Explaining Evidence Denial as Motivated Pragmatically Rational Epistemic Irrationality

Metaphilosophy 50 (4):563-579 (2019)
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This paper introduces a model for evidence denial that explains this behavior as a manifestation of rationality and it is based on the contention that social values (measurable as utilities) often underwrite these sorts of responses. Moreover, it is contended that the value associated with group membership in particular can override epistemic reason when the expected utility of a belief or belief system is great. However, it is also true that it appears to be the case that it is still possible for such unreasonable believers to reverse this sort of dogmatism and to change their beliefs in a way that is epistemically rational. The conjecture made here is that we should expect this to happen only when the expected utility of the beliefs in question dips below a threshold where the utility value of continued dogmatism and the associated group membership is no longer sufficient to motivate defusing the counter-evidence that tells against such epistemically irrational beliefs.

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Michael Shaffer
Gustavus Adolphus College


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