Contextualism about Epistemic Reasons

Authored by: Daniel Fogal , Kurt Sylvan

The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism

Print publication date:  March  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138818392
eBook ISBN: 9781315745275
Adobe ISBN: 9781317594697


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Ordinary talk is rife with claims about epistemic reasons. Consider, for example:

‘There’s no reason to think Yetis exist.’

‘We have a reason to believe your account was accessed by a third party.’

‘The dark clouds approaching are a reason to think it will rain.’

We will call sentences like these ‘normative epistemic reasons ascriptions’ (‘ERAs’ for short), since they are used to ascribe or deny reasons that normatively support beliefs. For simplicity, we will focus on unmodified ERAs like those above; talk of ‘good’/‘bad’ reasons, ‘strong’/‘weak’ reasons, etc., introduces further complexities. Normative reasons are standardly contrasted with explanatory and operative reasons. Perhaps the reason why Smith thinks he will never get a job is that he is depressed – this is an explanatory reason. But the fact that he is depressed needn’t be his reason for so believing – i.e., it needn’t be an operative reason for him. We aren’t directly concerned with these kinds of reasons.

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