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Normative uncertainty and probabilistic moral knowledge

  • Julia StaffelEmail author
Norms for Risk
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Norms for Risk


The aim of this paper is to examine whether it would be advantageous to introduce knowledge norms instead of the currently assumed rational credence norms into the debate about decision making under normative uncertainty. There is reason to think that this could help us better accommodate cases in which agents are rationally highly confident in false moral views. I show how Moss’ (Probabilistic knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2018) view of probabilistic knowledge can be fruitfully employed to develop a decision theory that delivers plausible verdicts in these cases. I also argue that, for this new view to be better than existing alternatives, it must adopt a particular solution to the new evil demon problem, which asks whether agents and their BIV-counterparts are equally justified. In order to get an attractive decision theory for cases of moral uncertainty, we must reject the claim that agents and their BIV-counterparts are equally justified. Moreover, the resulting view must be supplemented with a moral epistemology that explains how it is possible to be rationally morally uncertain. This is especially challenging if we assume that moral truths are knowable a priori.


Probabilistic knowledge Knowledge norms Decision theory Normative uncertainty Moral decision making New evil demon problem Knowledge Rationality 



I would like to thank Adam Bales, Claire Benn, Katie Steele, Orri Stefánsson, Campbell Brown, Alan Hájek, Seth Lazar, Boris Babic, Georgi Gardiner, Renée Bolinger, Brian Talbot, Ryan Muldoon, Sarah Moss, and the audiences at the Ethics and Risk Conference at ANU in July 2018 and at the Knowledge and Decision Workshop in Hamburg in June 2019 for their helpful comments and discussion. I was also fortunate to receive very insightful comments from two anonymous referees for this journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Colorado at BoulderBoulderUSA

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