Are Sceptics guilty of epistemic akrasia? And does it matter?

May 19, 2023, 12:30pm - 2:00pm
Department of Politics, Media, and Philosophy, La Trobe University

SS 324 (Level 3, Social Sciences Building)
Social Sciences Building, La Trobe University
Melbourne 3086


La Trobe University

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Epistemic akrasia is understood as holding both the belief that p and the belief that I am not justified in believing that p. Like Hume, almost all sceptics continue to hold external world beliefs despite also believing that they are not justified in those beliefs. They are thus epistemically akratic on a large scale. Some writers hold that epistemic akrasia is irrational, and it is suggested that one can conclude that scepticism itself is irrational. In this paper I disambiguate the irrationality claim, and argue that epistemic akrasia does involve epistemic irrationality, but that this is not a conclusion that will trouble the sceptic.  However there is another important sense of “rational” in which it is rational to do what one has, on balance, the best reason to do. In this sense, some ordinary (non-sceptical) cases of epistemic akrasia may, arguably, be rational. In this same sense, the sceptic’s epistemic akrasia turns out to be entirely rational, since they have ample non-epistemic reason to continue holding their ordinary external world beliefs.

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