Reasons Fundamentalism and Rational Uncertainty – Comments on Lord, The Importance of Being Rational

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (2):463-468 (2020)
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In his new book "The Importance of Being Rational", Errol Lord aims to give a real definition of the property of rationality in terms of normative reasons. If he can do so, his work is an important step towards a defense of ‘reasons fundamentalism’ – the thesis that all complex normative properties can be analyzed in terms of normative reasons. I focus on his analysis of epistemic rationality, which says that your doxastic attitudes are rational just in case they are correct responses to the objective normative reasons you possess. For some fact to be an objective normative reason to do something that you possess, you have to be in a position to know this fact and be able to competently use it as a reason to do that thing. Lord’s view is thus a knowledge-first view about possessing normative reasons. Throughout the book, Lord conceptualizes belief in the traditional tripartite way – if you take any attitude at all towards a proposition, then you either believe it, or disbelieve it, or you suspend judgment about it. Lord doesn’t discuss cases in which we’re uncertain. Yet, those cases are ubiquitous. I explore how his view can be extended to them. I first discuss whether his strategy for vindicating coherence requirements in terms of normative reasons can be applied to credences. I then ask how Lord can conceive of the doxastic attitudes that encode uncertainty .

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Julia Staffel
University of Colorado, Boulder


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