The Moral Dimension of Doxastic Norms

DFG-funded Project · PD Dr. Marc Andree Weber
Chair of Philosophy I

The aim of this project is to explain, to explore, and to establish the moral dimension of doxastic norms, where doxastic norms are those that govern our belief-management.

Briefly, the central idea is this: As one puts other people at risk of being misinformed by adopting doxastic attitudes (such as belief, disbelief, or suspension of belief) that do not fit the available evidence, one causes harm to them – real and not only potential harm, because putting people at this risk already harms them. It is a moral requirement to avoid causing this harm by taking care that one is in a position to provide appropriate information on a topic on which one has adopted relevant beliefs when the need for such information arises. For this reason, there are not only epistemic but also moral norms that pertain to the formation, retention, and revision of beliefs, as well as to preparatory activities thereof, such as gathering proper evidence. In other words, the doxastic domain is not a moral-free zone; it rather has a moral dimension. Being far more than a mere addendum to the familiar epistemic dimension, this moral dimension helps us to understand our motivation to adopt well-justified beliefs, the presumably prescriptive character of doxastic norms, and the relation between belief-formation and inquiry.

It will be explored whether a carefully spelled-out reasoning in favour of a moral dimension of doxastic norms holds regardless of which basic moral perspective is in fact correct, or whether it excludes at least some of them (a plausible candidate for exclusion is, for instance, a strict version of consequentialism). Deeply connected with this is the question of how encompassing moral versions of doxastic norms are, and how much space there is for divergence between moral and epistemic versions of such norms. It will also be investigated what degree of externalism valid moral norms about belief-management exhibit, and whether invoking a moral dimension of doxastic norms has repercussions for more general considerations on internalism and externalism of justification. Moreover, invoking such a moral dimension affects debates on peer disagreement and doxastic wronging, in which noteworthy parts of the reasoning rely on an epistemic understanding of doxastic norms.