Three touchstones for evaluating norms of belief formation
John Wilcox (The University of Melbourne)

May 19, 2017, 11:00am - 12:00pm
Logic Group, The University of Melbourne

Old Quad
Parkville 3010


Shawn Standefer
University of Melbourne

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John Wilcox (Melbourne) will present "Three touchstones for evaluating norms of belief formation" at 11 in Old Quad G09.

Abstract: Our beliefs guide our lives—or, at very least, the decisions we make in our lives. Yet, as psychologists occasionally remark, our beliefs can fall prey to a variety of biases and fallacies that lead us astray. Fortunately, to avoid these cognitive pitfalls, norms have been proposed in fields as diverse as logic, philosophy of science, psychology, statistics, epistemology, social science and even computer science. These norms instruct us as to what beliefs we should have or how we should arrive at these beliefs; but not all norms are equally good, and some norms are both misled and misleading. How, then, do we determine which norms we should accept as guides for our belief formation? I will argue that scholars (tacitly) advocate at least one of three distinct touchstones for determining what norms to accept. These touchstones correspond to three considerations: 1) whether accepting a given norm is in our best interests, 2) whether the norm reflects the way that the world is structured or 3) whether the norm encodes our foundational intuitions about rational belief. I further argue that all of these touchstones are problematic, that all reflect distinct but somewhat unrecognised conceptions of rationality, that all are intimately related to each other and that appealing to all three touchstones to justify the same norm is an interesting project for future research. The seminar will focus on formal epistemology, inductive logic and degrees of belief. Nevertheless, it should be accessible for audiences outside of philosophy and formal epistemology.

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