Epistemic Norms, the False Belief Requirement, and Love

Logos and Episteme 12 (3):289-309 (2021)
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Many authors have argued that epistemic rationality sometimes comes into conflict with our relationships. Although Sarah Stroud and Simon Keller argue that friendships sometimes require bad epistemic agency, their proposals do not go far enough. I argue here for a more radical claim—romantic love sometimes requires we form beliefs that are false. Lovers stand in a special position with one another; they owe things to one another that they do not owe to others. Such demands hold for beliefs as well. Two facets of love ground what I call the false belief requirement , or the demand to form false beliefs when it is for the good of the beloved: the demand to love for the right reasons and the demand to refrain from doxastic wronging. Since truth is indispensable to epistemic rationality, the requirement to believe falsely, consequently, undermines truth norms. I demonstrate that, when the false belief requirement obtains, there is an irreconcilable conflict between love and truth norms of epistemic rationality: we must forsake one, at least at the time, for the other.

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J. Spencer Atkins
State University of New York at Binghamton


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