Collective non-evidentialism

On Thursday the 6th of February we are lucky to host a talk by Professor Boudewijn de Bruin from the University of Groningen. The event will consist of a talk followed by a Q&A. which is moderated by Professor Vincent F. Hendricks

The talk is open to everyone. No registration is required.


The aim of this paper is to develop a theory of non-evidentialist collective belief formation. Non-evidentialists (or pragmatists) maintain that on some occasions one has a permission (perhaps even an obligation) to believe something despite lacking sufficient evidence (William James, ‘The Will to Believe’, 1896). They ground this right (or obligation) in practical reasons (such as friendship/relationship, general religious worldview, the norms of promising, etc.) that might offer a ground licencing (or obligation) non-evidential beliefs. But which practical reasons are normatively acceptable? And would such practical reasons also apply to collective entities?

This paper first argues that relevant practical reasons can be ordered along two dimensions that bear on the acceptability of non-evidential belief formation: (i) the type of ‘attitude’ at play in the reason (e.g. contrast non-evidential belief sanctions by love, or by envy); (ii) the object of the attitude (e.g. belief sanctioned by love for one’s children, or by love for one’s own ethnicity). I then move on to consider collective non-evidential belief formation by asking the question of whether such attitudes as friendship or worldview may offer practical reasons grounding particular forms of non-evidential belief formation at the collective level. This requires answering two philosophical questions: can collectives be bearers of such attitudes? And if they can, are these the right type of attitude to ground non-evidential belief?