When in doubt, withhold: A defense of two grounds of rational withholding

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Recent work has argued that there may be cases where no doxastic attitude-including withholding-is rationally permissible. In this chapter, I consider two such epistemic dilemmas, John Turri’s Dilemma from Testimony and David Alexander’s Dilemma from Doubt. I argue that withholding cannot be irrational in either case. But the apparent force of the dilemmas gives us two important-and overlooked-insights into the nature of rational withholding. First, rational withholding is a function of evidence failing to sufficiently support belief or disbelief. Thus, withholding is not symmetrical to belief and disbelief. Second, the asymmetry to belief/disbelief reveals two distinct grounds for rational withholding: propositional withholding, which arises when our evidence does not support belief or disbelief in p; and doxastic withholding, which arises when we cannot determine whether our evidence supports belief or disbelief in p. Accepting two grounds of rational withholding licenses a kind of Weak Permissivism. But this Weak Permissivism should not be troubling to anyone.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEpistemic Dilemmas
Subtitle of host publicationNew Arguments, New Angles
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781000468496
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


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