Dispositional Evaluations and Defeat

In Jessica and Simion Brown (ed.), Reasons, Justification and Defeat. Oxford, UK: (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Subjects who retain their beliefs in the face of higher-order evidence that those very beliefs are outputs of flawed cognitive processes are at least very often criticisable. Many think that this is because such higher-order evidence defeats various epistemic statuses such as justification and knowledge, but it is notoriously difficult to give an account of such defeat. This paper outlines an alternative explanation, stemming from some of my earlier work, for why subjects are criticisable for retaining beliefs in the face of paradigm kinds of putatively defeating higher-order evidence: they manifest dispositions that are bad relative to a range of candidate epistemic successes such as true belief and knowledge. In particular, giving up belief in response to higher-order evidence only when that evidence is not misleading would require subjects to have dispositions that discriminate between cases in which their original cognitive processes is fine, and cases in which they merely seemed to be fine. But, I argue, such dispositions are not normally humanly feasible. I show that retaining belief in putative cases of defeat by higher-order evidence is problematic irrespective of whether veritism or some form of gnosticism is true. In the end I contrast my account of dispositional evaluations with similar-sounding ideas that have been put forth in the literature, such as consequentialist views that focus on instrumental means to success.
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Archival date: 2019-10-15
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