Epistemic Risk and the Demands of Rationality

Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Abstract
The short abstract: Epistemic utility theory + permissivism about attitudes to epistemic risk => permissivism about rational credences. The longer abstract: I argue that epistemic rationality is permissive. More specifically, I argue for two claims. First, a radical version of interpersonal permissivism about rational credence: for many bodies of evidence, there is a wide range of credal states for which there is some individual who might rationally adopt that state in response to that evidence. Second, a slightly less radical version of intrapersonal permissivism about rational credence: for many bodies of evidence and for many individuals, there is a narrower but still wide range of credal states that the individual might rationally adopt in response to that evidence. My argument proceeds from two premises: (1) epistemic utility theory; and (2) permissivism about attitudes to epistemic risk. Epistemic utility theory says this: What it is epistemically rational for you to believe is what it would be rational for you to choose if you got to pick your beliefs and, when picking them, you cared only for their purely epistemic value. So, to say which credences it is epistemically rational for you to have, we must say how you should measure purely epistemic value, and which decision rule it is appropriate for you to use when you face the hypothetical choice between the possible credences you might adopt. Permissivism about attitudes to epistemic risk says that rationality permits many different attitudes to epistemic risk. These attitudes can show up in epistemic utility theory in two ways: in the way that you measure epistemic value; and in the decision rule that you use to pick your credences. I explore what happens if we encode our attitudes to epistemic risk in our epistemic decision rule. The result is the interpersonal and intrapersonal permissivism described above: different attitudes to epistemic risk lead to different choices of priors; given most bodies of evidence you might acquire, different priors lead to different posteriors; and even once we fix your attitudes to epistemic risk, if they are at all risk-inclined, there is a range of different priors and therefore different posteriors they permit. The essay ends by considering a range of objections to the sort of permissivism for which I’ve argued.
ISBN(s)
  0192864351
PhilPapers/Archive ID
PETERA-4
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Archival date: 2021-03-08
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