Tuesday, February 9, 2010

"If it weren't true that p, I'd still believe it."

Somehow the sentence in the title sounds wrong: it seems to betray a lack of intellectual virtue—indeed, it suggests a vicious doxastic stubbornness. But surely there are cases where uttering the sentence is not a sign of vice. If the negation of the five minute hypothesis weren't true, I'd still believe it. I wonder if one thing that isn't going on here might not be this: counterfactuals of the form "q → I do A" are often elliptical for "(q & I know q) → I do A." And it would be stubborn to know that q isn't true and yet believe it (typically).

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Consider justified false beliefs:

If I was justified in believing that the keys were on the table, and i have no reason to think otherwise...actually I would consider myself acting irrational if I believed otherwise, and yet it actually turns out the the keys are NOT on the table. In this situation I would still believe that the keys are on the table (and arguably if retrospectively, I knew that the keys were not on the table there are still some who might say that you should still believe that the keys were on the table).

If you think we should always act subjectively rational, then it looks like if it weren't true that p, I'd still believe it.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Yeah. Another example is lottery cases. I'm not going to win the lottery. If that weren't true, I'd still believe it.