A Theory of Epistemic Supererogation

Erkenntnis 83 (2):349-367 (2018)
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Abstract
Though there is a wide and varied literature on ethical supererogation, there has been almost nothing written about its epistemic counterpart, despite an intuitive analogy between the two fields. This paper seeks to change this state of affairs. I will begin by showing that there are examples which intuitively feature epistemically supererogatory doxastic states. Next, I will present a positive theory of epistemic supererogation that can vindicate our intuitions in these examples, in an explanation that parallels a popular theory of ethical supererogation. Roughly, I will argue that a specific type of epistemic virtue—the ability to creatively think up plausible hypotheses given a body of evidence—is not required of epistemic agents. Thus, certain exercises of this virtue can result in supererogatory doxastic states. In presenting this theory, I will also show how thinking about epistemic supererogation can provide us a new way forward in the debate about the uniqueness thesis for epistemic rationality.
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First archival date: 2017-03-28
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