Rational supererogation and epistemic permissivism

Philosophical Studies 179 (2):571-591 (2021)
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A number of authors have defended permissivism by appealing to rational supererogation, the thought that some doxastic states might be rationally permissible even though there are other, more rational beliefs available. If this is correct, then there are situations that allow for multiple rational doxastic responses, even if some of those responses are rationally suboptimal. In this paper, I will argue that this is the wrong approach to defending permissivism—there are no doxastic states that are rationally supererogatory. By the lights of contemporary linguistics, ‘rational’ is an absolute gradable adjective, and as such, can only be applied to things that satisfy the top of the scale of rationality. For this reason, it is not possible to believe what is rational while also failing to believe what is rationally optimal.

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Wes Siscoe
University of Notre Dame


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