Epistemic Blame and the Normativity of Evidence

Erkenntnis:1-24 (2021)
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Abstract

The normative force of evidence can seem puzzling. It seems that having conclusive evidence for a proposition does not, by itself, make it true that one ought to believe the proposition. But spelling out the condition that evidence must meet in order to provide us with genuine normative reasons for belief seems to lead us into a dilemma: the condition either fails to explain the normative significance of epistemic reasons or it renders the content of epistemic norms practical. The first aim of this paper is to spell out this challenge for the normativity of evidence. I argue that the challenge rests on a plausible assumption about the conceptual connection between normative reasons and blameworthiness. The second aim of the paper is to show how we can meet the challenge by spelling out a concept of epistemic blameworthiness. Drawing on recent accounts of doxastic responsibility and epistemic blame, I suggest that the normativity of evidence is revealed in our practice of suspending epistemic trust in response to impaired epistemic relationships. Recognizing suspension of trust as a form of epistemic blame allows us to make sense of a purely epistemic kind of normativity the existence of which has recently been called into doubt by certain versions of pragmatism and instrumentalism.

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Sebastian Schmidt
University of Z├╝rich

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