Kantian Propositional Attitudesand Doxastic Norms

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Faculty of Philosophy


Famously, Kant attributed great significance to his proclaimed achievement of making'room for faith' (or "Belief"). There's recently been a surge in interest in Kant's notion of Belief and other propositional attitudes. This interest is partly being justified by the putative relevance of Kant's doxastic theory for contemporary epistemology. This is because Belief, for Kant, is a firmly held positive propositional attitude that is not entertained for epistemic reasons; it does not and cannot constitute knowledge.So, one might think Belief could be of use in contemporary debates about, for example,non-evidential belief.This debate concerns whether beliefs can or should be held for non-truth-promoting and non-fact-based reasons. For instance, one might think that a cancer patient has good reasons to believe that they will be cured if this belief increased their chances of survival,even though their actual chances of survival are minimal.Given that Kant's notion of belief involves an analogous set of justificatory norms, it could be relevant for debates of this kind. Yet,the suggested contemporary relevancy of Kant's doxastic theory has so far remained a conjectural promise and available scholarship is still largely exegetical. Moreover, there are competing interpretive taxonomies of Kant's doxastic theory6anda systematic comparative analysis of them is missing.My current thesis has two components. First, most commentators neglect the degree to which Kant's doxastic theory presupposes a commitment to transcendental idealism, for instance to "things in themselves". To exemplify,I think that Belief requires the noumenal possibility of its object, i.e., possibility as a relation of things in themselves. So, Kant's account seems to me quite deeply entangled in his transcendental idealism.Second, an alternative taxonomy to those currently proposed is needed. Most available readings take epistemic sufficiency as the primary basis for differentiating types of belief. By contrast, I think Kant's requirements are better met by first differentiating doxastic reference-frameworks. These frameworks are sets of doxastic norms and differentiated by the type of purpose a subject is aiming for(e.g.: moral vs theoretical). And different contents (instead of types of)of propositional attitudes are permissible for different reference-frameworks. That is, I think that the norms for entertaining a propositional attitude depend not so much on the type of propositional attitude(as currently suggested in the secondary literature) but instead on the type of purpose a subject is pursuing.If my thesis is correct,a completely new account of Kant's theory on propositional attitudes and doxastic norms is required. Moreover, even if currently available accounts turn out to be largely correct, they would still fail to account for its entanglement in transcendental idealism. But surely, if Kant's account is to carry any import for contemporary debates, a more neutral "Kantian" taxonomy of propositional attitudes is needed. I intend to develop such an account and to apply it to some problems in contemporary epistemology, such as non-evidential belief,peer disagreement, or doxastic voluntarism.8Accordingly, the project has the following aims:(1)Development of a new account of Kant's doxastic theory.(2)Defence of a Kantian doxastic theory that does not presuppose strong commitments to transcendental idealism.(3)Application of the Kantian account to a selection of contemporary issues in epistemology.The proposed project should at the very least clarify whether Kant's account, or at least a derivative of it, can indeed be of contemporary relevance. Ideally, it would result in insightful new contributions to questions about the nature of belief and other attitudes and the norms that govern them


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