there_are_no_norms_of_belief.doc

It will be useful to distinguish two different

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It will be useful to distinguish two different versions of the doxasticist claim that the state of believing is constituted by distinctive norms. According to the first version, the contents of 5 True, there are also philosophers who posit distinctive doxastic norms without supposing that they are constitutive of belief, simply resting their case on the ‘intuition’ that such norms obtain. A number of epistemological ‘internalists’ would fit this bill. However intuition is a flimsy basis on which to rest such a contentious commitment. 6
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beliefs are constituted by norms. According to the second, the very attitude of believing is constituted by norms. 6 On the first version, you wouldn’t be capable of believing that p , for any content p, unless you were governed by norms specifying appropriate conditions for adopting that specific belief. On the second version, you wouldn’t be capable of believing that p, or indeed believing anything—as opposed to desiring, hoping fearing, and so on—unless you were governed by norms regulating the generic attitude of belief. The first content-constituting version of doxasticism is motivated by theories which account for the contents of beliefs in terms of norms specifying when you ought to form those beliefs. Theories of content in the verificationist tradition, like Dummett’s explanation of content in terms of assertibility conditions, or Brandom’s inferentialism, would fit this bill. For theories like this, subjects can only possess the belief that p if they know which conditions comprise evidence that justifies the formation of the belief that p. In a previous paper (Papineau 1998) I discussed this content-constituting version of doxasticism at length. My central point in that paper was that theories which explain content in terms of norms are not the only possible theories of content. There is also a range of ‘naturalist’ theories of content, including success-semantics, teleosemantics 7 , and Fodor’s asymmetric dependence theory, which explain content in causal or historical terms without invoking norms at any stage. From the point of view of such naturalist theories, the only normativity governing belief formation is of the familiar instrumental kind aimed at ordinary moral, personal or aesthetic values. I further pointed out that theories that take the contents of beliefs to be constituted by norms face a range of difficulties that do not arise for naturalist theories, and that this argues against the content-constituting version of doxasticism. I shall not repeat my analysis of content-constituting doxasticism here, but will instead concentrate on the attitude-constituting version in what follows. Now, the attitude-constituting version of doxasticism can itself be defended either as a corollary of the content-constituting version, or as independently motivated. To see it as a corollary of the first version, note that someone who explains content in terms of content- specific norms, as in neo-verificationist accounts of content, will take these norms to constitute both the content and the attitude.
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