Introduction: The factive turn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript

2 Citations (Scopus)


When you believe something for a good reason, your belief is in a position to enjoy all the cardinal epistemic blessings: it can be rational, justified, warranted, responsible, constitute knowledge, you name it. But what sorts of things out there confer these enviable epistemic statuses on your beliefs? Facts? Propositions? Your psychological perspective? Something else altogether? What kind of ontological beast, in other words, is a good reason for belief? When it comes to action, many philosophers have thought that good reasons are facts. Thus, the fact that I forged your signature and pocketed the profits is a good reason for you to have me put away, regardless of what you or I might think. And the fact that I have diabetes is a good reason to abstain from chocolate, regardless of what I might think. The world, not what goes on in our heads, makes reasons for action good or bad. Good reasons are supposed to speak in favour of the action; only the world can make them speak in this way. Many epistemologists, by contrast, have equally long taken for granted just the opposite picture: good reasons for belief are not facts, but psychological states such as perceptual experiences and further beliefs. Thus, my visual experience as of a yellowing palm tree in my garden is a good reason to believe that the tree is ailing, regardless of whether the tree is indeed yellowing. And my belief that you are tetchy is a good reason to believe that you are trying to give up smoking again, regardless of whether you are indeed tetchy. Good epistemic reasons speak in favour of a belief by - at least in part - making it rational for you to hold it; only the agent’s perspective can make them speak in this way. The turn of the century shook epistemologists’ confidence in this picture, putting pressure on it from three directions - John McDowell’s work on perception, Timothy Williamson’s on knowledge, and Jonathan Dancy’s on action. I will shortly say more about these pressures. What is important for now is that they had a doubly salutary effect.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Factive Turn in Epistemology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316818992
ISBN (Print)9781107175655
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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