Does murphy’s law apply in epistemology?

Oxford Studies in Epistemology 2:3-31 (2007)
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Formally-inclined epistemologists often theorize about ideally rational agents--agents who exemplify rational ideals, such as probabilistic coherence, that human beings could never fully realize. This approach can be defended against the well-know worry that abstracting from human cognitive imperfections deprives the approach of interest. But a different worry arises when we ask what an ideal agent should believe about her own cognitive perfection (even an agent who is in fact cognitively perfect might, it would seem, be uncertain of this fact). Consideration of this question reveals an interesting feature of the structure of our epistemic ideals: for agents with limited information, our epistemic ideals turn out to conflict with one another.

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David Christensen
Brown University


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