The value of truth and the normativity of evidence

Synthese 198 (6):5067-5088 (2019)
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Abstract

To say that evidence is normative is to say that what evidence one possesses, and how this evidence relates to any proposition, determines which attitude among believing, disbelieving and withholding one ought to take toward this proposition if one deliberates about whether to believe it. It has been suggested by McHugh that this view can be vindicated by resting on the premise that truth is epistemically valuable. In this paper, I modify the strategy sketched by McHugh so as to overcome the initial difficulty that it is unable to vindicate the claim that on counterbalanced evidence with respect to P one ought to conclude deliberation by withholding on P. However, I describe the more serious difficulty that this strategy rests on principles whose acceptance commits one to acknowledging non-evidential reasons for believing. A way to overcome this second difficulty, against the evidentialists who deny this, is to show that we sometimes manage to believe on the basis of non-epistemic considerations. If this is so, one fundamental motivation behind the evidentialist idea that non-epistemic considerations could not enter as reason in deliberation would lose its force. In the second part of this paper I address several strategies proposed in the attempt to show that we sometimes manage to believe on the basis of non-epistemic considerations and show that they all fail. So, I conclude that the strategy inspired by McHugh to ground the normativity of evidence on the value of truth ultimately fails.

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