Higher-Order Defeat and the Impossibility of Self-Misleading Evidence

In Mattias Skipper & Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (eds.), Higher-Order Evidence: New Essays. Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press (2019)
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Evidentialism is the thesis, roughly, that one’s beliefs should fit one’s evidence. The enkratic principle is the thesis, roughly, that one’s beliefs should "line up" with one’s beliefs about which beliefs one ought to have. While both theses have seemed attractive to many, they jointly entail the controversial thesis that self-misleading evidence is impossible. That is to say, if evidentialism and the enkratic principle are both true, one’s evidence cannot support certain false beliefs about which beliefs one’s evidence supports. Recently, a number of epistemologists have challenged the thesis that self-misleading evidence is impossible on the grounds that misleading higher-order evidence does not have the kind of strong and systematic defeating force that would be needed to rule out the possibility of such self-misleading evidence. Here I respond to this challenge by proposing an account of higher-order defeat that does, indeed, render self-misleading evidence impossible. Central to the proposal is the idea that higher-order evidence acquires its normative force by influencing which conditional beliefs it is rational to have. What emerges, I argue, is an independently plausible view of higher-order evidence, which has the additional benefit of allowing us to reconcile evidentialism with the enkratic principle.

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Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences


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