Basing = Treating



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Basing = Treating
Ram Neta

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill


Section 1: The Basing Relation
So-Hyun sees a Chinese Crested dog, and she recalls that hairless dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Crested dogs. At the very same time, her friend Adede points at the dog and says look at that Chinese Crested dog right there!So-Hyun believes that the dog is a Chinese Crested.
So-Hyun has at least two independent reasons to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested. One reason is that she heard Adede just say so. And another reason is that, as she recalls, hairless dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Crested dogs. But, even though she has two independent reasons to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested, its at least possible, given my description of the case so far, that only one of those is a reason for which she believes it. This possibility shows that there is a difference between reasons that one has to believe and reasons for which one believes a distinction in epistemology that is analogous to the distinction that some philosophers of action mark by distinguishing normativereasons that one has (reasons that one has to act) from motivatingreasons (reasons for which one acts). But what does this difference consist in?
Donald Davidson tried to explain the difference between reasons that one has to act and reasons for which one acts as a difference consisting in the fact that the latter must be, but the former need not be, reasons that cause ones action.1 Although this view has been widely accepted, some have objected to the claim that our intentional actions are caused by the reasons for which we do them.2 Rather than get involved in this controversy, let me try to locate Davidsons insight in a way that does not take on controversial commitments about causation. Davidsons insight, stated uncontroversially, is this: a reason for which you act is always a reason why you act. Or, as some philosophers would put the point, motivatingreasons are always explanatoryreasons.
This point holds true not just of action, but also of belief: a reason for which you believe is always a reason why you believe. If So-Hyun has two reasons to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested, and she believes it for only one of those reasons, then the reason for which she believes it must also be a reason why she believes it.
Now let me add a stipulation to the case of So-Hyun and Adede: So-Hyun noticed the Chinese Crested dog only because Adede pointed at it and called it a Chinese Crested(a phrase that got So-Hyuns attention, and jogged her recall), but So-Hyun doesnt at all trust Adedes judgment in these matters. Adedes testimony, let me stress, is fully trustworthy, and So-Hyuns evidence indicates as much, but So-Hyun doesnt respond appropriately to her evidence on this issue, and simply doesnt trust Adedes testimony. So Adedes testimony is a normative reason to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested, and, since So-Hyun is aware of her testimony, and has evidence that indicates its trustworthiness, it is also a normative reason that So-Hyun, at least in some sense, has. In this case, the reason for which So-Hyun believes that the dog is a Chinese Crested is that, as she recalls, hairless dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Crested dogs. The reason for which she believes it is not that Adede pointed it out as such, for So-Hyun doesnt trust what Adede says. But Adedes pointing out the Chinese Crested as such is still a reason why So-Hyun believes that the dog is a Chinese Crested, since Adedes behavior is what explains why So-Hyun notices the dog and recalls what Chinese Cresteds look like in the first place. It follows that, even if all reasons for which we believe are reasons why we believe, still, not all reasons why we believe are reasons for which we believe.
So even if you have a reason to believe that is also a reason why you believe, it doesnt follow that it is a reason for which you believe. Reasons that are both reasons to and reasons why need not yet be reasons for which. And, while all reasons for which are reasons why, not all reasons for which are reasons to.
Although weve been focused on the case of So-Hyuns belief, the points that weve made generalize, and they generalize beyond beliefs. There are the reasons for which someone raises her hand, the reasons for which she is angry, the reasons for which she intends to drink a toxin, the reasons for which she prefers eating at home to eating out, and the reasons for which she chooses the road less travelled. More generally, there are reasons for which an agent, I will say, is in a rationally determinable condition” — whether that condition takes the form of a belief, a judgment, an emotion, an intention, a preference, a choice, or an action. The project of this paper is to gain a better understanding of reasons for which or rather, of the relation that they bear to the rationally determinable conditions for which they are reasons.
Epistemologists sometimes use the phrase "the basing relation" to denote the distinctive kind of explanatory relation that there is between a reason and the belief for which it is a reason.  I will generalize this usage of the basing relationto cover the relation between a reason and the intention, or action, or judgment, or emotion, or choice, or preference for which it is a reason: more generally, it is the relation between a reason and the rationally determinable condition for which it is a reason.  Using the phrase in this general way, I can now state the goal of this paper:
In this paper, I will give an account of the basing relation. 
In the next section, I will consider one seemingly plausible account, and argue that it is, at best, incomplete.


Section 2: Basing and the Varieties of Defeat
As weve told the story, So-Hyun has two reasons to believe that the dog in front of her is a Chinese Crested. One reason is that, as she recalls, dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Cresteds. The other is that Adede said that the dog is a Chinese Crested. But while So-Hyun has both of these reasons to believe it, only one of these is the reason for which So-Hyun believes it: specifically, the reason for which So-Hyun believes it is the first, but not the second, of the two reasons just enumerated. In virtue of what is one, but not the other, a reason for which So-Hyun believes it?
Id now like to articulate one plausible proposal. Consider what happens if So-Hyun gets evidence that, contrary to her recollection, Chinese Cresteds do not typically look like the dog in front of her. This evidence will defeat the doxastic justification of So-Hyuns belief that the dog in front of her is a Chinese Crested. One indication of this defeat is that it would typically be rational for So-Hyun to respond to such evidence by reducing her confidence, or perhaps even suspending her belief, that the dog in front of her is a Chinese Crested. But now consider what happens if So-Hyun gets evidence that Adede did not say that the dog was a Chinese Crested. This evidence will not defeat the doxastic justification of So-Hyuns belief that the dog in front of her is a Chinese Crested. One indication of this lack of defeat is that it would not be rational for So-Hyun to respond to such evidence by reducing her confidence that the dog in front of her is a Chinese Crested. According to the present proposal, it is her recollection of the appearance of Chinese Cresteds, but not Adedes testimony, that is the reason for which So-Hyun holds her belief, and this is because the doxastic justification of So-Hyuns belief that the dog is a Chinese Crested can be defeated by defeating her justification for believing the former reason, but cannot be defeated by defeating her justification for believing the latter reason.
Just as beliefs can be doxastically justified, so too can intentions, actions, choices, preferences, and emotions be justified. More generally, rationally determinable conditions (henceforth, RDCs) can be justified by virtue of being based in the right way on justifying reasons. I take doxastic justification therefore to be just one species of a broad genus, and I will use the phrase RDC justificationto denote this genus. Just as doxastic justification can be defeated, RDC justification more generally can be defeated. And just as the defeat of doxastic justification is typically indicated by its being rational for the agent to suspend belief, so too the defeat of RDC justification is indicated by its being rational for the agent to suspend her RDC.
In general, then:
R is a reason for which A is in rationally determinable condition C = As being in C can have its RDC justification defeated by defeating As justification for accepting R.
Although this account of the basing relation appeals to normative terms (like justification and defeat) in order to explain basing, this does not strike me as problem with the account: theres no reason to think that we can or should try to explain basing in non-normative terms. Furthermore, this account seems to make at least many, if not all, of the right predictions concerning what stands in the basing relation to what. Perhaps there are cases in which we might wish to say that a creature believes, or intends, or acts, for particular reasons, but for which the account above makes the wrong predictions: but if there are such cases, Im inclined to think that they show only that our ordinary use of the phrase reasons for whichis poorly regimented.3
So theres much to be said in favor of the account above. Are we done?
No. There are two problems with this account. The first is that, intuitively, the account explains things the wrong way round. The fact that As Cing can have its RDC justification defeated by defeating As justification for accepting R seems to be explained by the fact that R is a reason for which A Cs, but the account says that the former is what explains the latter.
The second problem, which is related to the first, is that the account fails to explain a puzzling phenomenon concerning the defeat of RDC justification. In the remainder of this section, I will state this phenomenon, and then say why the account proposed above fails to explain it.
As weve told the story about So-Hyun, the reason for which she believes that the dog is a Chinese Crested is that, as she recalls, hairless dogs that look like this are typically Chinese Crested. Heres a picture:


Now consider the variety of ways in which So-Hyun could fit the description that Ive given, and nonetheless be unjustified in believing that this dog is a Chinese Crested. This could happen if So-Hyun has an opposing, or overriding, defeater to which she is insufficiently sensitive: for instance, she could have, and ignore, independent evidence that the dog in front of her is not a Chinese Crested. Such a defeater directly attacks the rightmost element in the picture above. Or she could have an undercutting defeater to which she is insufficiently sensitive: for instance, she could have, and ignore, independent evidence that her recall is very poor when it comes to information about the appearance of dog breeds. Such a defeater directly attacks the leftmost element in the picture above. Or, finally, even if she is fully justified in believing that dogs that look like that typically are Chinese Cresteds, she could still have, and ignore, independent evidence that the particular dog in front of her is very atypical of its breed. The first kind of defeater can oppose her justification for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested, even though it does nothing to defeat her justification for believing that hairless dogs that look like this are typically Chinese Crested. The second kind of defeater can undercut her justification for thinking that the dog is a Chinese Crested by virtue of defeating her justification for believing that hairless dogs that look like this are typically Chinese Crested. But the third kind of defeater has a different effect from either of the others: it defeats her justification for thinking that this dog is a Chinese Crested, but it does not oppose her justification for thinking this, nor does it defeat her justification for believing that dogs that look like this are typically Chinese Cresteds. How does this work? How can her justification be defeated without being opposed, and without defeating her acceptance of the reasons that supply that justification? This kind of defeater would need directly to attack the middle element in the picture above, rather than the rightmost or leftmost element. But how should we understand the middle element, so as to make sense of this possibility of defeat?
Notice that, corresponding to these three different ways of defeating her justification for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested, there are also three different ways of augmenting her justification for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested. She could have independent evidence for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested. Or she could have independent evidence, apart from the evidence provided by her recollection, that dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Cresteds. Or, finally, and most relevantly for our purposes, she could have evidence that the particular dog in front of her looks very typical of its breed. This last sort of evidence would increase her justification for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested, though it would not provide any independent additional reason to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested, nor would it provide additional reason to accept her reason for this belief, viz., that dogs that look like that are typically Chinese Cresteds. Again, how does this work? How can we understand the basing relation in a way that allows us to make sense of this possibility?
It may seem that there is an obvious answer to our questions about how this third kind of justification defeat or augmenting works namely, that we have so far identified So-Hyuns reason for her belief much too narrowly, as consisting merely in the fact (or proposition, or state of apparent recollection) that dogs that look that way are typically Chinese Cresteds. But this latter it might be thought is just the tip of a whole iceberg of reasons that So-Hyun has for her belief. Once we expose the rest of the iceberg, it will become obvious that theres nothing unusual about the kind of justification defeat or augmenting that weve considered: it is nothing other than the kind of justification defeat or augmenting that we get when we add a new piece of evidence to an agents total body of evidence, and thereby affect the agents degree of justification for some RDC that she makes on the basis of this total body of evidence.
This response is too quick. Suppose we specify the whole of So-Hyuns reason to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested however extensive that whole body of reasons is. Indeed, let it be her total body of evidence, and let her belief be doxastically justified, by virtue of being based in the right way on this total body of evidence. Now suppose that So-Hyun gains one additional piece of evidence, and it leaves her justification for accepting the truth of every proposition in that whole body of evidence completely unaffected, but it does affect her justification for thinking that that the whole body of evidence supports her belief that the dog in question is a Chinese Crested. Perhaps an eminent mind-reading statistician assures her that, much as it may seem to her as if the rest of her total evidence supports the proposition that the dog in question is a Chinese Crested, in fact it does not do so. This new piece of evidence need not affect the justification that So-Hyun has for accepting any of the rest of her evidence; nonetheless, it defeats the doxastic justification of her belief that the dog in question is a Chinese Crested.4 So, no matter how extensive So-Hyuns reasons to believe that the dog is a Chinese Crested, the doxastic justification of her belief can be defeated (or augmented) without affecting her justification for accepting those reasons.
It is typical for epistemologists to distinguish opposing defeat from undercutting defeat. But what this discussion has shown is that there are actually three kinds of defeat.
Opposing defeat: an agents justification for Cing is defeated in virtue of reasons to not C, and independently of any effect on the justification of her reasons for Cing
Undercutting defeat: an agents justification for Cing is defeated in virtue of defeating her justification for accepting her reasons for Cing
Side defeat: an agents justification for Cing is defeated in virtue of reasons to doubt that her reasons for Cing provide justification for Cing, and independently of any effect on the justification of her acceptance of those reasons, and independently of any other reason to not C.
Pictorially:

The question I want to raise now is: why is there such a thing as side defeat? In other words, why does reducing an agents justification for thinking that her reasons provide justification for her belief work to defeat the justification for her belief?
The account of the basing relation proposed above the account that explains basing in terms of undercutting defeat does nothing to help us understand how side defeat works. But, just as basing is related to undercutting defeat, so too it is related to side defeat: if R is a reason for which A Cs, then the justification of As Cing can be defeated not simply by defeating R, but also by defeating As justification for believing that R justifies Cing. If were going to understand basing in terms of its relation to defeat, then we need to understand why it is related in the way that it is not merely to undercutting defeat, but also to side defeat.

Section 3: A Dilemma About Side Defeat
Weve just identified a distinctive kind of justification defeat or augmenting the defeat (or augmenting) of ones justification that does not involve opposing defeat, but also does not involve any defeat (or augmenting) of ones justification for the propositions that constitute ones reasons. Whenever we believe something for a reason, our justification for this belief can be defeated or augmented in this distinctive kind of way, viz., by defeating or augmenting ones justification for a proposition that is neither ones belief, nor ones reason to believe, but that is related (in some yet to be specified way) to ones reason to believe. What we want to know is: how does this phenomenon of side defeatwork? What is the basing relation such that it admits of such defeat?
In this section, I will articulate a dilemma that we must confront in answering this question.5
Recall that side defeat, understood for rationally determinable conditions generally, is this: an agents justification for C, based on reasons R, is defeated in virtue of reasons to doubt that R justifies C, and this happens independently of any effect on the justification of R, and independently of any other reason not to C
Our question now is: how is an agents justified C (based on R) defeated by providing her with reasons to doubt (not R, and not her C, but) that R justifies C?
We cannot plausibly avoid this question by claiming that side defeat is a brute normative phenomenon, insusceptible of deeper explanation. There may be some brute normative phenomena. Side defeat is not among them.
One way to answer our question about how side defeat works is by claiming that, for an agent to C, based on reason R, involves the agents believing that R justifies C. Side defeat is possible because, when this latter belief is defeated, then so is her C. Lets call this the internalistexplanation of side defeat.
Another way to answer this question is by claiming that, for an agent to C, based on a reason R, involves the agents exercising a disposition to C when she accepts R. Side defeat is possible because, when she has reason to distrust this disposition, then she has reason to doubt C. Lets call this the externalistexplanation of side defeat.
In this section, I will argue that neither of these two approaches can work.
Suppose that, with the internalist, we try to explain side defeat by claiming that basing C on R involves believing that R justifies C, and side defeat involves defeat of this belief. In that case, whenever one Cs for the reason R, one also believes that R is a reason to C, and ones justification for C can be defeated by defeating ones justification for believing that R is a reason to C. Lets illustrate. Suppose that Achilles believes that Obama has reached a nuclear deal with Iran, and he believes it because he read it in the New York Times, and he believes that reading the story in the New York Times justifies his belief that the story is true. But suppose furthermore that the Tortoise persuades Achilles (by means of some specious argument) that these two considerations his reading in the New York Times that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, and his reading it in the New York Times justifying him in believing that Obama did indeed reach a nuclear deal with Iran do not by themselves justify Achilless belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran. (In order to help us imagine that Achilles is persuaded by the Tortoises specious argument, lets imagine that Achilles very reasonably recognizes the Tortoise as an authority in epistemological matters.) In such a case, the justification of Achilles’ belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran will still be defeated, and this is indicated by the fact that Achilles’ rational response to the Tortoises testimony would be to reduce his confidence that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran. But although his justification for believing that Obama reached a deal is defeated, his belief that the New York Times reported it is undefeated, and his belief that the New York Timess reporting it is justification for believing it is undefeated. This is therefore not an example of undercutting defeat; if we do not regard this kind of defeat as a case of side defeat, then we will need to recognize and to explain a fourth variety of defeat. And, on pain of regress, we will not be able to explain this fourth variety of defeat by appeal to the claim that basing C on R involves a further belief, for we could suppose that the Tortoise offers a specious argument against that further belief. And so we cannot successfully explain side defeat by saying that it is defeat of the belief that R justifies As Cing, since defeating such a belief is not necessary for side defeat. Side defeat could result from defeating a different belief “one level up”, so to speak.
Next, lets suppose that, with the externalist, we try to explain side defeat by claiming that basing C on R involves not a belief but rather a disposition to C when one accepts R. In that case, whenever one Cs for the reason R, one also has the disposition to C when R, and ones justification for C can be defeated by giving one reason to distrust this disposition, i.e., to think that this disposition leads one to C erroneously or incorrectly. Lets illustrate. Suppose that Coulter believes that Obama did reach a nuclear deal with Iran, and she believes it because she read it in the New York Times, and she has the disposition to believe what she reads in the New York Times. But suppose that, although she has a disposition to believe what she reads in the New York Times, she does not recognize that she has this disposition, and furthermore she believes that she does not have this disposition, and she claims to distrust the New York Times. She thinks that what she believes about the world is what she reads in that vastly more reliable newspaper, the Wall Street Journal, and in particular she believes (falsely) that her belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran is a belief she got by reading the Wall Street Journal. Now suppose Coulter gets evidence that the New York Times is very unreliable indeed, that it is vastly less reliable than the Wall Street Journal: how would it be rational for her to respond to such evidence? Should she respond to it by suspending her belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran? Clearly not: she should instead respond to this evidence by increasing her confidence that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, since the evidence provides additional reason to trust the source from which she (wrongly, but perhaps justifiably) takes herself to have gotten this information. So here is a case in which Coulter has reason to distrust the disposition that actually produces in her the belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, and yet this is not a case in which her belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran is defeated. So we cannot successfully explain side defeat by saying that it is having a reason to distrust ones disposition to C when R, since having such a reason is not sufficient for side defeat.
We are trying to explain side defeat by locating a feature of the basing relation that is defeated in side defeat. What we have shown so far is that this feature of the basing relation is neither the belief that the reason justifies C, nor is it a disposition to C when one accepts the reason: defeat of the former is not necessary for side defeat, and having a reason to distrust the latter is not sufficient for side defeat. But what, then, is the feature of the basing relation that explains side defeat?
Could it be the conjunction of the two features considered: both the belief that R justifies C, and the disposition to C when accepting R? This proposal doesnt fix either of the problems affecting the preceding proposals. If one has undefeated justification for accepting R, and undefeated justification for accepting that R justifies C, and one also has the disposition to C when accepting R, one could still suffer side defeat either by having a compelling (albeit misleading) reason to think that ones two justifications do not suffice to justify C, or else by having a justified false belief about which disposition it is that one is exercising in Cing when one accepts R. This conjunctive proposal fails.
I will henceforth use the term treatingR as a reason to C to denote that feature whatever it is of the basing relation to which we can appeal in order to explain side defeat. Our question can now be rephrased as follows: what is treating?

Section 4: Treating as Inner Ostension
Treating, I’ve argued in the preceding section, is neither the belief that R justifies C nor the disposition to C when one accepts R. The former proposal over-intellectualizes treating, whereas the latter over-mechanizes it.
So what is treating? On the account that I develop in this section, treating is an act of inner ostension. It is the act of using a demonstrative concept to refer to something in one’s own psychology. In order to spell out this account, I must say specifically what it is in one’s psychology to which one is thus referring, and I must also say more about the distinctive kind of demonstrative concept by means of which one refers to it. But before turning to either of these two main tasks of this section, first a few background observations.
Whether or not there are non-conceptual demonstratives, one feature of every demonstrative concept is that it involves some general, non-demonstrative concept. To conceptually ostend an object is always to ostend it as of some general kind or other. You can ostend that color, that shape, that occurrence, that thing, that sound, and so on, but all of these demonstrative concepts involve some non-demonstrative concept (i.e., color, shape, occurrence, thing, sound, etc.) Note that this does not imply that demonstrative reference requires that the referent actually fall into the extension of the general concept that partly constitutes ones demonstrative concept, nor does it imply that one be justified in believing that it fall into that extension.
When an agent uses a demonstrative concept, that agent can be justified or not, and correct or not, in applying the concept that is partly constitutive of that demonstrative concept to the thing ostended by that demonstrative concept. If the correctness of the application manifests the concept-appliers skill in applying it, then the application is not merely correct and justified, but also knowledgeable.
Treating, on the view that I propose here, is the use of a demonstrative concept to refer to a particular thing in ones own psychology. Given what Ive said just now, this form of deixis will have to employ a general concept, and it will be more or less accurate, more or less justified, and more or less knowledgable, depending upon whether the thinker is correct, justified, or knowledgable, in applying that general concept to the particular referent of the deixis. But what general concept will this deixis employ? And to what will it refer? Answering those questions will require just a bit more background.
Weve so far been using the term RDCto refer to anything that can be based upon a reason, and weve used the phrase RDC justificationto refer to the kind of justification that such rationally determinable conditions can enjoy by virtue of being based in the right way on adequate reasons. When a particular RDC (i.e., belief, intention, emotion, etc.) is RDC justified, there is something that makes it so. This is, typically at least, its being based upon the reason upon which it is based. This is what well call the RDC justifierof the RDC.
It has required some work to isolate the concept of a RDC justifier. But, while it has required work to isolate this concept, and there is no easy way of expressing this concept in ordinary English, this does not imply that the concept itself is not an ordinary one. In fact, the concept is possessed by anyone who is capable of asking a particular kind of ordinary why?question, or understanding a particular kind of ordinary becausestatement: those questions and statements that concern reasons for which. (Children who are old enough to ask why did the chicken cross the road?have the relevant concept, though I dont know of any evidence that pre-linguistic infants have it.) Someone can understand such questions well enough to know when they arise and when they do not, and to be able to assess potential answers to them as more or less relevant, even if she does not have any term in her vocabulary corresponding to our technical term RDC justifier.
With these remarks in the background, I can now spell out my account of treating. For an agent A to treat R as a reason to C is for A to ostend an explanatory relation between R, on the one hand, and As Cing, on the other, and to ostend it under the concept RDC justifying. While performing this act of ostension might require an agent to have various beliefs and dispositions, the act of ostension itself is neither a belief nor a disposition.
Notice that it is possible for you to treat something as a reason to C even when you cannot say what your reason to C is, and even when you believe that you have no good reason to C: irrational agents do this sort of thing often, and most of us do it sometimes. There might be reasons for which I am angry at my neighbor, but I might think that, whatever those reasons are, they are almost certainly not good reasons. Still, if they are reasons for which I feel that way, and not merely reasons why I feel that way, then there must be some part of me that is treating those reasons, whatever they are, as RDC justifying my anger.
So treating is the act of using a demonstrative concept that contains the general concept RDC justifier to ostend an explanatory relation between ones Cing and ones reason R. Just as it is possible to ostend the visible distance between two objects even when one is ignorant or mistaken about what those two objects, so too is it possible to ostend the explanatory relation between R and ones Cing, even when one is ignorant or mistaken about what R and C are. The basing relation can therefore obtain even between relate that are unknown or misidentified by the agent.
How does treating, so understood, explain side defeat? Side defeat is the defeat that occurs when the agents act of conceiving of this explanatory relation – the explanatory relation between R and C – as one of RDC justification is itself defeated. Side defeat directly attacks an agent’s justification for subsuming this explanatory relation under the concept of RDC justification.
Consider again Achillesbelief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, a belief that he holds for the reason that he read it in the New York Times, and he believes that his reading it in the New York Times justifies his belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran. According to the present account of treating, in forming the belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, for these reasons, Achilles must conceive of the explanatory relation between these reasons and his belief as RDC justifying. Then, any reason that Achilles has to think that this explanatory relation is not RDC justifying will be a side defeater of his belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran. But Tortoises argument to the effect that Achillesreasons dont justify his belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran is, according to the story, just such a reason. Thus, Tortoise’s testimony is a side defeater for Achillesbelief.
Now consider again Coulters belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, a belief that she holds for the reason that she read it in the New York Times, though she falsely believes that she read it not in the New York Times but rather in the Wall Street Journal. According to the present account of treating, in forming the belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran, and forming it for the specified reason, Coulter must conceive of the explanatory relation that actually obtains between her reading and her belief as RDC justifying. Then, a side defeater of her belief that Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran will be a reason that Coulter has to think that this explanatory relation that she conceives of as RDC justifying is actually not RDC justifying. But the information she gains concerning the unreliability of the New York Times does not give her a reason to think that the explanatory relation that she conceives of as RDC justifying is not RDC justifying, since she doesnt realize that the explanatory relation that she conceives of as RDC justifying is the explanatory relation between her reading the story in the New York Times and her belief. Thus, this information is not a side defeater for Coulters belief.
In the next section, I will develop an account of basing, that explains how basing involves treating (understood as Ive explained it here), and also how it involves an explanatory relation between an agent’s rationally determinable condition, and the reason for which she is in it.

Section 5: My Account of Basing
The basing relation obtains between some reason R, and some RDC C, whenever R is the reason for which an agent Cs. Now it is time to say what this relation amounts to. Recall that one thing we wanted from an account of basing is that it explain side defeat, and we introduced treating as the component of basing that gets defeated in cases of side defeat. Another condition of adequacy on our account is that basing involve an explanatory relation: for R to be the reason for which A Cs, it must at the very least be a reason why A Cs. So how shall we build an account of basing that satisfies both of these two conditions? I will consider three proposals.
Proposal 1: Basing is simply the conjunction of our two conditions, viz., R is the reason for which A Cs = R is a reason why A Cs, and A treats R as a RDC justifier of her Cing.
This first proposal is subject to clear counterexample in cases in which R is a deviant reason why A Cs, but A nonetheless mistakenly treats R as a RDC justifier of her Cing. Consider, for instance, Davidsons example of the climber who wants to let go of the rope and let his companion fall; this desire makes the climber so nervous that he trembles, and this trembling causes him to let go of the rope. The climber might mistakenly treat his desire to let go of the rope as a RDC justifier of his letting go of the rope, but this would not suffice to make it the case that the reason for which he let go of the rope was that he wanted to do so.
The problem with this proposed account of basing what seems to render it subject to counterexample is that the two conditions (the treating condition and the explanatory condition) are treated as independent conditions on basing.6 It seems that an adequate account of basing should relate these conditions to each other more closely. This suggests a second possible account of basing.
Proposal 2: Basing is the obtaining of the treating condition, caused by the obtaining of the explanation condition, viz., R is the reason for which A Cs = R is a reason why A Cs, and, because of that, A treats R as a RDC justifier of her Cing.
This second proposal has the virtue of satisfying our two constraints on an account of basing. And it also has the virtue of relating the two conditions so as to avoid the sorts of counterexample just described. But it has the vice of being subject to still other counterexamples. In particular, it fails to handle cases in which R is a deviant reason why A Cs, but A treats R as RDC justifying her Cing because of Rs being a reason why A Cs. We can construct an example of this kind by modifying Davidsons case of the climber slightly. Suppose that the climbers desire to let go of the rope not only causes him to be so nervous as to let go of the rope, but furthermore, in causing him to do this, it also causes him to treat his desire as RDC justifying his letting go of the rope. This still would not make his desire the reason for which he lets go of the rope.
So, though the two conditions on basing need to be related in order to secure a proper account of basing, the relation needs to be of the right kind. Lets try once more.
Proposal 3: Basing is the obtaining of the explanation condition in virtue of the obtaining of the treating condition, viz., R is the reason for which A Cs = A treats R as a RDC justifier of her Cing, and in virtue of that fact, R is a reason why A Cs.7
Here, at last, weve reached an account that satisfies our two conditions on an account of basing, and can also handle all the cases correctly. The basing relation is an explanatory relation (a reason whyrelation) that obtains in virtue of our demonstratively referring to that very relation under the concept of RDC justification. Side defeat happens when, and because, the agents justification for applying the concept of RDC justification to the ostended explanatory relation is defeated. Recall that defeating the agents reason to believe that R justifies C was not necessary for side defeat (since side defeat could occur even while the agent was still justified in believing that R justifies C, if she was not justified in believing that this justificatory fact was itself relevant to justifying C), whereas defeating the agents reason for trusting her disposition to C when R was not sufficient for side defeat (since side defeat could fail to occur even if the agent was not justified in trusting her disposition, so long as she was justified in trusting what she took to be the causally relevant disposition). The present account of side defeat avoids the problems of each of these other proposals. The ostended explanatory relation is identical to the real explanatory relation, since the latter is real only by virtue of being ostended. And the application of the concept of RDC justification to that explanatory relation is defeated by any justification for suspending the resulting RDC.
This may strike some philosophers as metaphysically odd: how can an explanatory relation obtain in virtue of our referring to it in thought? It can help to mitigate the sense of oddity to think of other cases in which an explanatory relation obtains in virtue of our referring to it. I say I hereby pronounce you husband and wife, and in virtue of saying these words, I bring into being the very same relation that the words describe. I think I hereby think a self-referential thought, and in virtue of thinking this, I bring into being the very same thought to which my thought refers.
I conclude that proposal 3 is correct. Basing is when an explanatory relation between R, on the one hand, and As Cing, on the other, obtains by virtue of As ostending that explanatory relation under the concept of RDC justification.
You can ostend a thing only if that thing exists. And so you can ostend an explanatory relation only if that explanatory relation exists. Since treating is ostending an explanatory relation under the concept RDC justifying, a relation the existence of which is grounded in the ostension of it, it follows that the ostension involved in treating is both necessary and sufficient for the existence of the explanatory relation ostended in treating. Since the explanatory relation is the basing relation, it follows that the basing relation obtains when and only when an agent ostends that relation under the concept RDC justifying. In other words, basing is both necessary and sufficient for treating. The simplest explanation of this fact, and the explanation I propose, is that basing = treating.
There is a notable similarity between the present account of the basing relation and the account proposed in Schroeder 2007: For R to be the (motivating) reason for which X did A is for the fact that R was a subjective normative reason for X to do A to constitute an explanatory reason why X did A.But the present account enjoys one noteworthy advantage over Schroeders: the latter does not solve the problem of the deviant causal chain, since it leaves open the possibility that Rs being a subjective normative reason for X to do A is connected by a deviant causal chain to Xs doing A. In contrast, my account does solve the problem of the deviant causal chain, since it severely restricts the kind of explanatory relation that there can be between R, on the one hand, and Xs doing A, on the other hand, to the kind of explanatory relation that obtains in virtue of (or, is metaphysically grounded in) our referring to it.8
Works Cited


Anscombe, G.E.M. 1957. Intention. Basil Blackwell: Oxford.
Boghossian, Paul. 2012. What is Inference? Philosophical Studies 169: 1 - 18.
Davidson, Donald. 1963. Actions, Reasons, and Causes. Journal of Philosophy 60: 685 - 700.
Lasonen-Aarnio, Maria. 2014. Higher-Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat.Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88: 314 - 45.
Lavin, Douglas. 2011. Problems of Intellectualism: Raz on Reason and its Objects.Jurisprudence 2: 367 - 78.
Lord, Errol and Sylvan, Kurt. ms. Prime Time (for the Basing Relation).
Neta, Ram. 2013. What is an Inference?Philosophical Issues: A Supplement to Nous 23: 388 - 407.
Schroeder, Mark. 2007. Slaves of the Passions. Oxford University Press: Oxford.



Titlebaum, Michael. 2014. Rationalitys Fixed Point.Oxford Studies in Epistemology 5: 253 - 94.

1 Davidson 1963.

2 Anscombe 1957.

3 Are there reasons for which the fly moves towards the light, or are there only reasons why it does so? I’m tempted to say the latter, but if someone wishes to say the former, I have no quarrel with them; the basing relation that I’m interested in understanding is a relation that bears on the justification of a RDC.

4 Some philosophers (Titelbaum 2014, Lasonen-Aarnio 2014) will deny this higher-order evidence can defeat So-Hyun’s justification for believing that the dog is a Chinese Crested. I leave it open that they are right about So-Hyun’s propositional justification for believing this. But such a view can’t be true of the doxastic justification of So-Hyun’s belief: the belief itself plainly becomes less justified when the believer has heard the testimony of the eminent mind-reading statistician.

5 The dilemma that I present here is similar to the one that Boghossian 2012 provides against different ways of understanding the “taking” condition on inference. To the best of my knowledge, the dilemma was first set out in a fully general way in Lavin 2011.

6 See also Lord and Sylvan, ms.

7 This is the account that I rely on (without defending it) in Neta 2013.

8 Thanks to Matthew Boyle, Matthew Kotzen, Kate Nolfi, and Alex Worsnip for helpful comments.




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