Understanding Epistemic Normativity


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




Why ought we conform with epistemic norms in believing? Many think that the nature of belief itself issues the mandate to conform with epistemic norms. But what is it about the nature of belief that issues this mandate? The most popular answer is: belief aims at truth. This dissertation argues that, if belief really did aim at truth, then the nature of belief would be unable to explain the mandate that we conform with epistemic norms. If, however, belief aims at being well-suited to play a certain distinctive role in a believer’s mental economy, then the nature of belief can very well explain this mandate.
Accordingly, this dissertation advances an account of the nature of belief according to which a belief is successful or correct if and only if it is well-suited to serve as a map in guiding action. And it shows how this account can underwrite a satisfying explanation of both how and why it is that we are bound by epistemic norms. Finally, this dissertation develops an account of doxastic control that succeeds where other extant accounts fail in explaining why some epistemic evaluations take the form of guidance or instructions regarding how a believer ought to reason.