This dissertation consists of three essays, each of which closely relates to epistemic norms for rational doxastic states. The central issue is whether epistemic rationality is impermissive or not: For any total evidence E, is there a unique doxastic state that any possible agent with that total evidence E should take (Uniqueness), or not (Permissivism)?
“Conservatism and Uniqueness”: Conservatism is the idea that an agent’s beliefs should be stable as far as possible when she undergoes a learning experience. Uniqueness is the idea that any given body of total evidence uniquely determines what it is rational to believe. Epistemic Impartiality is the idea that you should not give special treatment to your beliefs solely because they are yours. I construe Epistemic Impartiality as a meta-principle governing epistemic norms, and argue that it is compatible with Conservatism. Then I show that if Epistemic Impartiality is correct, Conservatism and Uniqueness go together; each implies the other.
“Cognitive Decision Theory and Permissive Rationality”: In recent epistemology, philosophers have deployed a decision theoretic approach to justify various epistemic norms. A family of such accounts is known as Cognitive Decision Theory. According to Cognitive Decision Theory, rational beliefs are those with maximum expected epistemic value. How does Cognitive Decision Theory relate to the debate over permissive rationality? As one way of addressing this question, I present and assess an argument against Cognitive Decision Theory.
“Steadfastness, Deference, and Permissive Rationality”: Recently, Benjamin Levinstein has offered two interesting arguments concerning epistemic norms and epistemic peer disagreement. In his first argument, Levinstein claims that a tension between Permissivism and steadfast attitudes in the face of epistemic peer disagreement generally leads us to conciliatory attitudes; in his second argument, he argues that, given an ‘extremely weak version of a deference principle,’ Permissivism collapses into Uniqueness. However, in this chapter, I show that both arguments fail. This result supports the following claim: we should treat steadfast attitudes and at least some versions of a deference principle as viable positions in the discussion about several types of Permissivism, because they are compatible with any type of Permissivism.