Kierkegaard on the Relationship between Practical and Epistemic Reasons for Belief

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)
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On the dominant contemporary accounts of how practical considerations affect what we ought to believe, practical considerations either encroach on epistemic rationality by affecting whether a belief is epistemically justified, or constitute distinctively practical reasons for belief which can only affect what we ought to believe by conflicting with epistemic rationality. This paper shows that a promising alternative view can be found in a surprising source: the writings of Søren Kierkegaard. I argue that in light of two of his central epistemological commitments—belief-credence dualism and epistemic permissivism about outright belief—Kierkegaard holds that practical considerations can affect what we ought to believe without either encroaching on or (necessarily) conflicting with epistemic rationality. The central idea is that practical considerations can determine which among the epistemically permitted outright doxastic attitudes one should all-things-considered adopt. In addition to constituting a novel, systematic interpretation of Kierkegaard’s account of how practical considerations affect what we ought to believe, this suggests that Kierkegaard holds a distinctive and underexplored view that constitutes a serious philosophical rival to dominant contemporary views.

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Z Quanbeck
Princeton University


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