Higher-Order Evidence and the Normativity of Logic

In Scott Stapleford, Kevin McCain & Matthias Steup (eds.), Epistemic Dilemmas: New Arguments, New Angles. Routledge (forthcoming)
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Many theories of rational belief give a special place to logic. They say that an ideally rational agent would never be uncertain about logical facts. In short: they say that ideal rationality requires "logical omniscience." Here I argue against the view that ideal rationality requires logical omniscience on the grounds that the requirement of logical omniscience can come into conflict with the requirement to proportion one’s beliefs to the evidence. I proceed in two steps. First, I rehearse an influential line of argument from the "higher-order evidence" debate, which purports to show that it would be dogmatic, even for a cognitively infallible agent, to refuse to revise her beliefs about logical matters in response to evidence indicating that those beliefs are irrational. Second, I defend this "anti-dogmatism" argument against two responses put forth by Declan Smithies and David Christensen. Against Smithies’ response, I argue that it leads to irrational self-ascriptions of epistemic luck, and that it obscures the distinction between propositional and doxastic justification. Against Christensen’s response, I argue that it clashes with one of two attractive deontic principles, and that it is extensionally inadequate. Taken together, these criticisms will suggest that the connection between logic and rationality cannot be what it is standardly taken to be—ideal rationality does not require logical omniscience.

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Mattias Skipper
Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences


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