Epistemic Reasons I: Normativity

Philosophy Compass 11 (7):364-376 (2016)
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This paper is an opinionated guide to the literature on normative epistemic reasons. After making some distinctions in §1, I begin in §2 by discussing the ontology of normative epistemic reasons, assessing arguments for and against the view that they are mental states, and concluding that they are not mental states. In §3, I examine the distinction between normative epistemic reasons there are and normative epistemic reasons we possess. I offer a novel account of this distinction and argue that we in fact ought to acknowledge a threefold distinction between objective, possessed, and apparent normative epistemic reasons. In §4, I discuss the question of which normative reasons for doxastic attitudes are the epistemic ones, evaluating reasons against a simple evidentialist answer. Finally, in §5, I look at the role of reasons in epistemology, considering challenges to viewing reasons as the building blocks of epistemic normativity and maintaining that the challenges recommend a novel bi-level epistemology rather than a marginalization of reasons in epistemology.

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Kurt Sylvan
University of Southampton


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