Assertion is weak

Philosophers' Imprint 22 (2022)
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Recent work has argued that belief is weak: the level of rational credence required for belief is relatively low. That literature has contrasted belief with assertion, arguing that the latter requires an epistemic state much stronger than (weak) belief---perhaps knowledge or even certainty. We argue that this is wrong: assertion is just as weak as belief. We first present a variety of new arguments for this, and then show that the standard arguments for stronger norms are not convincing. Finally, we sketch an alternative picture on which the fundamental norm of assertion is to say what you believe, but both belief and assertion are weak. To help make sense of this, we propose that both belief and assertion involve navigating a tradeoff between accuracy and informativity, and so it can makes sense to believe/say something you only have weak evidence for, if it is informative enough.

Author Profiles

Matthew Mandelkern
New York University
Kevin Dorst
Massachusetts Institute of Technology


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