The Epistemic vs. the Practical

Oxford Studies in Metaethics 18:137-162 (2023)
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What should we believe if epistemic and practical reasons for belief point in different directions? I argue that there’s no single answer, but rather a Dualism of Theoretical and Practical Reason is true: what we epistemically ought to believe and what we practically ought to believe may come apart, and both are independently authoritative. I argue in particular against recently popular views that subordinate the epistemic to the practical: it’s not the case that epistemic reasons bear on what we ‘just plain ought’ to believe just to the extent we have practical reason to believe epistemically correctly. Why? Because epistemic reasons give rise to authoritative demands independently of the practical pay-off of believing accordingly. This is shown in particular by the fact that it can be fitting to epistemically ‘blame’ us just because we fail to believe as we epistemically ought, even if we don’t have sufficient practical reason to believe so. I also argue that we don’t need to come up with what we ‘just plain ought’ to believe, because contrary epistemic and practical responsibility responses can be simultaneously fitting in conflict cases, and because epistemic and practical ought judgments give rise to different enkrasia requirements, among other things.

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Antti Kauppinen
University of Helsinki


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