Exploring by Believing

The Philosophical Review (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Sometimes, we face choices between actions most likely to lead to valuable outcomes, and actions which put us in a better position to learn. These choices exemplify what is called the exploration/exploitation trade-off. In computer science and psychology, this trade-off has fruitfully been applied to modulating the way agents or systems make choices over time. In this paper, I argue that the trade-off also extends to belief. We can be torn between two ways of believing, one of which is expected to be more accurate in light of current evidence, whereas the other is expected to lead to more learning opportunity and accuracy in the long run. Further, it is sometimes rationally permissible to choose the latter. I break down the features of action which give rise to the trade-off, and then argue that each feature applies equally well to belief. This conclusion is an instance of a systematic, foreseeable way in which what is rational to believe now depends on what one expects to be doing in the future. That is, epistemic rationality fundamentally concerns time.
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First archival date: 2020-09-14
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