Epistemic akrasia: No apology required

Noûs 58 (1):54-76 (2024)
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Abstract

It is natural to think that rationality imposes some relationship between what a person believes, and what she believes about what she’s rational to believe. Epistemic akrasia—for example, believing P while believing that P is not rational to believe in your situation—is often seen as intrinsically irrational. This paper argues otherwise. In certain cases, akrasia is intuitively rational. Understanding why akratic beliefs in those case are indeed rational provides a deeper explanation how typical akratic beliefs are irrational—an explanation that does not flow from akrasia per se. This understanding also allows us to diagnose where general anti-akratic arguments go wrong. We can then see why even principles designed to allow only moderate akrasia fail, and also why recognizing the possibility of rational akratic beliefs does not call for finding some other epistemic defect in agents who believe akratically. Believing akratically, in itself, is nothing to apologize for.

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David Christensen
Brown University

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