Banal Skepticism and the Errors of Doubt: On Ephecticism about Rape Accusations

Midwest Studies in Philosophy 45:393-421 (2021)
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Abstract

Ephecticism is the tendency towards suspension of belief. Epistemology often focuses on the error of believing when one ought to doubt. The converse error—doubting when one ought to believe—is relatively underexplored. This essay examines the errors of undue doubt. I draw on the relevant alternatives framework to diagnose and remedy undue doubts about rape accusations. Doubters tend to invoke standards for belief that are too demanding, for example, and underestimate how farfetched uneliminated error possibilities are. They mistake seeing how incriminating evidence is compatible with innocence for a reason to withhold judgement. Rape accusations help illuminate the causes and normativity of doubt. I propose a novel kind of epistemic injustice, for example, wherein patterns of unwarranted attention to farfetched error possibilities can cause those error possibilities to become relevant. Widespread unreasonable doubt thus renders doubt reasonable and makes it harder to know rape accusations. Finally, I emphasise that doubt is typically a conservative force and I argue that the relevant alternatives framework helps defend against pernicious doubt-mongers.

Author's Profile

Georgi Gardiner
University of Tennessee, Knoxville

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