Philosophy at St Andrews

Making Space for the Normativity of Coherence

Fri 20th September 2019 14:30 to 16:00

Edgecliffe G03

Alex Worsnip


Abstract:

Certain incoherent combinations of attitudes are irrational. And you ought not to be irrational. So you ought not to be incoherent in these ways. In that sense, coherence is normative – one would have thought. But many philosophers now deny that coherence (or, what I take to be equivalent, “structural rationality”) is normative. Skepticism about the normativity of coherence takes a variety of forms, some of which rest – I’ll try to show – on confusions. But there is at least one genuine challenge, which I’ll term the problem of “making space” for the normativity of coherence. The problem is this: if considerations of coherence matter normatively, it is not clear how we ought to take account of them in our deliberation. Considerations of coherence don’t seem to show up in reasoning about what to believe, intend, desire, hope, fear, and so on; moreover, they seem awkward to take account of alongside more “substantive” considerations about the merits of such attitudes. This paper aims to solve this problem. On the view I defend, considerations of coherence provide right-kind reasons for structuring deliberation in certain ways; more particularly, in ways that rule out incoherent combinations of attitudes in advance, and that focus one’s deliberation on choosing between the coherent combinations.

 

 


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