Morality Does Not Encroach

In Juan Comesana & Matthew McGrath (eds.), Knowledge and Rationality: Essays in Honor of Stewart Cohen. Routledge (forthcoming)
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Moral encroachment is the thesis that morality has an effect---unrecognized by traditional epistemology---on which doxastic states are epistemically appropriate. The thesis is increasingly popular among those who, in opposition to Gendler (2011), desire harmony between epistemic and moral demands on belief. This paper has three main goals. First, drawing on attractive structural principles concerning belief and justification, it is shown that a thoroughgoing harmony between moral and epistemic demands is implausible. This weakens the motivation for positing moral encroachment, but a proponent might still hope that moral encroachment can have a significant effect, so that many of the central cases of apparent disharmony can be avoided. The next goal of the paper is to argue that any significant effect of moral encroachment would manifest itself in the credences which are most epistemically appropriate. Finally, it is shown that even a small effect of moral encroachment on credence is in tension with widely accepted basic constraints on epistemically appropriate credence.

Author Profiles

Zachary Goodsell
National University of Singapore
John Hawthorne
University of Southern California


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