Belief's Own Ethics

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The fundamental question of the ethics of belief is "What ought one to believe?" According to the traditional view of evidentialism, the strength of one's beliefs should be proportionate to the evidence. Conventional ways of defending and challenging evidentialism rely on the idea that what one ought to believe is a matter of what it is rational, prudent, ethical, or personally fulfilling to believe. Common to all these approaches is that they look outside of belief itself to determine what one ought to believe.

In this book Jonathan
Adler offers a strengthened version of evidentialism, arguing that the ethics of belief should be rooted in the concept of belief -- that evidentialism is belief's own ethics. A key observation is that it is not merely that one ought not, but that one cannot, believe, for example, that the number of stars is even. The "cannot"
represents a conceptual barrier, not just an inability. Therefore belief in defiance of one's evidence (or evidentialism) is impossible. Adler addresses such questions as irrational beliefs, reasonableness, control over beliefs, and whether justifying beliefs requires a foundation. Although he treats the ethics of belief as a central topic in epistemology, his ideas also bear on rationality, argument and pragmatics,
philosophy of religion, ethics, and social cognitive psychology.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

Oxford Bibliographies

The best single-book treatment of the problem of the ethics of belief, in defense of a strongly evidentialist view.

From the Publisher
"A beautiful book that is exceptionally learned and rich." Igor Douven ArsDisputandi
Ars Disputandi - Igor Douven

A beautiful book that is exceptionally learned and rich.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262511940
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2006
  • Series: Bradford Books Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 373
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan E. Adler is Professor of Philosophy at Brooklyn College and the Graduate
School, CUNY.
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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
1 Getting Off the Wrong Track 25
I The Intrinsic Ethics of Belief 26
II Extrinsic Ethics of Belief 43
2 Can One Will to Believe? 55
3 Normative Epistemology: The Deceptively Large Scope of the Incoherence Test 73
4 Evading Evidentialism and Exploiting "Possibility": Strategies of Ignorance, Isolation, and Inflation 103
I Arguments from Ignorance 104
II Isolation and Testability 120
III Inflation as Distraction 129
5 Testimony: Background Reasons to Accept the Word of Others 135
6 Tacit Confirmation and the Regress 163
7 Three Paradoxes of Belief 193
8 Constraints on Us to Fully Believe 211
9 Interlude - Transparency, Full Belief, Accommodation 231
10 The Compatibility of Full Belief and Doubt 249
11 Prospects for Self-Control: Reasonableness, Self-Correction, and the Fallibility Structure 279
Notes 307
References 331
Index 349
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