Does rationality demand higher-order certainty?

Synthese 198 (12):11561-11585 (2020)
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Should you always be certain about what you should believe? In other words, does rationality demand higher-order certainty? First answer: Yes! Higher-order uncertainty can’t be rational, since it breeds at least a mild form of epistemic akrasia. Second answer: No! Higher-order certainty can’t be rational, since it licenses a dogmatic kind of insensitivity to higher-order evidence. Which answer wins out? The first, I argue. Once we get clearer about what higher-order certainty is, a view emerges on which higher-order certainty does not, in fact, license any kind of insensitivity to higher-order evidence. The view as I will describe it has plenty of intuitive appeal. But it is not without substantive commitments: it implies a strong form of internalism about epistemic rationality, and forces us to reconsider standard ways of thinking about the nature of evidential support. Yet, the view put forth promises a simple and elegant solution to a surprisingly difficult problem in our understanding of rational belief.

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Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences


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