False Beliefs and Misleading Evidence

Theoria 87 (3):520-541 (2021)
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False beliefs and misleading evidence have striking similarities. In many regards, they are both epistemically bad or undesirable. Yet, some epistemologists think that, while one’s evidence is normative (i.e., one’s available evidence affects the doxastic states one is epistemically permitted or required to have), one’s false beliefs cannot be evidence and cannot be normative. They have offered various motivations for treating false beliefs differently from true misleading beliefs, and holding that only the latter may be evidence. I argue that this is puzzling: If misleading evidence and false beliefs share so many important similarities, why treat them differently? I also argue that, given the striking similarities between false beliefs and misleading evidence, many arguments for the factivity of evidence overgeneralize. That is, if these arguments were conclusive, they would also entail that the evidence cannot be misleading. But this is an overgeneralization, since the evidence can be misleading.
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