Seminar Series in Analytic Philosophy

Javier Gonzalez de Prado Salas


How to Doubt Yourself Rationally

26 October 2018, 16:00

Faculdade de Letras de Lisboa

Sala Mattos Romão (Departamento de Filosofia)

Abstract: Higher-order evidence can make an agent rationally doubt the reliability of her reasoning. When this happens, it seems that the agent should adopt a cautious attitude towards her original conclusion. This is so even if the higher-order evidence is misleading and the original reasoning was actually impeccable (say, it was a good piece of deductive reasoning). On the face of it, this is puzzling. Why should the agent refrain from endorsing her initial conclusion, if her original reasons to endorse it remain as strong as before? My proposal is that the (misleading) higher-order evidence undermines the agent’s possession of her original first-order reasons, constituting what I call a dispossessing defeater. After acquiring the higher-order evidence, the agent is not anymore in a position to rely competently on the relevant first-order considerations as reasons for her original conclusion. In this way, such considerations stop being available to the agent as reasons for the conclusion. So, an agent with misleading higher-order evidence can adopt a cautious attitude while properly responding to the set of reasons that she possesses – a set that is reduced due to the acquisition of higher-order dispossessing defeaters.