Monday, January 4, 2010

Further thoughts on warranted assertion

Wanted to post some thoughts concerning questions that came up towards the end of my session. One of the things I wanted to do is show that certain kinds of cases cause trouble for reasonable belief accounts of warranted assertion. Suppose someone ought to B rather than A but you reasonably believe that they ought to A rather than B. I say that you oughtn't assert that this person ought to A and that this is something they epistemically oughtn't assert.

One claim that I think came up during Q&A was that those who defend reasonable belief accounts of assertion just mean something like 'reasonable' by 'warranted'. The problem with this is that they aren't denying Williamson's account since he says that you shouldn't/oughtn't/mustn't assert p if you don't know p but are warranted if you may or are permitted to assert p. I would think that this would trivialize the account. If 'warranted' just meant what 'reasonable' meant, how could you offer an account of warranted assertion by saying that you are warranted in asserting whatever you reasonably believe? That's just to say that you are epistemically reasonable to assert whatever you reasonably believe. That's supposed to be some hard earned discovery of philosophical argument and reflection?

If I recall correctly, one claim was that there wasn't a sensible notion of 'should', 'ought', 'duty', etc... that comes apart from what's reasonable but I disagreed. I disagree. There's a perfectly sensible notion of duty that comes apart from what's reasonable. It's the thing that most people have in mind when they say (concerning the example from the paper) that there was a stronger duty to help the person who the agent poisoned than there was to help the person who was simply poisoned. That there's some other perfectly good notion of 'should', 'ought', or 'duty' is perfectly compatible with that point. It's not what people have in mind when they accepted the relevant intuitive claim and so people who defend RB accounts need to account for that.

One thing that I've learned recently is that some of my opponents who are more sympathetic to reasonable belief accounts of warranted assertion reject the following principle:
(JBJA) If S justifiably believes S ought to A, S can't be obliged to do something other than A.
Someone who rejects (JBJA) can't then turn around and say that there's no notion of 'ought', 'should', or 'duty' that comes apart from reasonable, rational, or responsible thing to do. Take any action that would be a counterexample to that principle above! When S is alleged to justifiably believes S ought to A but ought to do B instead, it surely cannot be reasonable, rational, or responsible for S to do B instead.

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