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The Conflict of Evidence and Coherence

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For many epistemologists, and for many philosophers more broadly, it is axiomatic that rationality requires you to take the doxastic attitudes that your evidence supports. Yet there is also another current in our talk about rationality. On this usage, rationality is a matter of the right kind of coherence between one's mental attitudes. Surprisingly little work in epistemology is explicitly devoted to answering the question of how these two currents of talk are related. But many implicitly assume that evidence‐responsiveness guarantees coherence, so that the rational impermissibility of incoherence will just fall out of the putative requirement to take the attitudes that one's evidence supports, and so that coherence requirements do not need to be theorized in their own right, apart from evidential reasons. In this paper, I argue that this is a mistake, since coherence and evidence‐responsiveness can in fact come into conflict. More specifically, I argue that in cases of misleading higher‐order evidence, there can be a conflict between believing what one's evidence supports and satisfying a requirement that I call “inter‐level coherence”. This illustrates why coherence requirements and evidential reasons must be separated and theorized separately.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2018

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