Defeaters and disqualifiers

Daniel Munoz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Justification depends on context: even if E on its own justifies H, still it might fail to justify in the context of D. This sort of effect, epistemologists think, is due to
defeaters, which undermine or rebut a would-be justifier. I argue that there is
another fundamental sort of contextual feature, disqualification, which doesn’t
involve rebuttal or undercutting, and which cannot be reduced to any notion of
screening-off. A disqualifier makes some would-be justifier otiose, as direct testimony sometimes does to distal testimony, and as manifestly decisive evidence might do to gratuitous evidence on the same team. Basing a belief on disqualified evidence, moreover, is distinctively irrational. One is not necessarily irresponsible. Instead one is turning down a free upgrade to a sleeker, stabler basis for one’s beliefs. Such an upgrade would prevent wastes of epistemic effort, since someone who bases her belief on a disqualified proposition E will need to remember E and rethink her belief should E ever be defeated. The upgrade might also reduce reliance on unwieldy evidence, if E is relevant only thanks to some labyrinthine argument; and if even ideal agents should doubt their ability to follow such arguments, even they should care about disqualifiers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)887-906
Number of pages20
Issue number511
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes

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