Higher-Order Evidence in Epistemology, Ethics, and Aesthetics V

March 24, 2020 - March 25, 2020
Department of Philosophy, University of Southampton

Avenue Campus
United Kingdom

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California State University, Fullerton
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University of Southampton

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First-order considerations include evidence for and against the truth of a proposition, reasons for and against acting, and features of a work that contribute to its being admirable or disadmirable. Higher-order evidence includes considerations that bear (i) on a person's ability to assess or respond to first-order considerations, (ii) on what first-order considerations are available or forthcoming, and (iii) on the bearing of the first-order considerations. Some examples:

  • The clues support the verdict that the butler did it. But the detective knows they are exhausted and under stress, factors that might compromise their ability to evaluate the clues. Is it rational for the detective to think that the butler did it?
  • A hiring committee is deciding whether to appoint a person. The CV, interview, presentation, etc., suggest that they are the best candidate. But the committee has evidence that they are subject to bias in their assessment of the evidence. Should they appoint the person?
  • A person admires a film that is in fact admirable. But they have evidence that their admiration is motivated by snobbishness. Is it reasonable for the person to continue to admire the film?
  • Having read and carefully considering Quine's "Two Dogmas", a philosopher is convinced that the analytic/synthetic distinction is false. They are then reminded that their education in the US is likely to have pre-disposed them to this verdict. Should the philosopher reduce their confidence?
  • A student is deciding whether to visit their grandparents or go to a party. The former will bring the grandparents pleasure but not the student. The latter will bring the student pleasure but not the grandparents. By the lights of the true moral theory, the student should visit their grandparents. But their philosophy professor tells them (falsely) that egoism is the true moral theory. What should the student decide?
  • A person prefers the Beatles to the Stones. As it happens, the Beatles are better. But, according to the testimony of critics, the Stones are better. Should the person revise their preferences?

The issues higher-order evidence raises include but are not limited to the following: what bearing does higher-order evidence have on the status of our actions and attitudes? What difference, if any, does it make to what a person is right/justified/rational to believe/feel/decide? If it makes a difference, how and in what way?

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March 17, 2020, 1:00pm BST

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