The Arbitrariness Objection Against Permissivism

Episteme:1-20 (2019)
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The debate between Uniqueness and Permissivism concerns whether a body of evidence sometimes allows multiple doxastic attitudes towards a proposition. An important motivation for Uniqueness is the so-called ‘arbitrariness argument,’ which says that Permissivism leads to some unacceptable arbitrariness with regard to one's beliefs. An influential response to the argument says that the arbitrariness in beliefs can be avoided by invoking epistemic standards. In this paper, I argue that such a response to the arbitrariness argument is unsuccessful. Then I defend a new response: contrary to common conception, the arbitrariness resulted by Permissivism is acceptable. The basic idea is that the arbitrariness resulted by Permissivism is analogous to the arbitrariness in permissive actions and the latter arbitrariness is intuitively acceptable. I answer three possible objections against this analogy, which are all motivated by the thought that beliefs aim at the truth. In addressing the last objection, I draw inspiration from the recent debate on transformative experience.

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Ru Ye
Wuhan University


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