Respecting all the evidence
Plausibly, you should believe what your total evidence supports. But cases of misleading higher-order evidence—evidence about what your evidence supports—present a challenge to this thought. In such cases, taking both first-order and higher-order evidence at face value leads to a seemingly irrational incoherence between one’s first-order and higher-order attitudes: you will believe P, but also believe that your evidence doesn’t support P. To avoid sanctioning tension between epistemic levels, some authors have abandoned the thought that both first-order and higher-order evidence have rational bearing. This sacrifice is both costly and unnecessary. We propose a principle, Evidential Calibration, which requires rational agents to accommodate first-order evidence correctly, while allowing rational uncertainty about what to believe. At the same time, it rules out irrational tensions between epistemic levels. We show that while there are serious problems for some views on which we can rationally believe, “P, but my evidence doesn’t support P”, Evidential Calibration avoids these problems. An important upshot of our discussion is a new way to think about the relationship between epistemic levels: why first-order and higher-order attitudes should generally be aligned, and why it is sometimes—though not always—problematic when they diverge.
higher-order evidence; rationality; reliability; epistemic akrasia; epistemic levels