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University of Pittsburgh

1. Marushak, Adam. Reasons and Modals.

Degree: 2018, University of Pittsburgh

Reasons have become a central topic in philosophy. Epistemologists study reasons for belief. Moral philosophers assess reasons for action. And numerous metaethicists argue that all normative notions can ultimately be analyzed in terms of the concept of a reason. However, philosophers are not the only ones who talk about reasons. The Corpus of Contemporary American English yields over 10,000 examples of sentences containing the phrase "reason to [verb]", e.g. "reason to believe" and "reason to do". What, then, is the meaning of reason claims in colloquial language? This dissertation offers a theory of meaning for colloquial talk of reasons, focusing on sentences of the form "There is reason to believe that P". I argue that claims about reasons are a type of modal language. Familiar modals like "ought", "might", and "must" describe how things stand with relevant bodies of information, e.g. "You must pay your taxes" describes the relevant laws as requiring you to pay your taxes. I show that reason claims describe relevant information in an analogous manner: "There is reason to believe that P" describes the relevant knowledge as counting in favor of believing that P. This theory has far-reaching implications for recent debates about reasons and modals. First, the language of reasons pressures us to revise widely held views about the meaning of epistemic modals like "might": I show that it is talk of reasons for belief that describes knowledge, not epistemic modal language. Second, I argue that this semantic fact is best explained by a conceptual thesis: our pre-theoretical concept of a reason for belief is that of an item of knowledge, not a mere fact. Finally, once we see that "epistemic" modals have no special connection to knowledge, we are in a position to diagnose much of the confusion surrounding the formulation of fallibilism in epistemology. I argue that it is a mistake to rely on intuitions about epistemic modals to assess the truth of fallibilism, and I propose an alternative methodology for determining whether fallibilism is true.

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APA · Chicago · MLA · Vancouver · CSE | Export to Zotero / EndNote / Reference Manager

APA (6th Edition):

Marushak, A. (2018). Reasons and Modals. (Thesis). University of Pittsburgh. Retrieved from http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/1/Marushak_Reasons_and_Modals_1.pdf ; http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Marushak, Adam. “Reasons and Modals.” 2018. Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. Accessed July 17, 2018. http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/1/Marushak_Reasons_and_Modals_1.pdf ; http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/.

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Marushak, Adam. “Reasons and Modals.” 2018. Web. 17 Jul 2018.

Vancouver:

Marushak A. Reasons and Modals. [Internet] [Thesis]. University of Pittsburgh; 2018. [cited 2018 Jul 17]. Available from: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/1/Marushak_Reasons_and_Modals_1.pdf ; http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/.

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

Council of Science Editors:

Marushak A. Reasons and Modals. [Thesis]. University of Pittsburgh; 2018. Available from: http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/1/Marushak_Reasons_and_Modals_1.pdf ; http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/34024/

Note: this citation may be lacking information needed for this citation format:
Not specified: Masters Thesis or Doctoral Dissertation

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