There are no epistemic norms of inquiry

Synthese 200 (5):1-24 (2022)
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Epistemic nihilism for inquiry is the claim that there are no epistemic norms of inquiry. Epistemic nihilism was once the received stance towards inquiry, and I argue that it should be taken seriously again. My argument is that the same considerations which led us away from epistemic nihilism in the case of belief not only cannot refute epistemic nihilism for inquiry, but in fact may well support it. These include the argument from non-existence that there are no non-epistemic reasons for belief; the linguistic argument that epistemic norms of belief are needed to capture the semantics of ordinary epistemic talk; and the argument from theoretical roles that epistemic norms are needed to play key theoretical roles for rational belief. I conclude by sketching an alternative Gibbardian picture on which norms of inquiry are all-things-considered norms governing action.

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David Thorstad
Vanderbilt University


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