Empirical Beliefs, Perceptual Experiences and Reasons

Manuscrito 31 (2):543-571 (2008)
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John McDowell and Bill Brewer famously defend the view that one can only have empirical beliefs if one’s perceptual experiences serve as reasons for such beliefs, where reasons are understood in terms of subject’s reasons. In this paper I show, first, that it is a consequence of the adoption of such a requirement for one to have empirical beliefs that children as old as 3 years of age have to considered as not having genuine empirical beliefs at all. But we have strong reasons to think that 3-year-old children have empirical beliefs, or so I argue. If this is the case, McDowell and Brewer’s requirement for one to have empirical beliefs faces a strong challenge. After showing this, I propose an alternative requirement for one to have empirical beliefs, and argue that it should be favoured over McDowell and Brewer’s requirement.
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