Is believing for a normative reason a composite condition?

Synthese 196 (9):3889-3910 (2019)
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Abstract

Here is a surprisingly neglected question in contemporary epistemology: what is it for an agent to believe that p in response to a normative reason for them to believe that p? On one style of answer, believing for the normative reason that q factors into believing that p in the light of the apparent reason that q, where one can be in that kind of state even if q is false, in conjunction with further independent conditions such as q’s being a normative reason to believe that p. The primary objective of this paper is to demonstrate that that style of answer cannot be right, because we must conceive of believing for a normative reason as constitutively involving a kind of rationality-involving relation that can be instantiated at all only if there is a known fact on the scene, which the agent treats as a normative reason. A secondary objective, achieved along the way, is to demonstrate that in their Prime Time Errol Lord and Kurt Sylvan do not succeed in undermining the factoring picture in general, only a simple-minded version of it.

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Joe Cunningham
Nottingham University

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