Abstract: There are many ways of dividing or disaggregating testimony into different kinds on epistemic grounds. Probably the most influential such distinction in the contemporary literature on testimony has been that proposed between testimony that is reasonably accepted by default, automatically, and testimony accepted on the basis of some reasoning about its felicity. Philosophers with very different general approaches to social epistemology have nevertheless agreed, typically on the basis of a range of cases or examples, that this distinction in the cognitive or doxastic testimonial phenomena reflects a fairly significant underlying epistemic difference between (roughly) evidential/justifica-tory and non-evidential/entitlement epistemologies. I reject this disaggregative view in favour of a unitary conception of testimony. Cognitive phenomena at the point of testimonial uptake leave out a great deal of what matters to the reasonableness of accepting testimony; when we consider more of the relevant factors, the seeming distinctions evaporate. And when we consider the range of testimonial phenomena in their real diversity, we find a far more fine-grained set of distinctions or a continuum of cases, rather than a difference answering to a single evidential/non-evidential divide.
Contra Tantum Reasons
Luís Duarte d’Almeida
University of Edinburgh
17 February 2017, 16:00
Faculdade de Letras da Universidade de Lisboa
Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)
Abstract: In this paper, co-authored with Euan MacDonald, we offer an account of reasons as facts that support ought-propositions; and we set this account against the standard account of reasons as facts that count either in favour or against something. After offering a characterisation of the support relationship, we show how the familiar notion of a pro tanto reason (a notion that can also be defined in the standard counting for/against terms) can be defined in support terms. Alongside pro tanto reasons, however, there are also, we suggest, what we propose to call contra tantum reasons: facts that support negative ought-propositions—propositions e.g. of the form “it is not the case that P ought/ought not to F”—without also supporting any positive ought-proposition. The notion of a contra tantum reason, unlike that of a pro tanto reason, cannot, we argue, be defined in the standard counting for/against terms. We conclude by suggesting that the inability of the standard account to accommodate contra tantum reasons may help explain why some familiar issues in moral philosophy (e.g. issues involving supererogation) have appeared to be more puzzling than they are.