Higher-Order Defeat and Doxastic Resilience

In Mattias Skipper & Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (eds.), Higher-Order Evidence: New Essays. Oxford University Press (2019)
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Abstract

It seems obvious that when higher-order evidence makes it rational for one to doubt that one’s own belief on some matter is rational, this can undermine the rationality of that belief. This is known as higher-order defeat. However, despite its intuitive plausibility, it has proved puzzling how higher-order defeat works, exactly. To highlight two prominent sources of puzzlement, higher-order defeat seems to defy being understood in terms of conditionalization; and higher-order defeat can sometimes place agents in what seem like epistemic dilemmas. This chapter draws attention to an overlooked aspect of higher-order defeat, namely that it can undermine the resilience of one’s beliefs. The notion of resilience was originally devised to understand how one should reflect the ‘weight’ of one’s evidence. But it can also be applied to understand how one should reflect one’s higher-order evidence. The idea is particularly useful for understanding cases where one’s higher-order evidence indicates that one has failed in correctly assessing the evidence, without indicating whether one has over- or underestimated the degree of evidential support for a proposition. But it is exactly in such cases that the puzzles of higher-order defeat seem most compelling.

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