As a part of a paper I am working on (very early stages and so the rest will be very sketchy), I would like to argue that different epistemic norms govern normative beliefs and other beliefs with ordinary, purely naturalist contents. By epistemic norms I mean norms that describe what type of evidence and defeaters are canonically relevant for when you can hold the beliefs in question with warrant. It seems to me that there is an interesting asymmetry between the evidence and defeaters that are relevant for holding normative beliefs with warrant and the ones that are relevant for other beliefs with ordinary, purely naturalist contents. I’ll briefly explain this asymmetry below. I would like some help from the readers of this blog with regards to questions about whether this asymmetry is plausible, whether these norms could be different in some other ways and especially whether there is any literature I could draw from.
Here’s the asymmetry I have in mind. It seems to me that canonically normative beliefs admit both other normative beliefs and other ordinary beliefs with purely naturalist contents as evidence for them and as defeaters for that evidence. Suppose I am driving a car and believe that I ought to slow down. The belief that I am doing 60mph and the belief that it is wrong to impose a risk on others would both count as acceptable evidence for this belief. Likewise, the belief that my speedometer is broken and the belief that it is permissible to go fast if no one is around can equally undermine the evidence I have for the original normative belief (other things being equal, in normal circumstances…). So, it seems to me that normative beliefs are epistemically liberal in this sense in the type of evidence and defeaters they admit.
In contrast, it doesn’t seem to me that ordinary, purely naturalist beliefs are liberal in the same sense. The epistemic norms that govern holding these beliefs with warrant seem to set stricter constraints. Suppose I believe that I am doing less than 40mph (perhaps on the basis of visual experience). Many other ordinary purely naturalist beliefs count as evidence that supports this belief (the speedometer says 36mph, I am in the 40mph zone and other cars are not passing me…).
However, it seems harder to see what normative beliefs could provide evidence to support this belief. Beliefs such as that doing less than 40mph is good for the environment or that you should not go faster than 40mph as this poses a risk on others are no reason to think that I am doing less than 40mph. Thinking that I am doing less than 40mph on those grounds would make me merely guilty of wishful thinking. It is also equally difficult to accept normative beliefs as typical defeaters for the evidence we have for other ordinary, non-normative beliefs. If it seems to me that I am doing less than 40mph, that I ought to make it in time to the meeting will not undermine any evidence I have for holding this belief.
Thus, to summarize, it seems to me that normative beliefs admit both other normative beliefs and other beliefs with ordinary, naturalist contents as both evidence and defeaters. In contrast, it seems to me that beliefs with ordinary, naturalist contents admit only other similar beliefs as evidence and defeaters but importantly not normative beliefs. If this is right, then there would be a difference between the epistemic norms that govern normative beliefs and other beliefs.
So, the questions are:
1. Does the simple asymmetry I have described strike at all plausible?
2. Are there any other differences between the epistemic norms that govern normative beliefs and other beliefs (I remember Kalderon describing some such differences)?
3. Is there any literature in which this type of differences would be described in more detail (this would be extremely helpful)?