guarantees its truth. When a belief is self-defeating, having it guarantees its falsity. These are the cases of “self-impacting” beliefs to be examined below. Scenarios of self-defeating beliefs can yield apparently dilemmatic situations in which we seem to lack sufficient reason to have any belief whatsoever. Scenarios of self-fulfilling beliefs can yield apparently dilemmatic situations in which we seem to lack reason to have any one belief over another. Both scenarios have been used (...)
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  • Embracing Incoherence.Claire Field - forthcoming - In Nick Hughes (ed.), Epistemic Dilemmas. Oxford University Press. pp. 1-29.
    Incoherence is usually regarded as a bad thing. Incoherence suggests irrationality, confusion, paradox. Incoherentism disagrees: incoherence is not always a bad thing, sometimes we ought to be incoherent. If correct, Incoherentism has important and controversial implications. It implies that rationality does not always require coherence. Dilemmism and Incoherentism both embrace conflict in epistemology. After identifying some important differences between these two ways of embracing conflict, I offer some reasons to prefer Incoherentism over Dilemmism. Namely, that Incoherentism allows us to deliberate (...)
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  • Respect and the reality of apparent reasons.Kurt L. Sylvan - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (10):3129-3156.
    Rationality requires us to respond to apparent normative reasons. Given the independence of appearance and reality, why think that apparent normative reasons necessarily provide real normative reasons? And if they do not, why think that mistakes of rationality are necessarily real mistakes? This paper gives a novel answer to these questions. I argue first that in the moral domain, there are objective duties of respect that we violate whenever we do what appears to violate our first-order duties. The existence of (...)
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  • Basic Knowledge and the Normativity of Knowledge: The Awareness‐First Solution.Paul Silva - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Many have found it plausible that knowledge is a constitutively normative state, i.e. a state that is grounded in the possession of reasons. Many have also found it plausible that certain cases of proprioceptive knowledge, memorial knowledge, and self-evident knowledge are cases of knowledge that are not grounded in the possession of reasons. I refer to these as cases of basic knowledge. The existence of basic knowledge forms a primary objection to the idea that knowledge is a constitutively normative state. (...)
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  • Knowledge and the Many Norms on Action.James Fritz - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-20.
    If there is pragmatic encroachment in epistemology, whether a person knows that p can vary with normative facts about her actions—including facts that do not bear on the truth or likelihood of p. This paper raises an underappreciated question for defenders of pragmatic encroachment: which of the many norms on action are distinctively connected to knowledge? To the extent that contemporary defenders of pragmatic encroachment address this question, they do so by citing norms of ‘practical rationality.’ I show that this (...)
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  • Sentimentalism About Moral Understanding.Nathan Robert Howard - 2018 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (5):1065-1078.
    Some have attempted to explain why it appears that action based on deferential moral belief lacks moral worth by appealing to claims about an attitude that is difficult to acquire through testimony, which theorists have called “moral understanding”. I argue that this state is at least partly non-cognitive. I begin by employing case-driven judgments to undermine the assumption that I argue is responsible for the strangeness of deferential moral belief: the assumption that if an agent knows that some fact gives (...)
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  • Are Epistemic Reasons Perspective-Dependent?Davide Fassio - 2019 - Philosophical Studies 176 (12):3253-3283.
    This paper focuses on the relation between epistemic reasons and the subject’s epistemic perspective. It tackles the questions of whether epistemic reasons are dependent on the perspective of the subject they are reasons for, and if so, whether they are dependent on the actual or the potential perspective. It is argued that epistemic reasons are either independent or minimally dependent on the subject’s epistemic perspective. In particular, I provide three arguments supporting the conclusion that epistemic reasons are not dependent on (...)
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  • On the generality argument for the knowledge norm.Davide Fassio - 2018 - Synthese:1-22.
    An increasingly popular view in contemporary epistemology holds that the most fundamental norm governing belief is knowledge. According to this norm one shouldn’t believe what one doesn’t know. A prominent argument for the knowledge norm appeals to the claim that knowledge is the most general condition of epistemic assessment of belief, one entailing all other conditions under which we epistemically assess beliefs. This norm would provide an easy and straightforward explanation of why we assess beliefs along all these various epistemic (...)
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  • Books Received. [REVIEW][author unknown] - 2019 - International Journal of Philosophical Studies 27 (1):125-130.
    Volume 27, Issue 1, February 2019, Page 125-130.
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  • Suspension, Higher-Order Evidence, and Defeat.Errol Lord & Kurt Sylvan - forthcoming - In Mona Simion & Jessica Brown (eds.), Reasons, Justification, and Defeat. Oxford University Press.
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  • Misleading Higher-Order Evidence, Conflicting Ideals, and Defeasible Logic.Aleks Knoks - forthcoming - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy.
    Thinking about misleading higher-order evidence naturally leads to a puzzle about epistemic rationality: If one’s total evidence can be radically misleading regarding itself, then two widely-accepted requirements of rationality come into conflict, suggesting that there are rational dilemmas. This paper focuses on an often misunderstood and underexplored response to this (and similar) puzzles, the so-called conflicting-ideals view. Drawing on work from defeasible logic, I propose understanding this view as a move away from the default metaepistemological position according to which rationality (...)
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  • A Brief History of Rationality: Reason, Reasonableness, Rationality, and Reasons.Karl Schafer - 2018 - Manuscrito 41 (4):501-529.
    In this paper, I present a brief (and more than a little potted) history of the concepts of reason, rationality, reasonableness, and reasons in modern European philosophy and consider whether this history might support the "Anscombean" conclusion that, "The concepts of rationality and reasons ought to jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of psychology and philosophy which no longer generally survives, and are only harmful without it.".
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  • Are Epistemic Reasons Normative?Benjamin Kiesewetter - forthcoming - Noûs.
    According to a widely held view, epistemic reasons are normative reasons for belief – much like prudential or moral reasons are normative reasons for action. In recent years, however, an increasing number of authors have questioned the assumption that epistemic reasons are normative. In this article, I discuss an important challenge for anti-normativism about epistemic reasons and present a number of arguments in support of normativism. The challenge for anti-normativism is to say what kind of reasons epistemic reasons are if (...)
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  • Prime Time (for the Basing Relation).Kurt Sylvan & Errol Lord - forthcoming - In J. Adam Carter & Patrick Bondy (eds.), Well Founded Belief: New Essays on the Epistemic Basing Relation.
    It is often assumed that believing that p for a normative reason consists in nothing more than (i) believing that p for a reason and (ii) that reason’s corresponding to a normative reason to believe that p, where (i) and (ii) are independent factors. This is the Composite View. In this paper, we argue against the Composite View on extensional and theoretical grounds. We advocate an alternative that we call the Prime View. On this view, believing for a normative reason (...)
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  • Emotions and Process Rationality.Oded Na’Aman - 2021 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (3):531-546.
    ABSTRACT Some epistemologists hold that all rational norms are fundamentally concerned with the agent’s states or attitudes at an individual time [Hedden 2015, 2016; Moss 2015]; others argue that all rational norms are fundamentally concerned with processes [Podgorski 2017]. This distinction is not drawn in discussions of emotional rationality. As a result, a widely held assumption in the literature on emotional rationality has gone unexamined. I employ Abelard Podgorski’s argument from rational delay to argue that many emotional norms are fundamentally (...)
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  • Epistemic Consequentialism, Veritism, and Scoring Rules.Marc-Kevin Daoust & Charles Côté-Bouchard - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-25.
    We argue that there is a tension between two monistic claims that are the core of recent work in epistemic consequentialism. The first is a form of monism about epistemic value, commonly known as veritism: accuracy is the sole final objective to be promoted in the epistemic domain. The other is a form of monism about a class of epistemic scoring rules: that is, strictly proper scoring rules are the only legitimate measures of inaccuracy. These two monisms, we argue, are (...)
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  • Two roles for reasons: Cause for divorce?Wooram Lee - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):1993-2008.
    An increasingly popular view in the literature on rationality attempts to vindicate the strong normativity of rationality by giving a unifying account of rational requirements and what one ought to do in terms of reasons that fall within one’s perspective. In this paper, I pose a dilemma for such a view: one’s rationality is determined by a narrower set of reasons, such as the set of reasons that one is attending to, whereas what one ought to do is determined by (...)
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  • Do We Really Need a Knowledge-Based Decision Theory?Davide Fassio & Jie Gao - forthcoming - Synthese:1-29.
    The paper investigates what type of motivation can be given for adopting a knowledge-based decision theory (hereafter, KBDT). KBDT seems to have several advantages over competing theories of rationality. It is commonly argued that this theory would naturally fit with the intuitive idea that being rational is doing what we take to be best given what we know, an idea often supported by appeal to ordinary folk appraisals. Moreover, KBDT seems to strike a perfect balance between the problematic extremes of (...)
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  • The Coherent and the Rational.Errol Lord - 2014 - Analytic Philosophy 55 (2):151-175.
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  • Perspectivism and the Argument From Guidance.Jonathan Way & Daniel Whiting - 2017 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 20 (2):361-374.
    Perspectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by your perspective, that is, your epistemic position. Objectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by the facts irrespective of your perspective. This paper explores an influential argument for perspectivism which appeals to the thought that the normative is action guiding. The crucial premise of the argument is that you ought to φ only if you are able to φ for the reasons which determine that you ought (...)
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  • False Beliefs and Misleading Evidence.Marc-Kevin Daoust - 2021 - Theoria 87 (3):520-541.
    False beliefs and misleading evidence have striking similarities. In many regards, they are both epistemically bad or undesirable. Yet, some epistemologists think that, while one’s evidence is normative (i.e., one’s available evidence affects the doxastic states one is epistemically permitted or required to have), one’s false beliefs cannot be evidence and cannot be normative. They have offered various motivations for treating false beliefs differently from true misleading beliefs, and holding that only the latter may be evidence. I argue that this (...)
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  • Deliberative Authority and Representational Determinacy: A Challenge for the Normative Realist.Tristram McPherson - 2019 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 6.
    Controversy about the credibility of normative realism is endemic to contemporary metaethics. Some take realism to be “obviously, the default position,” while others, to put it mildly, do not., In the face of such persistent controversy, it can be valuable to step back from the myriad arguments for and against realism, and seek to understand the challenges that face this view in their deepest and most general form. This paper aims to achieve this deeper understanding with respect to a pair (...)
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  • On the Normativity of Rationality and of Normative Reasons.Clayton Littlejohn & Julien Dutant - manuscript
    Abstract: Scepticism about the normativity of rationality is often partially based on the assumption that normative reasons are normative. Starting from the assumption that normative reasons are normative, someone will argue that reasons and rationality can require different things from us and conclude that rationality must not be normative. We think that the assumption that normative reasons are normative is one that deserves more scrutiny, particularly if it turns out, as we shall argue, that no one has yet shown that (...)
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  • Externalism Explained.Clayton Littlejohn - forthcoming - In Luis R. G. Oliveira (ed.), Externalism about Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    This is a defence of externalism about knowledge and also about justification. In this paper, I argue that an important virtue of externalism about these notions is that externalism about justification helps to explain the value of (i.e., importance of) knowledge. I also develop and expand upon some of my earlier arguments for externalism that drew upon what's now known as 'morally loaded cases'. The virtue of externalism is that it's the only view that can both allow for certain kinds (...)
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  • Neither/Nor.Clayton Littlejohn - 2019 - In Casey Doyle, Joe Milburn & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), New Issues in Epistemological Disjunctivism. Routledge.
    Abstract: On one formulation, epistemological disjunctivism is the view that our perceptual beliefs constitute knowledge when they are based on reasons that provide them with factive support. Some would argue that it is impossible to understand how perceptual knowledge is possible unless we assume that we have such reasons to support our perceptual beliefs. Some would argue that it is impossible to understand how perceptual experience could furnish us with these reasons unless we assume that the traditional view of experience (...)
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  • Do You See What I Know? On Reasons, Perceptual Evidence, and Epistemic Status.Clayton Littlejohn - 2020 - Philosophical Issues 30 (1):205-220.
    Our epistemology can shape the way we think about perception and experience. Speaking as an epistemologist, I should say that I don’t necessarily think that this is a good thing. If we think that we need perceptual evidence to have perceptual knowledge or perceptual justification, we will naturally feel some pressure to think of experience as a source of reasons or evidence. In trying to explain how experience can provide us with evidence, we run the risk of either adopting a (...)
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  • Beyond Bad Beliefs.Nathan Robert Howard - forthcoming - Journal of Moral Philosophy.
    Philosophers have recently come to focus on explaining the phenomenon of ​bad beliefs,​ beliefs that are apparently true and well-evidenced but nevertheless objectionable. Despite this recent focus, a consensus is already forming around a particular explanation of these beliefs’ badness called ​moral encroachment​, according to which, roughly, the moral stakes engendered by bad beliefs make them particularly difficult to justify. This paper advances an alternative account not just of bad beliefs but of bad attitudes more generally according to which bad (...)
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  • Deflationary Pluralism About Motivating Reasons.Daniel Fogal - 2018 - In Veli Mitova (ed.), The Factive Turn in Epistemology. Cambridge University Press.
    This paper takes a closer look at ordinary thought and talk about motivating reasons, in an effort to better understand how it works. This is an important first step in understanding whether—and if so, how—such thought and talk should inform or constrain our substantive theorizing. One of the upshots is that ordinary judgments about motivating reasons are at best a partial and defeasible guide to what really matters, and that so-called factualists, propositionalists, and statists are all partly right, as well (...)
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  • Is It OK to Make Mistakes? Appraisal and False Normative Belief.Claire Field - 2019 - Dissertation, University of St Andrews
    Sometimes we make mistakes, even when we try to do our best. When those mistakes are about normative matters, such as what is required, this leads to a puzzle. This puzzle arises from the possibility of misleading evidence about what rationality requires. I argue that the best way to solve this puzzle is to distinguish between two kinds of evaluation: requirement and appraisal. The strategy I defend connects three distinct debates in epistemology, ethics, and normativity: the debate over how our (...)
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  • A Puzzle About Knowledge, Blame, and Coherence.Marc-Kevin Daoust - 2019 - Acta Analytica 34 (4):493-503.
    Many philosophers have offered arguments in favor of the following three theses: A is epistemically permitted to believe P only if A is in a position to know that P, incoherent agents fail to satisfy the aforementioned knowledge norm of belief, and A’s apparent reasons are relevant to determining what A is blameworthy for believing. In this paper, I argue that the above three theses are jointly inconsistent. The main upshot of the paper is this: even if the knowledge norm (...)
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  • Who's Afraid Of Epistemic Dilemmas?Nick Hughes - forthcoming - In Scott Stapleford, Mathias Steup & Kevin McCain (eds.), Epistemic Dilemmas: New Arguments, New Angles.
    I consider a number of reasons one might think we should only accept epistemic dilemmas in our normative epistemology as a last resort and argue that none of them is compelling.
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  • How Important Are Possessed Reasons?Jonathan Way - 2021 - Analysis 81 (1):156-167.
    Central to Errol Lord’s The Importance of Being Rational is the notion of a possessed (objective, normative) reason. For Lord, rationality is a matter of correctly responding to possessed reasons, what rationality requires and permits is that we react in ways that are appropriate given our possessed reasons, and we ought – full stop – to react in ways that are decisively supported by our possessed reasons. Thus for Lord, possessed (objective, normative) reasons are very important indeed. This paper raises (...)
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  • Evidence and its Limits.Clayton Littlejohn - 2018 - In Conor McHugh Jonathan Way & Daniel Whiting (eds.), Normativity: Epistemic and Practical. Oxford University Press.
    On a standard view about reasons, evidence, and justification, there is justification for you to believe all and only what your evidence supports and the reasons that determine whether there is justification to believe are all just pieces of evidence. This view is mistaken about two things. It is mistaken about the rational role of evidence. It is also mistaken about the rational role of reasons. To show this, I present two basis problems for the standard view and argue that (...)
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  • Reasons and Rationality.Jonathan Way - forthcoming - In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford University Press.
    This article gives an overview of some recent debates about the relationship between reasons and rational requirements of coherence - e.g. the requirements to be consistent in our beliefs and intentions, and to intend what we take to be the necessary means to our ends.
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  • Reliabilism Without Epistemic Consequentialism.Kurt L. Sylvan - 2018 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (3):525-555.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  • An Epistemic Non-Consequentialism.Kurt L. Sylvan - 2020 - The Philosophical Review 129 (1):1-51.
    Despite the recent backlash against epistemic consequentialism, an explicit systematic alternative has yet to emerge. This paper articulates and defends a novel alternative, Epistemic Kantianism, which rests on a requirement of respect for the truth. §1 tackles some preliminaries concerning the proper formulation of the epistemic consequentialism / non-consequentialism divide, explains where Epistemic Kantianism falls in the dialectical landscape, and shows how it can capture what seems attractive about epistemic consequentialism while yielding predictions that are harder for the latter to (...)
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  • Acting for the Right Reasons, Abilities, and Obligation.Errol Lord - 2015 - In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 10. Oxford University Press.
    Objectivists about obligation hold that obligations are determined by all of the normatively relevant facts. Perspectivalists, on the other hand, hold that only facts within one's perspective can determine what we are obligated to do. In this paper I argue for a perspectivalist view. On my view, what you are obligated to do is determined by the normative reasons you possess. My argument for my view is anchored in the thought that our obligations have to be action-guiding in a certain (...)
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  • Intentions, Akrasia, and Mere Permissibility.Jonathan Way - 2013 - Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 20 (4):588-611.
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