A puzzle about fickleness

Noûs 56 (2):323-342 (2020)
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In this paper, I motivate a puzzle about epistemic rationality. On the one hand, there seems to be something problematic about frequently changing your mind. On the other hand, changing your mind once is often permissible. Why do one-off changes of mind seem rationally permissible, even admirable, while constant changes seem quintessentially irrational? The puzzle of fickleness is to explain this asymmetry. To solve the puzzle, I propose and defend the Ratifiable Reasoning Account. According to this solution, as agents redeliberate, they gain two types of evidence. First, they gain inductive evidence that they will not stably settle their belief. Second, this inductive evidence affords higher-order evidence that they are unreliable at assessing the matter at hand. The fact that fickle agents gain this higher-order evidence explains why fickleness can be epistemically—not just practically—irrational. In addition to solving the puzzle, my account captures a wide range of contextual factors that are relevant for our judgments.

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Elise Woodard
King's College London


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