A Normativity Wager for Skeptics

Topoi 42 (1):121-132 (2023)
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Several philosophers have recently advanced wager-based arguments for the existence of irreducibly normative truths or against normative nihilism. Here I consider whether these wager-based arguments would cause a normative Pyrrhonian skeptic to lose her skepticism. I conclude they would not do so directly. However, if prompted to consider a different decision problem, which I call the normativity wager for skeptics, the normative Pyrrhonian skeptic would be motivated to attempt to act in accordance with any normative reasons to which she might be subject. Consideration of the normativity wager will not inevitably cause the normative Pyrrhonian skeptic to lose her skepticism, but there are at least three routes by which it might: first, in considering the wager the agent may spontaneously (non-rationally) acquire a normative belief; second, considering the wager can motivate the agent to cause herself to (non-rationally) acquire a normative belief. Via either of these indirect, non-rational routes, she would cease to be a normative Pyrrhonian skeptic. Thus, consideration of the normativity wager may have value, even if it does not supply a rational argument that will dissuade skeptics. In addition, I consider the possibility of a third (rational) route by which the agent might lose her skepticism.

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Elizabeth O'Neill
Eindhoven University of Technology


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