Philosophy and Religion

Debunking Creedal Beliefs: LRI Colloquium

Fri, 10 Feb 2023 3:30 PM - 5:00 PM

JMU Logic & Reasoning Institute Colloquium  
"Debunking Creedal Beliefs"
Hrishikesh Joshi
Dept. of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University
3:30 Friday, February 10 – in Cleveland 114 

Following Anthony Downs’s classic economic analysis of democracy, it has been widely noted that most voters lack the incentive to be well-informed. Recent empirical work, however, suggests that political partisans can display selectively lazy or biased reasoning. Unfortunately, political knowledge seems to exacerbate, not mitigate, these tendencies. This paper builds on these observations to construct a more general skeptical challenge which affects what I call creedal beliefs. Such beliefs share three features: i) the costs to the individual of being wrong are negligible, ii) the beliefs are subject to social scrutiny, and iii) the evidential landscape relevant to the beliefs is sufficiently complex so as to make easy verification difficult. Some philosophers and social scientists have recently argued that under such conditions, beliefs are likely to play a signaling, as opposed to a navigational role, and that our ability to hold beliefs in this way is adaptive. However, if this is right, I argue there is at least a partial debunker for such beliefs. Moreover, this offers, I suggest, one way to develop the skeptical challenge based on etiological explanation that Mill presents in On Liberty when he claims that the same causes which lead someone to be a devout Christian in London would have made them a Confucian in Peking. Finally, I contend that this skeptical challenge is appropriately circumscribed so that it does not over-extend in an implausible way.

Co-sponsored by JMU Department of Philosophy and Religion

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