Debunking doxastic transparency

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In this paper I consider the project of offering an evolutionary debunking explanation for transparency in doxastic deliberation. I examine Nicole Dular and Nikki Fortier's (2021) attempt at such a project. I suggest that their account faces a dilemma. On the one horn, their explanation of transparency involves casting our mechanisms for belief formation as solely concerned with truth. I argue that this is explanatorily inadequate when we take a wider view of our belief formation practices. I show that Dular and Fortier overstate the extent to which adaptive non-evidentially supported beliefs are rare, and the implausibility of disjunctive evolutionary systems. They should allow a role for the non-truth directed behaviour of our mechanisms of belief formation. On the other hand, we might restrict the explanation offered by Dular and Fortier to the deliberative context, that is, we might understand them as allowing for non-evidential belief formation outside of the deliberative context, but as identifying the key to explaining transparency in the truth-directed evolutionary mechanisms as they operate in the deliberative context. However, this would land them on the second horn of the dilemma: we would then have no different an explanation to one I have offered elsewhere (2018), an explanation which Dular and Fortier explicitly put aside as engaged in a project different from their own. I finish by briefly considering some broader implications relating to explaining transparency, the nature of belief, and the prospects for pragmatism. I conclude that Dular and Fortier's debunking explanation of transparency bestows an implausible role for truth in fixing our beliefs, or, if it doesn't, then we simply have the restatement of a view explicitly disavowed by the authors. We are left, then, with an explanation we ought not want, or an explanation we already had.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5-24
Number of pages20
JournalEuropean Journal of Analytic Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 22 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
With thanks to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding the research of which this paper is a part (Deluded by Experience, grant no. AH/T013486/1). I am also grateful to two reviewers for this journal for helpful comments which improved the paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Ema Sullivan-Bissett.


  • Belief
  • Doxastic deliberation
  • Evolutionary debunking
  • Reasons for belief
  • Transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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