Toward a Lockean Unification of Formal and Traditional Epistemology

Episteme 19 (1):111-129 (2022)
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[This is a paper that was originally written in 2017 and doesn't represent my current thinking about degrees of confidence, conviction, and rationality.] Can there be knowledge and rational belief in the absence of a rational degree of confidence? Yes, and cases of "mistuned knowledge" demonstrate this. In this paper we leverage this normative possibility in support of advancing our understanding of the metaphysical relation between belief and credence. It is generally assumed that a Lockean metaphysics of belief that reduces outright belief to degrees of confidence would immediately effect a unification of coarse-grained epistemology of belief with fine-grained epistemology of confidence. Scott Sturgeon has suggested that the unification is effected by understanding the relation between outright belief and confidence as an instance of the determinable-determinate relation. But determination of belief by confidence would not by itself yield the result that norms for confidence carry over to norms for outright belief unless belief and high confidence are token identical. We argue that this token-identity thesis is incompatible with the neglected phenomenon of “mistuned knowledge”—knowledge and rational belief in the absence of rational confidence. We contend that there are genuine cases of mistuned knowledge and that, therefore, epistemological unification must forego token identity of belief and high confidence. We show how partial epistemological unification can be secured given determination of outright belief by degrees of confidence even without token-identity. Finally, we suggest a direction for the pursuit of thoroughgoing epistemological unification.

Author Profiles

Paul Silva Jr.
University of Cologne


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