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Conférence/Workshop GRIN – Kate Nolfi (Vermont)

Kate Nolfi (Vermont)

Date: 10 janvier 2020, 10h-12h
Salle/Room:  W-5215,  5e étage Pavillon Thérèse-Casgrain (W), UQAM (455, Boulevard René-Lévesque Est)

Résumé/Abstract: “An Action-Oriented Approach to Epistemic Theorizing”

What, given one’s circumstances, ought one believe? What sorts of norms or standards govern belief and belief regulation? What constitutes ideal belief regulation? These are the kinds of questions for which epistemic theorizing aims to supply answers. But these are also questions that we routinely raise and answer (at least tacitly or implicitly) in the course of our ordinary lives. We criticize one another for believing irrationally or unreasonably (especially vivid examples include our reflective responses to cases involving, e.g., affirming the consequent, the gambler’s fallacy, or flat earth beliefs). We pressure each other to resolve inconsistencies in our belief when these inconsistencies become apparent. And we encourage one another (and certainly teach our children) to form and revise beliefs in certain ways, and to refrain from forming and revising beliefs in other ways (e.g. we rebuke each other for jumping to conclusions, overly hasty generalizations, being gullible, etc.).

So, the theoretical ambitions of epistemology and the interests of ordinary, everyday thought and talk converge. And in light of this fact, I suggest that it makes sense for the epistemologist to treat our pre-theoretical evaluative practices regarding belief and belief-regulation—what I’ll call our ordinary epistemic practice—as a kind of starting point for their theoretical project. But even a cursory survey of our ordinary epistemic practice reveals an apparently deep, and now familiar tension. On the one hand, our epistemic practice suggests we expect a subject’s beliefs to put them in touch with the facts, and we demand that a subject regulate their beliefs in ways that are responsive to evidence. On the other hand, we routinely allow that features of a subject’s circumstances which do not bear on the truth of their beliefs in any way—i.e. non-evidential features—sometimes make a difference to what the subject ought to believe and/or how the subject ought to regulate their beliefs in the circumstances at hand.

In this paper, I argue that a heretofore underexplored approach to epistemic theorizing is especially well-positioned to expose this tension as merely apparent. Thus, what I call the action-oriented approach has the resources to simultaneously vindicate our pretheoretical intuition that our beliefs should tether us to the facts by tracking evidence, as well as our pretheoretical intuition that features of our circumstances that do not bear on the truth of our beliefs sometimes helps to determine what we ought to believe. As such, I suggest that the action-oriented approach to epistemic theorizing offers less revisionary answers to the questions that first-order epistemic theorizing seeks to answer (what, given my circumstances, ought I believe, what does conformity with the norms or standards govern belief and belief regulation require, and what constitutes ideal belief regulation?) than its most familiar competitors can. And at least for the epistemologist who adopts what I suggest is an independently attractive way of conceiving of their theoretical project, this result provides good prima facie reason to embrace the action-oriented approach.

Manuscrit disponible sur demande/Manuscript available on demand: grin.normativity@gmail.com