Friday, June 11, 2010

Nails in the consequentialist coffin?

In the previous post, I suggested that there was an assumption operative in Maitzen's collapse argument that wasn't warranted. I did want to raise two worries about epistemic consequentialism.

The first worry is this. As Carlson notes, a proper consequentialist view would not say that the moral status of an act is determined by the outcome of the act if the outcome included only the act itself. The moral status of the act is determined (in part) by the total or overall outcome of the act's performance. We might say that the morally relevant outcome is the possible world that would be actual if the action were performed. Or, something like that. Isn't _this_ the problem with epistemic consequentialism? The justification of a belief does not depend upon the outcomes or consequences of the belief's formation. Done.

The second worry is due to Michael DePaul. Again, let's suppose this:
Value of TB = 1
Value of FB = -1
Value of suspension of judgment = 0.

Consider the proposition that the number of sands in Iceland is even. If you believe and get it wrong, -1. If you believe and get it right, +1. If you suspend, 0. There are lots of propositions like this one. Pick some things you can't count and a location where they are found. One strategy is to always go with even. One strategy is to always go with odd. One strategy is to always believe after flipping a fair coin. Employ any of these and it seems likely that you'll do equally well. If you get things right half the time, you do just as well as you would if you suspended judgment. Intuitively, you ought to suspend judgment and you can't have justified beliefs about propositions like this. And the epistemic consequentialist accommodates this how?

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