Permissivism and the Arbitrariness Objection

Episteme 14 (4):519-538 (2017)
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Abstract

Permissivism says that for some propositions and bodies of evidence, there is more than one rationally permissible doxastic attitude that can be taken towards that proposition given the evidence. Some critics of this view argue that it condones, as rationally acceptable, sets of attitudes that manifest an untenable kind of arbitrariness. I begin by providing a new and more detailed explication of what this alleged arbitrariness consists in. I then explain why Miriam Schoenfield’s prima facie promising attempt to answer the Arbitrariness Objection, by appealing to the role of epistemic standards in rational belief formation, fails to resolve the problem. Schoenfield’s strategy is, however, a useful one, and I go on to explain how an alternative form of the standards-based approach to Permissivism – one that emphasizes the significance of the relationship between people’s cognitive abilities and the epistemic standards that they employ – can respond to the arbitrariness objection.

Author's Profile

Robert Mark Simpson
University College London

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