Defeaters as Indicators of Ignorance

In Mona Simion & Jessica Brown (eds.), Reasons, Justification, and Defeat. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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In this paper, we propose a new theory of rationality defeat. We propose that defeaters are indicators of ignorance, evidence that we’re not in a position to know some target proposition. When the evidence that we’re not in a position to know is sufficiently strong and the probability that we can know is too low, it is not rational to believe. We think that this account retains all the virtues of the more familiar approaches that characterise defeat in terms of its connection to reasons to believe or to confirmation but provides a better approach to higher-order defeat. We also think that a strength of this proposal is that it can be embedded into a larger normative framework. On our account the no-defeater condition is redundant. We can extract our theory of defeat from our theory of what makes it rational to believe—it is rational to believe when it is sufficiently probable that our belief would be knowledge. Thus, our view can provide a monistic account of defeat, one that gives a unifying explanation of the toxicity of different defeaters that is grounded in a framework that either recognises knowledge as the norm of belief or identifies knowledge as the fundamental epistemic good that full belief can realise.
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