As cognitive science demonstrates, beliefs are often resistant to evidence. Nonetheless, the orthodox view in epistemology analyzes beliefs as evidence-responsive attitudes. I address this tension by developing an account of belief that does justice to its roles in both epistemology and cognitive science. On the Evidence-Responsiveness Capacities View, belief requires the capacity for evidence-responsiveness. More precisely, if a subject believes that p, then they have the capacity to rationally respond to evidence bearing on p. I argue that our most advanced science of belief supports this view: the best explanation for real-world evidence-resistance involves evidence-responsiveness capacities. The resulting account of belief provides us with an empirically useful framework for explaining cases of evidence-resistance ranging from ordinary political beliefs to clinical delusions. On the epistemic side, this view yields a novel vindication of the idea that belief aims at truth. It also suggests a new defense of the Davidsonian idea that beliefs constitutively involve a core of rationality.
Oxford Epistemology Group, 14.00-15.30pm on Thursdays via Zoom. A weekly seminar of visiting speakers, work-in-progress talks, and discussion of recent work in epistemology, for faculty and graduate students. Please email Nick Hughes to be added to the mailing list.
Oxford Epistemology Group Convenor: Nick Hughes