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Epistemic Sanity or Why You Shouldn't be Opinionated or Skeptical

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 November 2022


I propose the notion of ‘epistemic sanity’, a property of parsimony between the holding of true but not false beliefs and the consideration of our cognitive limitations. Where ‘alethic value’ is the epistemic value of holding true but not false beliefs, the ‘alethic potential’ of an agent is the amount of extra alethic value that she is expected to achieve, given her current environment, beliefs, and reasoning skills. Epistemic sanity would be related to the holding of (true or false) beliefs that increase the agent's alethic potential (relevant beliefs) but not of beliefs that decrease it (this is related to cognitive parsimony). Suspension of judgment, forgetting, and clutter avoidance are the main contributors to an agent's epistemic sanity, where this paper focuses on suspension. I argue that rational suspension favors the holding of true and relevant beliefs, which is not the case for the extremes of opinionation (no suspension) and skepticism (general suspension). In the absence of evidence, opinionated agents are often forced to rely on principles such as the principle of indifference, but suspension dominates indifference in terms of alethic value in some conditions. A rational agent would only find it beneficial to adopt skepticism if she considers herself to be an anti-expert about her entire agenda, but then ‘flipping’ beliefs maximizes expected alethic value in relation to skepticism. The study of epistemic sanity results in an ‘impure’ veritism, which can deal with some limitations of veritism (e.g., explaining the existence of false but relevant beliefs).

Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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