Update: A couple more came in later and I’ve included them. Look for those with the “[Added]” marker.

Here goes!

Is epistemology descriptive with a prescriptive edge?

A big part of it is prescriptive. Like morality, rationality involves an evaluative dimension–just as there are such things as good or bad, right or wrong with it comes to action, there are also rational or irrational, justified or unjustified, true or false, etc., when it comes to beliefs.

What is the diff between an epistemic norm and a moral norm?

Can elaborate further on the connection between epistemic and moral norms?

The first is concerned with the evaluation or epistemic ‘actions’–believing propositions, for instance, the latter with action actions. The former evaluate them according to norms relating to truth and rationality, the latter according to norms relating to goodness and rightness. But in principle, the an analogous logic applies in both domains (recall W03 Slide #8)–replacing “moral blame” with “rational criticism”, etc.

similar to how we can have justified false belief, can we have “morally right” actions that are in fact wrong?

Under Deontology and Rule Consequentialism, you can always have actions that are morally justified but that in fact brings about a worse outcome for the world.

What’s a achievement norm?

There’s a sense in which knowledge is an achievement–if you have it, you’ve succeeded at something. Like scoring a goal in soccer–an activity that is itself governed by norms.

Hi Prof, why doesn’t the die roll count as justification? If Mary believes that she has magical pair of dice, would that count as sufficient justification?

Only if her belief that she has magical pair of dice is itself justified. If your belief that P is justified on the basis of another belief that Q, you had better be justified in believing that Q…

To have a justified true belief in P1, we need to have a justified true belief in P2 which is used to justify P1. Would this be a case of infinite regress?

How would one attempt to solve the problem of an infinite regression of justification of epistemological norms? (i.e. I believe A because of norm B, which is a valid norm because of norm C,which is valid because of D…)Are some norms just intuitive?

Yes. Back in 2016 when I first started teaching GET1029, this was the issue for the knowledge topic. You can find out more about it here.

Can there be a justified false belief?

How can irrational thoughts be justified?

Yes. See Slide #10. If the belief is justified, it’s not irrational. False but rational thoughts are a different matter. Say you are a detective. Given all the evidence available to you, you carefully and conscientiously drew a certain conclusion. But unbeknownst to you, it was all a set up and the mastermind is very good. You ended up with a justified but false belief.

can we be subjected to rational criticism for having justified false belief?

Technically, no–at least that’s the way I think about it. All of the “properly subject to rational criticism” stuff are covered by justification rather than truth. That said, we should also recognize that a justified true belief is still “better” than a justified false belief. So even if you aren’t properly subject to rational criticism for having one of the latter, even by your own lights–given that your belief aims at truth–you failed to achieve what you set out to achieve. (Analogy: Let’s say that you bought your mom a birthday present. You’ve done your best homework and drew the conclusion that she would be happy with a certain something and so you bought that and gave it to her. But unbeknownst to you, that item actually brought back painful memories to her. Because you couldn’t have known, you weren’t blameworthy–nor does she blame you. But even you would agree that you, failed, at some level.)

Hi Prof, Slide 19 in lecture 9 uses the word ‘good reason’ but in the lecture you said it more like ‘justification’ (from what I observed). I am pointing this out because in slide 11 you drew a distinction between the terms justification and good reason so I’m just concerned that someone might misunderstand what you mean in slide 19. (Came by email.)

The distinction isn’t between justification and good reason; it’s between two kinds of good reasons. Justifications and explanations. Slide #19 says “good reason for us to believe…”–this is referring to justification. Another way to say it would be “good reason to believe…” The slide doesn’t say “good reason for/explaining why the person believes what he believes…” That would indicate explanation.

is logic an epistemic norm?

Logic will imply epistemic norms. But unless you interpret the enterprise of logic in a specific way, it’s not a direct translation. One domain is about the properties of symbolic systems. The other is about the norms governing belief.

who is to determine which beliefs are justified and which are not?

The beliefs that conform to epistemic norms are the ones that are justified. So who determine the norms? Some are widely shared (e.g., those relating to logic, for instance, or basic inductive reasoning), others are more specific to a field of inquiry (e.g., epidemiology, social psychology, applied mathematics, etc.). But of course, there are also plenty of domains where there remain disagreement–even among the experts–over some of the norms. The thing to keep in mind is that all these norms are meant to serve the same purpose–following them is supposed to give us better than even chance of obtaining truth, i.e., how things actually are.

But other than that, Zhuangzi would probably like you.

Is “measuring up” the same as “satisfying”?

Yes, that’s fine.

Is there a very fine or significant difference between disagreement and disputation?

“Disagreement” is a more general term that we often apply to scenarios that aren’t the one laid out in Slide #17, which is a specific type of disagreement. I called it a “disputation”–an artificial coinage (standing for the Mohist term biàn) just to emphasize this.

Is the concept of convincing and true beliefs somewhat related to desire satisfaction theory?

Not sure how that goes. The idea in Slide #22 is just this–supposed you are very convinced that P is true. You feel really certain about it. Does this–by itself–count as justification? Zhuangzi wants to say–that can’t be right. It’s way too easy. Lots of people are very convinced of all sorts of stuff. Surely this–by itself–can’t make their beliefs justified.

How is a “genuine teacher” a proper justification?

As I said–it’s a cultural thing. But it’s not that alien–think “conforming to expert testimony” as an epistemic norm.

On the slide “Unfair Archery”, for the various philosophical disputes (especially the non-Chinese philosophers, e.g. Norcross vs Lomasky), when you mentioned everyone is just asserting their own “made up minds”, are we making the same cultural assumption (as seen in the slide on The Made-up Mind)? Because with regards to the ‘made up mind’ in the previous slide (‘The Made-up Mind’), there is a cultural assumption that ‘S is justified to believe that P’ since ‘we ought to believe the teachings of a true teacher’ which you said was a “very Chinese thing”. [Added]

No, Zhuangzi is basically insinuating that at the end of the day, people like Norcross and Lomasky are basically just doing unfair archery. They already know how they want to conclude (“made up mind”) and so hunt around for reasons to support themselves. It’s not an argument against them but a naughty suggestion to us that we should wonder about what they are really doing. The point about the cultural assumption is this. Given the cultural assumption that “heard from true teacher” = “justified”, Zhuangzi says that if a “made up mind” counts as a true teacher, then, in principle, everyone has their own true teachers—including everyone opposed to each other. Everyone is already equally justified. (Or equally not justified.)

is begging the question circular reasoning?

difference between texan challenge and begging the question ?

is “avoiding begging the question” itself an epistemic norm just like “not believing inconsistent beliefs”?

Is Zhuangzi begging the question against Mozi?

Slide #24 has the information you need regarding begging the question and begging the question against the other.

Technically, begging the question is a type of circular reasoning; but for our local purposes, we don’t need to make a careful distinction between them.

In a sense, “yes”–though if it’s also a norm that Mozi agrees with, he won’t be able to reply to Zhuangzi by saying that it’s just your norm, not mine. Notice that as far as possible, Zhuangzi had made use of ideas straight from Mozi’s playbook. (I abbreviated that part of the explanation this time round but I do believe that Mozi–given what he said in his text–would agree with such a norm. Mozi conceived of the appropriate epistemic norms as impartial norms that govern all of us. They aren’t just “Mohist” norms, so to speak.)

Pertaining to the Texan’s Challenge, when we say that it begs the question against the opponent, may I clarify if it’s because we don’t give the reason behind our belief that “not Q”, but instead we just say “not Q” so that we can conclude “not P”? [Added]

Yes. And only if you intended it as an argument against your opponent. If you aren’t intending it as an argument against your opponent but just as a statement of your own position, then it would be strange to think of you as begging the question against the other.

by standards “supporting X”, do you mean standards are “biased towards X”? bc lets say a judge rules that defendant is guilty (analogous to adopting one of options a or b), it doesn’t mean the judge is not impartial right?

No, I mean a standard that–if taken as an epistemic norm–would justify that belief. To see the spirit of Zhuangzi’s point, go back to the question above “who is to determine which beliefs are justified and which are not?”

Is it possible to say that from Zhuangzi’s argument, that there are maybe no such ‘interesting’ disputations that can exist?

How so? Is it because the scenario is incoherent (Response #1)? But it doesn’t seem to be–it can, in principle, arise.

Can we adopt a standard that supports one side but is not adopted by either?

i still dun understand the explanation of having someone with no preconceived notions to assess the arguments

Hi Prof, what would Zhuangzi say about using a standard that is the intersection between AA and BB to come to the conclusion whether A is justified or B is justified? Would this be an impartial standard that can lead to a rational resolution?

Wouldn’t Zhuangzi also claim that a set of epistemic norms that support both sides is still begging the question in favour of both sides and thus it is still the case neither side is justified?

Imagine that Bob and Jane are in the disputation and neither are about to give way. They are both equally convinced, and equally ‘backed by reason’, and both smart, conscientious, etc. So to break the impasse, they ask a third party–Moe–to be the adjudicator–to play the role of Mozi’s impartial standard of assessment. But we don’t need to assume that Moe came to the job with reasons in mind that already support Bob, or Jane, or both, or neither, or with any any ‘pre-conceived notions’ at all. But the question is whether Moe can remain in this state and still be able to adjudicate the dispute on the model proposed by Mozi. At some point, Moe will have to lay down what’s supposed to be an impartial standard. It’s not important where this standard comes from–maybe it’s just a direct appropriation of Jane’s standard. Maybe it’s something at the intersection of Bob and Jane’s standard, and so on. Whatever Moe does, Zhuangzi will intervene to ask us whether, if the standard that he lays down is to resolve the dispute at all, can it really be other than one of the four options in the tetralemma.

This doesn’t mean other things can’t happen, by the way. For all we know, Moe’s intervention may end up convincing Bob to switch sides–to become convinced by Jane (for instance). But that’s the generation of a new scenario–where Bob 2.0 now shares the position of Jane. It doesn’t entail that Bob 1.0 was unjustified or that Jane was justified. (Recall Response #3 in the lecture). Or maybe Moe laid down a standard that’s so attractive that both Bob and Jane now decide to adopt it–even though Moe’s standard supports both or neither–but again, what we really have is a change of the scenario, not the resolution of the original scenario. If Bob and Jane were really in a disputation, at least one and at most one of their positions can be true. For them to now switch to adopt the new standard and agree with Moe that they are both right, or both wrong, is for them to change their positions after all.

why are AA and BB [not] impartial? [I think you mean not impartial] since my understanding of impartiality is not based on outcome (whether support A or B) but rather on fair treatment (if they put A and B through the same assessment process)

can i break the conclusion that adopting AA/BB/CC[/DD] begs the questions against B, A or both, since as long as the justification for adopting them doesn’t assume the falsity of B, A or both, then it is not begging the question regardless of the outcome?

If you look at Slide #30, what I said was that they at least seemed to be more impartial. The major worry motivating Premise 2 in Zhuangzi’s argument is whether, by adopting any standard, we can avoid begging the question against one part or another.  And as long as the standard does imply that one position or another will come out unjustified [doesn’t have to be false, just unjustified], there is something that–in principle–one can complain about. The easiest way to see it is to picture Norcross vs. the Texan on the Puppy Argument.

Could we reframe disputation as not between issues but between standards instead? And both parties would attempt to convince the other that their standard is true by appealing to a shared fundamental standard on a deeper level that both hold.

Then what you are doing is to invite Zhuangzi to re-run his argument at that further level… And if at some point, you run out of further reasons, then what you have will either be a concurrence of standards–in which case the Argument from Disputation doesn’t arise, or a fundamental disagreement between two basic claims that aren’t mediated by further justifications.

I don’t understand how permissivism resolves the idea that every argument begs the question, since we are still assuming epistemic norms that already support our arguments (even in the case where opposite arguments are justified supported)?

If we adopt Epistemic Permissivism, then, Premise 1 is false–since even if the disputation is (C) interminable. it may yet be the case that one or both of the disputants are justified in their beliefs.

what determines the domains to be unique vs permissive? and if the domain is unique, doesn’t it face zhuangzi’s challenge which means they’re arguments are not justified

Go back to the definition. If the epistemic norms in domain of inquiry is such that opposing beliefs held by epistemic peers can be equally justified, then it’s a Permissive domain. For domains in which Uniqueness rules, there couldn’t be equally justified but opposing beliefs held by epistemic peers. If a dispute should arise, all we can conclude is that we are dealing with a disagreement between non-peers. But that also means Zhuangzi’s argument don’t have to kick in–since in principle, we can argue that such a disagreement won’t be one between equally sharp people equally backed by reason.

if the application of different epistemic standards could lead to opposite equally justified beliefs, doesn’t it mean these epistemic peers have not even agreed on these epistemic standards, or at least on when to apply which one(s)?

That’s one possibility. Another possibility is that the same norms are applied in the domain, but the evidence is ambiguous such that, in principle, different agents (peers) can end up drawing opposing conclusions despite using the same norms. This is, admittedly, the less obvious scenario. To respond to Zhuangzi’s argument, we do need the version in which experts in the domain don’t agree on standards or how which standards are to be applied–while acknowledging each other’s epistemic standing.

Isnt it more like epistemic relativity rather than permissivism?

Only if you are conceiving of justification is relative terms–i.e., there’s no such thing as a justified belief, or someone being justified in holding a certain belief period, only justified-to-X, justified-to-Y, etc. (Now it is possible to set up Permissivism so that it involves this relativity as well, but I’m not including this complication.)

Aren’t philosophers who subscribe to epistemic uniqueness practicing pessimivism? [you meant permissivism]

Why would that be the case? In principle, a Permissivist can agree that some domains are such that they are ruled by Uniqueness. But to subscribe to Epistemic Uniqueness is to say that Uniqueness applies to all domains…