Even if it might not be true, evidence cannot be false

Philosophical Studies:1-27 (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Internalists about evidence (‘internalists’ hereafter) believe that internal duplicates necessarily have the same evidence. While many internalists have held that our evidence is constituted by the states of mind we share in common with our internal duplicates (e.g., our experiences, apparent memories, intuitions, etc.), worldly internalists claim that our evidence includes (non-trivial) propositions about our environment. They think that when we have the experience as of, say, a red, bulgy tomato, our evidence might include propositions that will be true iff there is something before us that is red, that it is bulgy, or (perhaps) is a tomato. To reconcile the idea that our evidence might entail that there is something ‘outside’ the mind that is red, that is bulgy, or that is a tomato with internalism, worldly internalists embrace the idea that a worldly proposition might be evidence even if it is false. Traditional internalists, by contrast, don’t have to recognise the possibility of false evidence because they can either characterise our evidence as consisting of (true) propositions about our own mental lives or propose that our evidence is constitutes by mental states or events rather than the propositions that capture their contents. We shall argue that worldly internalism faces some serious difficulties because of its reliance on false evidence (i.e., false propositions about the properties of mind-independent objects that constitute part of a thinker’s evidence). First, the view cannot adequately handle some not terribly strange cases of perceptual error. Second, it cannot explain why one should plan to use their evidence to update their beliefs. The second issue allows us to explain why cases of misplaced certainty do not require us to introduce false evidence into our views and that why the alleged advantage of worldly internalism in resisting sceptical pressures is illusory. As we see it, it might be wise for internalists to embrace a view of evidence on which evidence is something that is (strictly speaking) neither capable of being true or being false (e.g., a view on which it is constituted by states of mind or mental events instead of propositions).
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Archival date: 2021-07-04
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