there_are_no_norms_of_belief.doc

Norms specifying canonical evidence will specify the

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Norms specifying canonical evidence will specify the conditions under which you ought to believe some content. So the content-constituting approach will automatically imply norms of error-avoidance, simply as an upshot of the various specific norms which breathe different contents into different beliefs. These content- specific norms will simultaneously determine the content of beliefs and constrain believers to adopt them only when (there is evidence that) they are true. However, this is not the only way to defend the attitude-constituting version of doxasticism. It can be motivated quite independently of considerations to do with content. Suppose that we take propositional contents for granted, as items to which we can adopt a range of different propositional attitudes—desiring, hoping, fearing, and so on, as well as belief. We might then ask what differentiates these various attitudes—and in particular what differentiates belief from the others. And to this question a natural answer is that belief has a 6 This distinction between content-constituting and attitude-constituting norms is similar to Glüer and Wikforrs’ 2009 distinction between content-determined and content-engendered norms. They introduce their second category rather more abstractly than I do, however. 7 It might seem questionable to classify teleosemantics as a norm-free theory of content. Teleosemantics explains content in terms of the biological functions of cognitive states. Doesn’t this appeal to what those states are ‘designed’ or ‘supposed’ to do, and therefore offer an account of the ‘normativity’ of belief? (Cf McGinn 1989, Millikan 1993.) However, this is not genuine normativity. See the next section. 7
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distinctive ‘direction of fit’. It ‘aims at the truth’ in the sense that it is governed by the normative requirement that its contents ought never to be false, whereas the other attitudes can properly be adopted even when their contents are false. In what follows I shall assume that attitude-constituting doxasticism is motivated in the latter way, and not as a corollary of the content-constituting version. As I said, I do not wish to repeat my criticisms of content-constituting doxasticism. Instead I shall focus on those arguments for doxasticism that do not assume contents are normatively constituted. 8. The Aim of Belief It is a familiar thought that the attitude of belief has a distinctive ‘direction of fit’. It ‘aims at the truth’. Beliefs ought to fit the way the world is. By contrast, desires ought to alter the world. There are different ways of filling out the thought that belief ‘aims at the truth’. For present purposes, we need to understand it as the thesis that beliefs are governed by a norm of truth, and that the nature of belief is constituted by its being governed by this norm—in short, that it is essential to belief that it is governed by a norm of truth.
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