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David Christensen
Brown University
  1. Epistemology of Disagreement: The Good News.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (2):187-217.
    How should one react when one has a belief, but knows that other people—who have roughly the same evidence as one has, and seem roughly as likely to react to it correctly—disagree? This paper argues that the disagreement of other competent inquirers often requires one to be much less confident in one’s opinions than one would otherwise be.
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  2. Higher Order Evidence.David Christensen - 2010 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1):185-215.
    Sometimes we get evidence of our own epistemic malfunction. This can come from finding out we’re fatigued, or have been drugged, or that other competent and well-informed thinkers disagree with our beliefs. This sort of evidence seems to seems to behave differently from ordinary evidence about the world. In particular, getting such evidence can put agents in a position where the most rational response involves violating some epistemic ideal.
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  3. Disagreement as Evidence: The Epistemology of Controversy.David Christensen - 2009 - Philosophy Compass 4 (5):756-767.
    How much should your confidence in your beliefs be shaken when you learn that others – perhaps 'epistemic peers' who seem as well-qualified as you are – hold beliefs contrary to yours? This article describes motivations that push different philosophers towards opposite answers to this question. It identifies a key theoretical principle that divides current writers on the epistemology of disagreement. It then examines arguments bearing on that principle, and on the wider issue. It ends by describing some outstanding questions (...)
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  4. Disagreement, Question-Begging and Epistemic Self-Criticism.David Christensen - 2011 - Philosophers' Imprint 11.
    Responding rationally to the information that others disagree with one’s beliefs requires assessing the epistemic credentials of the opposing beliefs. Conciliatory accounts of disagreement flow in part from holding that these assessments must be independent from one’s own initial reasoning on the disputed matter. I argue that this claim, properly understood, does not have the untoward consequences some have worried about. Moreover, some of the difficulties it does engender must be faced by many less conciliatory accounts of disagreement.
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  5. The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays.David Christensen & Jennifer Lackey (eds.) - 2013 - Oxford University Press.
    This is a collective study of the epistemic significance of disagreement: twelve contributors explore rival responses to the problems that it raises for philosophy. They develop our understanding of epistemic phenomena that are central to any thoughtful engagement with others' beliefs.
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  6. Conciliation, Uniqueness and Rational Toxicity.David Christensen - 2016 - Noûs 50 (3):584-603.
    Conciliationism holds that disagreement of apparent epistemic peers often substantially undermines rational confidence in our opinions. Uniqueness principles say that there is at most one maximally rational doxastic response to any given batch of total evidence. The two views are often thought to be tightly connected. This paper distinguishes two ways of motivating conciliationism, and two ways that conciliationism may be undermined by permissive accounts of rationality. It shows how conciliationism can flourish under certain strongly permissive accounts of rationality. This (...)
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  7. Epistemic Modesty Defended.David Christensen - 2013 - In David Christensen & Jennifer Lackey (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. Oxford University Press. pp. 77.
    It has often been noticed that conciliatory views of disagreement are "self-undermining" in a certain way: advocates of such views cannot consistently maintain them when other philosophers disagree. This leads to apparent problems of instability and even inconsistency. Does self-undermining, then, show conciliationism untenable? If so, the untenablity would extend not only to almost all views of disagreement, but to a wide range of other views supporting what one might call epistemic modesty: roughly, the idea that getting evidence that one (...)
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  8. Rational Reflection.David Christensen - 2010 - Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):121-140.
    This paper explores an initially attractive principle connecting beliefs in general with beliefs about what beliefs are rational. The principle turns out to be violated by intuitively rational beliefs in some situations. The paper lays out some options for reacting to this fact.
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  9. Disagreement, Drugs, Etc.: From Accuracy to Akrasia.David Christensen - 2016 - Episteme 13 (4):397-422.
    We often get evidence concerning the reliability of our own thinking about some particular matter. This “higher-order evidence” can come from the disagreement of others, or from information about our being subject to the effects of drugs, fatigue, emotional ties, implicit biases, etc. This paper examines some pros and cons of two fairly general models for accommodating higher-order evidence. The one that currently seems most promising also turns out to have the consequence that epistemic akrasia should occur more frequently than (...)
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  10. Does Murphy’s Law Apply in Epistemology?David Christensen - 2008 - Oxford Studies in Epistemology 2:3-31.
    Formally-inclined epistemologists often theorize about ideally rational agents--agents who exemplify rational ideals, such as probabilistic coherence, that human beings could never fully realize. This approach can be defended against the well-know worry that abstracting from human cognitive imperfections deprives the approach of interest. But a different worry arises when we ask what an ideal agent should believe about her own cognitive perfection (even an agent who is in fact cognitively perfect might, it would seem, be uncertain of this fact). Consideration (...)
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  11. Clever Bookies and Coherent Beliefs.David Christensen - 1991 - Philosophical Review 100 (2):229-247.
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  12.  87
    Formulating Independence.David Christensen - 2019 - In Mattias Skipper & Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (eds.), Higher-Order Evidence: New Essays. pp. 13-34.
    We often get evidence that bears on the reliability of some of our own first-order reasoning. The rational response to such “higher-order” evidence would seem to depend on a rational assessment of how reliable we can expect that reasoning to be, in light of the higher-order evidence. “Independence” principles are intended to constrain this reliability-assessment, so as to prevent question-begging reliance on the very reasoning being assessed. However, extant formulations of Independence principles tend to be vague or ambiguous, and coming (...)
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  13. Measuring Confirmation.David Christensen - 1999 - Journal of Philosophy 96 (9):437-461.
    The old evidence problem affects any probabilistic confirmation measure based on comparing pr(H/E) and pr(H). The article argues for the following points: (1) measures based on likelihood ratios also suffer old evidence difficulties; (2) the less-discussed synchronic old evidence problem is, in an important sense, the most acute; (3) prominent attempts to solve or dissolve the synchronic problem fail; (4) a little-discussed variant of the standard measure avoids the problem, in an appealing way; and (5) this measure nevertheless reveals a (...)
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  14.  27
    The Rationality of Science. [REVIEW]David Christensen & W. H. Newton-Smith - 1984 - Philosophical Review 93 (3):471.
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  15. The Inelimninability of Epistemic Rationality.David Christensen - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Many writers have recently urged that the epistemic rationality of beliefs can depend on broadly pragmatic (as opposed to truth-directed) factors. Taken to an extreme, this line of thought leads to a view on which there is no such thing as a distinctive epistemic form of rationality. A series of papers by Susanna Rinard develops the view that something like our traditional notion of pragmatic rationality is all that is needed to account for the rationality of beliefs. This approach has (...)
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  16. Dutch-Book Arguments Depragmatized: Epistemic Consistency for Partial Believers.David Christensen - 1996 - Journal of Philosophy 93 (9):450-479.
    The most immediately appealing model for formal constraints on degrees of belief is provided by probability theory, which tells us, for instance, that the probability of P can never be greater than that of (P v Q). But while this model has much intuitive appeal, many have been concerned to provide arguments showing that ideally rational degrees of belief would conform to the calculus of probabilities. The arguments most frequently used to make this claim plausible are the so-called "Dutch Book" (...)
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  17. Conservatism in Epistemology.David Christensen - 1994 - Noûs 28 (1):69-89.
    A wide range of prominent epistemological theories include a principle of conservatism. Such principles take the fact that an agent currently holds a certain belief to constitute at least some measure of epistemic justification for her to maintain that belief. I examine the main arguments that have been made in conservatism's behalf, and find them unsound. Most interestingly, conservatism does not fall out of confirmational holism (the view that the justification of each of our beliefs is in part determined by (...)
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  18. Disagreement and Public Controversy.David Christensen - 2014 - In Jennifer Lackey (ed.), Essays in Collective Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    One of Mill’s main arguments for free speech springs from taking disagreement as an epistemically valuable resource for fallible thinkers. Contemporary conciliationist treatments of disagreement spring from the same motivation, but end up seeing the epistemic implications of disagreement quite differently. Conciliationism also encounters complexities when transposed from the 2-person toy examples featured in the literature to the public disagreements among groups that give the issue much of its urgency. Group disagreements turn out to be in some ways more powerful (...)
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  19. Epistemic Self-Respect.David Christensen - 2007 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107 (1pt3):319-337.
    Certain situations seem to call for acknowledging the possibility that one’s own beliefs are biased or distorted. On the other hand, certain sorts of epistemic self-doubts (such as ‘I believe it’s raining, but it’s not’) seem paradoxical. And some have put forth epistemic principles requiring rational agents to regard their own credences as so-called ‘expert functions’. This paper examines the question of whether rationality requires agents to respect their own credences in a way in which they need not respect the (...)
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  20. Confirmational Holism and Bayesian Epistemology.David Christensen - 1992 - Philosophy of Science 59 (4):540-557.
    Much contemporary epistemology is informed by a kind of confirmational holism, and a consequent rejection of the assumption that all confirmation rests on experiential certainties. Another prominent theme is that belief comes in degrees, and that rationality requires apportioning one's degrees of belief reasonably. Bayesian confirmation models based on Jeffrey Conditionalization attempt to bring together these two appealing strands. I argue, however, that these models cannot account for a certain aspect of confirmation that would be accounted for in any adequate (...)
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  21. Testimony, Memory and the Limits of the a Priori.David Christensen & Hilary Kornblith - 1997 - Philosophical Studies 86 (1):1-20.
    A number of philosophers, from Thomas Reid1 through C. A. J. Coady2, have argued that one is justified in relying on the testimony of others, and furthermore, that this should be taken as a basic epistemic presumption. If such a general presumption were not ultimately dependent on evidence for the reliability of other people, the ground for this presumption would be a priori. Such a presumption would then have a status like that which Roderick Chisholm claims for the epistemic principle (...)
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  22. Diachronic Coherence Versus Epistemic Impartiality.David Christensen - 2000 - Philosophical Review 109 (3):349-371.
    It is obvious that we would not want to demand that an agent' s beliefs at different times exhibit the same sort of consistency that we demand from an agent' s simultaneous beliefs; there' s nothing irrational about believing P at one time and not-P at another. Nevertheless, many have thought that some sort of coherence or stability of beliefs over time is an important component of epistemic rationality.
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  23.  46
    On Acting as Judge in One’s Own (Epistemic) Case.David Christensen - 2018 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 93 (1):207-235.
    We often get reason to doubt the reliability of some of our own reasoning. The rational response to such evidence would seem to depend on how reliable one should estimate that reasoning to be. Independence principles constrain that reliability-assessment, to prevent question-begging reliance on the very reasoning being assessed. But this has consequences some find disturbing: can it be rational for an agent to bracket some of her reasons—which she may, after all, be assessing impeccably? So several arguments have been (...)
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  24. Preference-Based Arguments for Probabilism.David Christensen - 2001 - Philosophy of Science 68 (3):356-376.
    Both Representation Theorem Arguments and Dutch Book Arguments support taking probabilistic coherence as an epistemic norm. Both depend on connecting beliefs to preferences, which are not clearly within the epistemic domain. Moreover, these connections are standardly grounded in questionable definitional/metaphysical claims. The paper argues that these definitional/metaphysical claims are insupportable. It offers a way of reconceiving Representation Theorem arguments which avoids the untenable premises. It then develops a parallel approach to Dutch Book Arguments, and compares the results. In each case (...)
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  25.  41
    John Earman's 'Bayes or Bust? A Critical Examination of Bayesian Confirmation Theory' (Book Review). [REVIEW]David Christensen - 1994 - Philosophical Review 103 (2):345-347.
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  26. Glymour on Evidential Relevance.David Christensen - 1983 - Philosophy of Science 50 (3):471-481.
    Glymour's "bootstrap" account of confirmation is designed to provide an analysis of evidential relevance, which has been a serious problem for hypothetico-deductivism. As set out in Theory and Evidence, however, the "bootstrap" condition allows confirmation in clear cases of evidential irrelevance. The difficulties with Glymour's account seem to be due to a basic feature which it shares with hypothetico-deductive accounts, and which may explain why neither can give a satisfactory analysis of evidential relevance.
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  27.  88
    The Irrelevance of Bootstrapping.David Christensen - 1990 - Philosophy of Science 57 (4):644-662.
    The main appeal of the currently popular "bootstrap" account of confirmation developed by Clark Glymour is that it seems to provide an account of evidential relevance. This account has, however, had severe problems; and Glymour has revised his original account in an attempt to solve them. I argue that this attempt fails completely, and that any similar modifications must also fail. If the problems can be solved, it will only be by radical revisions which involve jettisoning bootstrapping's basic approach to (...)
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  28. Skeptical Problems, Semantical Solutions.David Christensen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (2):301-321.
    This paper defends the legitimacy of semantical responses to certain skeptical challenges, with a particular focus on Putnam’s treatment of a particular version of Brain-in-Vat skepticism. It argues that while Putnam’s argument does not provide a general reply to Brain-in-Vat skepticism, the general approach it exemplifies is actually crucial in replying to other skeptical challenges that are otherwise hard to rebut.
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  29. What is Relative Confirmation?David Christensen - 1997 - Noûs 31 (3):370-384.
    It is commonly acknowledged that, in order to test a theoretical hypothesis, one must, in Duhem' s phrase, rely on a "theoretical scaffolding" to connect the hypothesis with something measurable. Hypothesis-confirmation, on this view, becomes a three-place relation: evidence E will confirm hypothesis H only relative to some such scaffolding B. Thus the two leading logical approaches to qualitative confirmation--the hypothetico-deductive (H-D) account and Clark Glymour' s bootstrap account--analyze confirmation in relative terms. But this raises questions about the philosophical interpretation (...)
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  30.  93
    Three Questions About Leplin’s Reliabilism.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 134 (1):43-50.
    This paper raises three critical questions about Jarrett Leplin's version of reliabilism.
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  31.  22
    The Nature of Rationality. [REVIEW]David Christensen - 1995 - Noûs 29 (2):259-274.
    This is a critical study of Robert Nozick's The Nature of Rationality.
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  32. Introduction: The Epistemology of Disagreement.David Christensen & Jennifer Lackey - 2009 - Episteme 6 (3):231-232.
    One of the most salient features of forming beliefs in a social context is that people end up disagreeing with one another. This is not just an obvious fact about belief-formation; it raises interesting normative questions, especially when people become aware of the opinions of others. How should my beliefs be affected by the knowledge that others hold contrary beliefs? In some cases, the answer seems easy. If I have reason to think that my friend is much better informed than (...)
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  33. Causal Powers and Conceptual Connections.David Christensen - 1992 - Analysis 52 (3):163-8.
    In "A Modal Argument for Narrow Content" ("Journal of Philosophy", LXXXVIII, 1991, pp 5-26), Jerry Fodor proposes a necessary condition for the distinctness of causal powers. He uses this condition to support psychological individualism. I show that Fodor's argument relies on inconsistent interpretations of his condition on distinct causal powers. Moreover, on no consistent interpretation does Fodor's condition yield the results claimed for it.
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  34.  63
    Switched-Words Skepticism: A Case Study in Semantical Anti-Skeptical Argument.David Christensen - 1993 - Philosophical Studies 71 (1):33 - 58.
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  35. Akratic (epistemic) modesty.David Christensen - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (7):2191-2214.
    Abstract: Theories of epistemic rationality that take disagreement (or other higher-order evidence) seriously tend to be “modest” in a certain sense: they say that there are circumstances in which it is rational to doubt their correctness. Modest views have been criticized on the grounds that they undermine themselves—they’re self-defeating. The standard Self-Defeat Objections depend on principles forbidding epistemically akratic beliefs; but there are good reasons to doubt these principles—even New Rational Reflection, which was designed to allow for certain special cases (...)
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  36.  77
    Letters to the Editor.Sanford G. Thatcher, James S. Stramel, Heather Blair, David Christensen, Ronald De Sousa, Timothy F. Murphy, Paul Raymont, Harold J. Dumain, Joseph A. Grispino, Todd Volker, Anto Knežević & Karen M. Kuss - 1995 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 68 (5):107 - 122.
    A letter protesting the publication of a homophobic rant in the Proceedings of the APA.
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