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Doxastic Courage vs Epistemic Humility

Doxastic courage requires believing, or not believing, in the face of doxastic anxiety. It is one doxastic virtue, and epistemic humility is another. In this talk, I will explore how an over-commitment to epistemic humility can undermine doxastic courage, and makes us liable to doxastic cowardice. More specifically, I will focus on epistemic humility as prescribed as a political virtue by a family of political views which I collectively term “Humble Liberalism.” In a broadly Rawlsian vein, Humble Liberalism offers epistemic humility as a salve, and perhaps even a solution, to intractable political conflict. Epistemic humility makes us open to more viewpoints and less intransigent in our beliefs. But sometimes we should be intransigent in our beliefs! Too much epistemic humility — and in particular, too much doxastic anxiety about being (in)sufficiently humble — can makes us doxastic cowards. When it comes especially to our political lives, moderating our own convictions can be as much a vice as it is a virtue. the previous chapter, we saw how differential levels of doxastic anxiety around (real or perceived) materially-high stakes policy questions raised by public political events can precipitate deep and rapidly inflamed disagreement, even among plausibly equally-situated reasoners.

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