Epistemic Consequentialism: Haters Gonna Hate

In Christos Kyriacou & Robin McKenna (eds.), Metaepistemology: Realism & Antirealism. Palgrave MacMillan. pp. 121-143 (2018)
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Epistemic consequentialism has been charged with ignoring the epistemic separateness of propositions and with (thereby) allowing trade-offs between propositions. Here, I do two things. First, I investigate the metaphor of the epistemic separateness of propositions. I argue that either (i) the metaphor is meaningfully unpacked in a way that is modeled on the moral separateness of persons, in which case it doesn’t support a ban on trade-offs or (ii) it isn’t meaningfully unpacked, in which case it really doesn’t support a ban on trade-offs. Second, I consider the strategy of arguing against the trade-off permitting conception of epistemic rationality that is central to epistemic consequentialism on the basis of our intuitive verdicts about the permissibility of trade-offs in cases. I argue the execution of this strategy suffers a methodological mistake that, once corrected, vitiates the probative value of those intuitive verdicts. Hence the conclusion: the separateness of propositions provides no support for a ban on trade-offs, and an influential independent argument for such a ban is flawed.

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Nathaniel Sharadin
University of Hong Kong


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