The Prescriptive and the Hypological: A Radical Detachment

Philosophical Studies (forthcoming)
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A wide range of more objectivist norms appear to leave uncharted an important part of normative space. In the beginning of this paper I briefly outline two broad ways of seeking more subject-directed norms: perspectivism and feasibilism. According to feasibilism, the ultimate reason why more objectivist norms are inadequate on their own is not that they fail to take into account the limits of an agent’s perspective, but that they are not sensitive to limits on what ways of choosing, acting, and believing are feasible in a given situation. I think of these ways of choosing, acting, and believing in terms of an agent's dispositions. In this paper I focus on a knowledge-first implementation of feasibilism, a view in epistemology that supplements a knowledge norm with a norm urging one to manifest dispositions that are among the most knowledge-conducive feasible ones. A view with different norms that sometimes cannot be jointly satisfied raises questions about the status of these norms. By drawing on two general hypotheses about the relationship between succeeding (e.g. knowing) and manifesting dispositions conducive to success, I argue for a view on which the prescriptive and the hypological come radically apart. The result is that an epistemic analogue of a thesis that many have assumed to hold in the moral realm should be rejected. This thesis is Only Blameworthy for Wrongs: we can only ever be blameworthy for acts that are morally wrong. I argue that on the picture presented, we can be epistemically blameworthy for doxastic states that do not violate any prescriptive epistemic norms. I then generalise the considerations to the moral realm, arguing against Only Blameworthy for Wrongs.

Author's Profile

Maria Lasonen-Aarnio
University of Helsinki


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