Volume 90, Issue 2, April 2013
An Argument Against Moderation
By “epistemic pragmatism” in general I will understand the claim that whether propositions instantiate certain key epistemic properties (such as being known or
being justifiably believed) depends not just on factors traditionally recognized as epistemic, but also on pragmatic factors, such as how costly it would be to the subject if the proposition were false. In what follows I consider two varieties of epistemic pragmatism. According to what I shall call moderate epistemic pragmatism, how much evidence we need in favor of a proposition in order to know that the proposition is true depends on our preferences. According to what I shall call extreme epistemic pragmatism, on the other hand, our preferences influence our epistemic position at a more basic level, because they help determine
how much justification we actually have in favor of the proposition in question. Simplifying brutally, moderate epistemic pragmatism has it that the more worried we are about a proposition’s being false, the more justification we need in order to know it, whereas extreme epistemic pragmatism has it that the more worried we are about a proposition’s being false, the less justification we have for it. Recently, Fantl and McGrath have presented an interesting argument for moderate epistemic pragmatism, an argument which relies on the principle that (roughly) knowledge is sufficient for action (KA). In this paper I argue that KA, together with a plausible principle about second-order evidence, entails extreme epistemic pragmatism.