Believing for Practical Reasons

Noûs (4):763-784 (2018)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
Abstract
Some prominent evidentialists argue that practical considerations cannot be normative reasons for belief because they can’t be motivating reasons for belief. Existing pragmatist responses turn out to depend on the assumption that it’s possible to believe in the absence of evidence. The evidentialist may deny this, at which point the debate ends in an impasse. I propose a new strategy for the pragmatist. This involves conceding that belief in the absence of evidence is impossible. We then argue that evidence can play a role in bringing about belief without being a motivating reason for belief, thereby leaving room for practical considerations to serve as motivating reasons. I present two ways in which this can happen. First, agents can use evidence as a mere means by which to believe, with practical considerations serving as motivating reasons for belief, just as we use tools (e.g. a brake pedal) as mere means by which to do something (e.g. slow down) which we are motivated to do for practical reasons. Second, evidence can make it possible for one to choose whether or not to believe – a choice one can then make for practical reasons. These arguments push the debate between the evidentialist and the pragmatist into new territory. It is no longer enough for an evidentialist to insist that belief is impossible without evidence. Even if this is right, the outcome of the debate remains unsettled. It will hang on the ability of the evidentialist to respond to the new pragmatist strategy presented here.
Reprint years
2018, 2019
PhilPapers/Archive ID
RINBFP
Revision history
Archival date: 2018-03-18
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Belief's Own Ethics.Adler, Jonathan

View all 31 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

Add more citations

Added to PP index
2018-03-18

Total views
275 ( #13,075 of 43,787 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
72 ( #8,657 of 43,787 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.