Epistemology Brownbag: Amy Flowerree

Time/Date/Location: 3:30 PM, July 3rd, Kresge 3438

Title: Against Epistemic Partiality: Character, Values, and Evidence

Abstract: Do practical commitments require that we believe against the evidence? Recently, several philosophers have argued that our practical commitments – such as friendship and promise-making – make a direct difference for what we should believe. I argue that this is misguided. Practical commitments can make a difference indirectly (by giving you different evidence or directing your attention), but they cannot make a difference directly. I give two arguments for this, one from the nature of rationalizing explanation, another from the relationship between value and action. First, it is a general feature of rationalizing explanations that they must stem from an intelligible interpretation of persons and actions. If practical commitments made a direct difference in belief, then we would not be able to engage in rationalizing explanations of ourselves and our intimates. So practical commitments cannot make a direct difference for belief. Second, in order to make actions and persons intelligible, we must interpret them in light of what people value. Knowledge of what someone values is evidence for what they will do and who they are. So viewing someone intelligibly involves taking into account what they value, and this gives us evidence of what they will do and who they are. And this evidence is independent of our practical commitments. As a result, I think it unlikely that a better argument for epistemic partiality will arise.

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