The Normative Evaluation of Belief and the Aspectual Classification of Belief and Knowledge Attributions

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Abstract

It is a piece of philosophical commonsense that belief and knowledge are states. Some epistemologists reject this claim in hope of answering certain difficult questions about the normative evaluation of belief. I shall argue, however, that this move offends against not only philosophical commonsense but also against ordinary common sense, at least as far as this is manifested in the semantic content of the words we use to talk about belief and knowledge. I think it is relatively easily to show with some linguistic tests that ordinary belief and knowledge attributions should be classified aspectually as state descriptions. Hence, the move some epistemologists (especially virtue epistemologists like Sosa) to deny that belief and knowledge are states threatens to simply change the topic rather than open up answers to difficult questions in epistemology. I do not know fully how to answer the relevant questions about the normative evaluation of belief, but I pursue this critical point here in service of a positive proposal about the general framework in which they should be answered. In brief, the general framework is one which recognizes an important place for what I call state-norms, beside the action-norms which are more familiar from normative theory. And it locates the epistemic norms that apply to beliefs and are relevant for knowledge on the state-norm side of this divide. This turns out to be not only consistent with but indeed to underwrites the philosophical and ordinary commonsense that belief and knowledge are states.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)588-612
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Philosophy
Volume109
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2012

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