BELIEFS THAT WRONG
You shouldn’t have done it. But you did. Against your better judgment you scrolled to the end of an article concerning the state of race relations in America and you are now reading the comments. Amongst the slurs, the get-rich-quick schemes, and the threats of physical violence, there is one comment that catches your eye. Spencer argues that although it might be “unpopular” or “politically incorrect” to say this, the evidence supports believing that the black diner in his section will tip poorly. He insists that the facts don’t lie. The facts aren’t racist. In denying his claim and in believing otherwise, it is you who engages in wishful thinking. It is you who believes against the evidence. You, not Spencer, are epistemically irrational.
My dissertation gives an account of the moral-epistemic norms governing belief that will help us answer Spencer and the challenge he poses. We live in a society that has been shaped by racist attitudes and institutions. Given the effects of structural racism, Spencer’s belief could have considerable evidential support. Spencer notes that it might make him unpopular, but he cares about the truth and he is willing to believe the unpopular thing. But, Spencer’s belief seems racist. Spencer asks, however, how could his belief be racist if his beliefs reflect reality and are rationally justified? Moreover, how could he wrong anyone by believing what he epistemically ought to believe given the evidence? In answer, I argue that beliefs can wrong.
Basu, R. Forthcoming. “The Specter of Normative Conflict”, in An Introduction to Implicit Bias: Knowledge, Justice, and the Social Mind, eds. Erin Beeghly and Alex Madva. Under contract with Routledge.
A challenge we face in a world that has been shaped by, and continues to be shaped by, racist attitudes and institutions is that the evidence is often stacked in favour of racist beliefs. As a result, we may find ourselves facing the following normative conflict: you ought (epistemically) believe p, but you ought (morally) not believe p. When the specter of normative conflict looms, what do we do? Do we simply face, as Tamar Gendler (2011) suggests, a tragic irresolvable dilemma that arises because we live in an unjust world? In this chapter, I consider how these cases of normative conflict should be understood and canvas the viability of suggested resolutions of the conflict.
Basu, R. & Schroeder, M. Forthcoming. “Doxastic Wrongings”, in Pragmatic Encroachment in Epistemology, eds. Brian Kim and Matthew McGrath. Under contract with Routledge.
The idea that we can wrong someone not just by what we do, but by what we believe, is a natural one. It is the kind of wrong we feel when those we love believe the worst about us, and it is one of the salient wrongs of racism and sexism. Nonetheless, it is philosophically puzzling how we could wrong one another by virtue of what we believe about them. This paper defends the idea that we can wrong one another by what we believe about them from two puzzles. The first assumption is a psychological thesis about belief: our beliefs are at the mercy of the evidence, thus we lack the right sort of control over our beliefs for them to be subject to moral evaluation. The second is the assumption that our epistemic reasons, our reasons for belief, are exhausted by evidential considerations. We defend an account of moral encroachment according to which (i) although our beliefs might be constrained by the evidence we are not at the mercy of the evidence, and (ii) our reasons for belief include non-evidential reasons, in particular, moral reasons.
Basu, R. & Schroeder, M. (eds.). Forthcoming. “Can Beliefs Wrong?”, special issue of Philosophical Topics.
- Rima Basu, "Can Beliefs Wrong" [final draft]
- Simon Keller, "Belief for Someone Else’s Sake"
- Nomy Arpaly and Anna Brinkerhoff, "Why Epistemic Partiality is Overrated"
- Kate Nolfi, "Moral Agency and Belief"
- Sarah Paul and Jennifer Morton, "Believing in Others"
- Berislav Marušić and Stephen White, "How Beliefs Can Wrong—A Strawsonian Epistemology"
- Mark Schroeder, "When Beliefs Wrong"
- Kristie Dotson, "Accumulating Epistemic Power: A Problem with Epistemology"
- Endre Begby, "Doxastic Morality: A Moderately Skeptical Perspective"
- Ryan Preston-Roedder, "Three Varieties of Faith"
This issue is expected to be in print in Spring 2018.