Epistemic dilemmas, epistemic quasi-dilemmas, and quasi- epistemic dilemmas

Chapter

Abstract

  • In this chapter, we distinguish between epistemic dilemmas, epistemic quasi-dilemmas, and quasi-epistemic dilemmas. Our starting point is the commonsense position that S faces a genuine dilemma only when S must take one of two paths and both are bad. It’s the “must” that we think is key. Moral dilemmas arise because there are cases where S must perform A and S must perform B-where “must” implies a moral duty-but S cannot do both. In such a situation, S is doomed to violate a moral obligation. Analogously, S faces a genuine epistemic dilemma only if she has an epistemic duty to believe that p and at the same time an epistemic duty to not believe that p (either because she has a duty to believe ~p or a duty to suspend judgment). We argue that such cases never arise because there is no epistemic duty to adopt a particular doxastic attitude towards any particular proposition (ever). Hence, there are no epistemic dilemmas. Nevertheless, one might suppose there are situations in which one’s evidence pulls in different directions without determining a uniquely justified doxastic attitude. Such epistemic quasi-dilemmas aren’t full-fledged dilemmas, but they are arguably close enough to pose a genuine problem for the believer. But we argue that there are no genuine epistemic quasi-dilemmas either: They are all resolvable in principle. Fans of dissonance will not be totally disappointed, however, since we argue that there may well be quasi-epistemic dilemmas. These are genuinely unwinnable situations in which one’s moral or pragmatic obligations to do epistemically relevant things make incompatible demands.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    International Standard Book Number (isbn) 13

  • 9781000468496
  • Start Page

  • 77
  • End Page

  • 85