Ambiguous statements about akrasia

Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
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Epistemologists take themselves to disagree about whether there are situations where it is rational for one to believe that p while it is at the same time rational for one to believe that one’s evidence doesn’t support p. The debate here is about the possibility of a certain kind of rational akrasia. In this paper, I point out that the embedded sentence ‘one’s evidence doesn’t support p’ can be interpreted in two different ways, depending on what the semantic contribution of ‘one’s evidence’ is taken to be. The first one treats ‘one’s evidence’ as a sheer indexical, whereas the second one treats it as a descriptive singular term. It turns out that the first interpretation allows us to say that the relevant kind of rational akrasia is impossible, whereas the second one allows us to say that it is possible. But the proposition that is expressed by ‘one’s evidence doesn’t support p’ according to each of these interpretations is not the same. We have thus a rational reconstruction of views that are labeled as being pro and con the possibility of rational akrasia, one according to which those views do not really contradict each other. For reasons that will be made clear at the end, however, the rational reconstruction suggests that those who have defended the possibility of rational akrasia might have the upper hand in this debate.

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Luis Rosa
University of Cologne


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