Easy Evidence and Epistemic Upgrades: In Defense of a Duty to Gather Evidence

Abstract: Despite the importance of evidence gathering for getting at the truth and avoiding falsehood, the view that there are epistemic (as opposed to practical, or inquiry-based) norms on evidence gathering has found few defenders. Against this trend, we argue that there are purely epistemic obligations to gather evidence. More specifically, we argue for Gather Evidence to Upgrade: If 𝑆 believes that 𝑝, then 𝑆 is epistemically required to gather non-misleading evidence bearing on 𝑝 that’s easy for 𝑆 to collect when doing so would result in an epistemic upgrade on the attitude toward 𝑝. We focus on a range of cases in which subjects are criticizable for their beliefs because they are distracted, avoidant, lazy, or sheltered, and thus fail to gather easily accessible evidence that would defeat those beliefs. We argue that, to fully account for our reaction to these cases, appeal to epistemic vices or to violations of practical or moral norms won’t do: we need to appeal to an evidence gathering norm. We show that such a norm not only bears the hallmarks of genuine epistemic normativity but also helps illuminate what goes epistemically wrong in cases of wrongful beliefs and moral deference.

(Co-authored with Carolina Flores. Please email one of us for a draft!)