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Rumination and Wronging with Cat Saint-Croix

Overview & Shownotes

Most of us care deeply about the way our loved ones think of us. And when they fail to give us the benefit of the doubt in certain situations, it hurts. On today’s show, we’re discussing this phenomenon with the philosopher Cat Saint-Croix. Their work explores the role that attention plays in epistemic morality.

For the episode transcript, download a copy or read it below.

Contact us at examiningethics@gmail.com

Links to people and ideas mentioned in the show

  1. Cat Saint-Croix, “Rumination and Wronging: The Role Attention Plays in Epistemic Morality


Thanks to Evelyn Brosius for our logo. Music featured in the show:

Funk and Flash” by Blue Dot Sessions

Rambling” by Blue Dot Sessions


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Rumination and Wroning with Cat Saint-Croix

[music: Blue Dot Sessions, Funk and Flash]

Christiane Wisehart, host and producer: I’m Christiane Wisehart, and this is Examining Ethics, brought to you by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University.

Most of us care deeply about the way our loved ones think of us. And when they fail to give us the benefit of the doubt in certain situations, it hurts. On today’s show, we’re discussing this phenomenon with the philosopher Cat Saint-Croix. Their work explores the role that attention plays in epistemic morality.

Cat Saint-Croix: The ways that people reflect us back to us matter, really deeply. But I think that the discussion of doxastic wronging really narrows in on how much it matters to us, the way people kind of hold us in their minds. But I wasn’t satisfied with the idea that it’s the beliefs itself partially for these cases where you end up actually not believing the target nasty proposition, but it still feels really bad that you were, like, wondering about it for an hour.

Christiane: We’ll discuss all of this and much more on this episode of Examining Ethics.

[music fades out]
[interview begins]

Christiane: So, welcome to the show, Cat Saint Croix. We’re here to discuss your article “Rumination and Wronging: The Role of Attention in Epistemic Morality.” So briefly describe your project for us.

Cat Saint-Croix: So the project is meant to be a kind of a proof of concept for this emerging literature on the role of attention in epistemology. Belief and knowledge have sort of occupied this sort of pride of place in epistemology. And recently myself and Georgi Gardner and a couple of other people have been thinking a lot about the way that attention sort of fits into epistemology. And the spoiler there is like we think it’s kind of everywhere, but especially I think it’s relevant for epistemic morality.

And the reason for that is that I think attention is a sort of core site of both practical agency– a place where we can choose to do things–and is deeply intertwined with, as I said, every aspect of our epistemic practices, our epistemic lives. And so the paper is taking this idea that attention is really important to epistemology and applying it to this very controversial, really interesting and super important topic of doxastic wronging.

Christiane: And if you heard that phrase doxastic wronging and you’re like, “What’s that?!?” We’re going to talk about that in just a second. But first, I want to cover epistemic morality. So for folks who maybe aren’t familiar with that set of words, help us understand that.

Cat Saint-Croix: The easiest entry into that is when you start thinking about like, ok, when we ask whether an action was right or wrong, how do we figure that out? Well, one part of it is what the person actually did and the other part of it is why they did it, right? So at the sort of most basic level, our beliefs give us reasons to act and those reasons are a huge part of any ethical analysis.

So this is a lot of where like one of the major starting points for this literature, William Clifford’s essay on the ethics of belief. So Clifford has this famous example of this ship owner who lets his ship out for the day to various customers. And he knows that the ship is maybe a little bit ratty, a little bit old. But he still believes that it’s seaworthy and knowing that if he maybe investigates it too much or looks too carefully, that belief will falter. He maintains his belief that the ship is seaworthy and rents it out to a set of customers. They crash up on the rocks and are never seen again.

And Clifford’s point in looking at this particular example is to say, that choice to maintain one’s belief, knowing that you have insufficient evidence for it, that seems like a moral failing, not just an epistemic failing. So Clifford draws this kind of moral evidentialism out of this, and forms the principle: “It is wrong always and everywhere to believe on insufficient evidence.”

And like this is super strong in that, you might think believing that your pet chameleon loves you when it, you know, licks its eyeball in a particular way is probably not morally wrong. It’s just not that well-grounded. But the basic idea here is that what we do epistemically is really important–not just to how well we’re representing the world, not just epistemically important, but also ethically important.

So that’s kind of the first salvo in the discussion of the ethics of belief, like the doxastic morality discussion, all these are sort of sort of synonymous. But then more recent discussions like that discussion goes back to the late 19th century. But more recently, we’ve gotten into this sort of newer idea of doxastic wronging, which is a much narrower and more pointed thesis.

Christiane: So help us understand what doxastic wronging is.

Cat Saint-Croix: Doxastic wronging comes out of the work of Rima Basu and Mark Schroeder. It’s actually the core I think of Rima’s recent dissertation. This is all like hot off the epistemological presses. But the idea is that we can wrong others purely in virtue of what we believe about them.

So, unlike the Clifford case that we were just thinking of, the shipowner case where the wronging occurs as a result of what happens because of your belief, right? Because the shipowner believed the ship to be seaworthy, he was willing to let it out to people despite the fact that it wasn’t. If he had the right belief, that horrible consequence wouldn’t have come about. In the doxastic wronging case, we’re not worried about consequences at all, what we’re worried about is just the believing.

The central case of this that Basu and Schroeder tend to rely on, is this case of an alcoholic partner. So suppose that you are the partner of a faculty member at some academic department and they go to a department party that you wisely decide not to go to. And you know, they have been recovering alcoholic for years. You’re very proud of them for that recovery and they come home smelling of alcohol as they walk in the door–wafts of alcohol hit your nose. You’re like, “oh no, they’ve fallen off the wagon!”

As it turns out, that’s not what actually happened. What actually happened is that somebody spilled a drink on them and it’s just, they’re now covered in whiskey and you can’t help but smelling like whiskey. Basu and Schroeder argue that your forming that belief, ”Oh, no, they fell off the wagon,” wrongs your partner.

That what happens there– they describe this as you, the partner, walk in the door and they see it on your face right away that you believe they’ve fallen off the wagon and you can kind of feel the heartache there. When you hear that, you can feel that it’s really terrible to have your partner wrongly believe that you have made this horrible mistake, that’s a big part of your life. And that’s the idea like that that thing, the belief alone, not the recognition, not the seeing it in their eye, but just the believing is the thing that wrongs.

There are a couple of features that Basu and Schroeder, and very much Basu and a lot of her other work, identify as being part of doxastic wronging. One of them is that it’s directed. So if I doxastically wrong you, I am believing something about you. And that’s every instance of do on their view is directed in this way. There are some people who have tried to sort of generalize that and there’s good reason to generalize that. But that’s one of the signal features that they identify.

The second is what I’ve called the causal structure. So the idea is that the belief alone causes the problem. And this is what we were talking about–it’s not like the shipowner case where there’s something that happens either upstream of the belief or downstream of the belief that causes some sort of harm, but it’s actually just the believing.

And the last thing is the normative structure. So here, the idea is, it is just the believing of the content itself. Not anything else about the context in which that belief was formed that is relevant to the wronging. So it’s not like where the evidence came from. It’s not why you believe it. It’s not what the belief is justified. None of that stuff–that can all change entirely and the doxastic wronging remains.

Christiane: So I can, I, I can, I can feel why it might be true that in the case of, you know, my partner coming home and smelling of whiskey and me believing something about them might be a doxastic wrong. But I mean, what if I’m justified in my belief? What what happens then?

Cat Saint-Croix: So, I mean, this is exactly the kind of thing that worries me about these cases, right? Is that I think there’s a lot of nuance and lot of context that goes into whether a particular instance of a sort of potentially odious belief is the kind of thing that we want to identify as an instance of wronging. So for example, as you say, like I might be justified, that might be enough evidence given the rest of my body of evidence for me to conclude that my partner has in fact fallen off the wagon.

it might be the case that, like, given what I know about what happens when my partner falls off the wagon, like, if they are, you know, particularly prone to violent outbursts, then it seems actually like it might be really important for me to err on the side, actually, to err on the side of believing on maybe less evidence that they’ve fallen off the wagon because I need to protect myself.

So there are a lot of things that kind of go into that, right? If you know, you can think about the difference between somebody who, you know, had a challenge with their alcoholism a month ago versus somebody who has been clean for 10 years, right? There are really different kinds of cases. And so I think that being careful about the role of justification, being careful about the source of evidence, being careful about all these other aspects of the belief other than just the content is really important, and then to be fair to Basu and Schroder, and other people who are you in favor of doxastic wronging–they think there are strong and weak forms of doxastic wronging.

So they argue that in virtue of combining the doxastic wronging thesis with moral encroachment that there actually aren’t going to be, this is like the line from the Basu and Schroeder case, there aren’t going to be these kinds of clashes between wrongful beliefs and unjustified beliefs. And then there are others who argue for just this more limited thesis that if the belief is justified, then it’s not actually wrongful. So there are ways to sort of work this in and maintain the idea of doxastic wronging.

But I think my worry about that is that when you do that, you’re actually sort of setting aside this initial idea of a sort of normatively isolated form of doxastic wronging where all this other stuff about like how you got the belief, why you have the belief, et cetera isn’t relevant and it’s just the content.

Christiane: And you write that another sort of sticky part of this is that some philosophers believe that we can’t help what we believe–that I have no control over the beliefs that are in my head. So how does that fit in with all this?

Cat Saint-Croix: Yeah. So this goes back to I think what I said at the beginning about belief and knowledge having this like pride of place and epistemology. And there’s like a good reason for that, which is we know what belief and knowledge are supposed to do, right? They’re supposed to represent the world. And so it’s very easy for us to theorize about how good someone’s beliefs are and theorize on that basis.

But the problem, as you were suggesting is that the framework is really like ill fitting once we start thinking about concepts like epidemic agency, like epidemic responsibility and so forth, because what we need for those or at least what a sort of straightforward analysis of concepts like that suggests that we need a measure of control in order for responsibility, wronging and so forth to apply. That’s not to say there’s not a debate about that, like there are views on which we actually don’t need control in order to have responsibility.

But the standard conception involves this and that makes a lot of sense when you think about ethical wrongs and ethical responsibility. So imagine that you are driving down the road and you rear end another car. In one case, if you were say, just like looking at your phone, that’s clearly on you, right? You had control over that situation. You chose to like take your attention away from the road, you chose not to be in control of the vehicle at that particular moment. And therefore the responsibility is clearly on your shoulders.

On the other hand, if that crash happens because your brakes fail and you have been perfectly responsible in maintenance for your car, then it seems like that’s not your fault because you didn’t have control over that situation. This is the case in which the difference, what seems to be the difference maker between responsibility and no responsibility, is control. Like without some measure of control, it seems like it’s just not reasonable to say that this person is responsible for what happened.

And so as you’re saying, the question comes down to, is it the case that we have control over our beliefs? And it seems like in any direct sense, the answer is no. I can’t choose right now to believe that the sky is green, no matter how much it would benefit me to do so. I can ask the question, I can ask myself to reconsider whether the sky is blue or whether the sky is green, at any time.

But that answer because of the nature of belief, because of what belief is, isn’t something that I can really push very much in one way or the other. My evidence just either supports that it’s blue or doesn’t support that it’s blue or supports that it’s green or doesn’t support that it’s green or in fact that it’s gray. And so the worry here is that if that’s the right view about belief, then we don’t have any control over our doxastic attitudes like belief, knowledge, perhaps credence.

And so that saying that we can wrong others with what we believe is misguided, that we are focusing on the wrong kind of thing. That, as you said, leads some epistemologists to argue that there’s just like no such thing as epistemic agency. There are kind of two different conceptions of normativity in general. There’s one that’s kind of like a regulative conception that you might apply to like a thermometer to ask whether it’s a good thermometer. Like is that thermometer doing a good job of measuring the temperature?

Is it regulated by the laws of physics such that–and like its construction–such that it accurately reports, that’s one conception of normativity. The other conception and one that comes up in the ethical contexts, is the guiding conception of normativity. Where what we want is something like are you doing a good job of responding to the moral fact? Are you allowing moral theory or in the epistemic case, epistemically good decision making to guide what you are doing?

And the worry is that if we can’t control our attitudes in the relevant way, then we don’t have this kind of guiding capacity. We don’t have any kind of agency. And so these sorts of questions about wronging are just irrelevant and misdirected. But all of that, I think, comes from having belief and knowledge at the center of epistemology and I don’t think that’s necessary. This is what gets us all the way back to attention. I think it’s right that we can’t really, except maybe like at the margins, right? Like we can sort of fake it till we make it. Or maybe, you know, if you know that if you believe that you’re gonna do great this semester, then you’ll do a little better this semester. Maybe we can do those kinds of things, but for the most part, those are pretty outside of the norm.

But what we can do is direct our attention, right? We can choose the kind of evidence we pay attention to, we can choose to continue inquiry or cut off inquiry, right? We have a lot of control over our attention in ways that are relevant to our epistemic states. And that’s in fact, true not just because epistemologists are thinking about it this way, but actually within psychology, cognitive science, neuroscience, attention is like the signal example of control and mental agency.

Like if you want to talk about mental control, your study is almost certainly going to be about attention. And so I think when we shift focus to attention, we get a better account of epidemic agency and therefore a better handle on the kinds of things that can go wrong in these cases where we want to say like, oh, yeah, your partner just like came into the belief that you fell off the wagon and not worrying about that at all. That kind of hurts. I think if we want to get at the epidemic punch of that, thinking about the role of attention is a lot better foothold than thinking about belief.

Christiane: So yeah, help us understand why attention is so important. And then I also want to know–sometimes philosophers will say a word that means one thing in common English, but it actually means a whole range of other things, when you say attention do you mean it kind of like how we think about it? Like, I’m paying attention to you talking right now.

Cat Saint-Croix: We do have this like folk concept of attention, which is just like, if you’re listening to this conversation, you’re paying attention to it or maybe it’s just like background noise and you’re not paying attention to it. And that’s what we mean. In the cognitive science literature and psychology literature, there’s this very long tradition going back to William James and forward to Broadbent and continuing on today, of trying to pin down attention. And it turns out to be just a huge mess because there is this huge host of different brain mechanisms that seem to be relevant to attention.

So not only in the sense that like you and I right now are focusing our intellectual attention on this conversation, but also on the ways that are like very base level perceptual systems and then our mid-level perceptual systems and then our high level perceptual systems, all do this work of like lifting out the massive amount of incoming information that we have every moment of every day. So that we can actually do something with it.

And that need, that need to tear down everything that we are taking in and send it up the chain to our various levels of cognitive processing has also been regarded as attention. We get this divide in the empirical literature between thinking about attention in this sensory and filtering way, and thinking about it in an intellectual way where we’re doing this–which is often fairly directed, fairly voluntary when we take it out, right?

Where the metaphor is something like, you know, spotlighting a particular thing, maybe in your visual field or spotlighting it in your mind, right? And part of that is because it’s a lot easier to study visual attention, sensory attention objectively, right? You can put arrays of like sensory nodes in the brains of macaques or whatnot and see what their like visual cortex is actually doing. You can track the eye movements of people, right?

So part of the reason that we get all this focus on visual attention and sensory attention is that it’s just easier to study. But when we turn to epistemology, a lot of what we’re interested in is this intellectual attention, in which I should say there’s a distinction between, there are a whole bunch of distinctions here. There’s a distinction between sort of directed and undirected attention, right? So, Zachary Irving has a lot of really great work on mind wandering which he characterizes as undirected intellectual attention.

And then there’s this question about top down versus bottom up attention, right? Right now, if you’re directing your attention toward this conversation, you’re like actively doing that process. But if there’s like a horn honking outside your car or somebody knocks on the door of your office, right? That’s gonna be sort of bottom up. You’re not gonna be able to prevent yourself from going, “What?” Right when that happens.

So these are like two of the many axes on which we might distinguish forms of attention. I think it’s really helpful to look at some at the like two major or a few others that are important. But there are two major accounts of attention that show up in the epistemology literature. One of them is Wayne Wu’s “Selection for Action” account: when he talks about attention, what he means is whatever mechanism is doing the selection among inputs, whether those are sensory or intellectual inputs, like just ideas floating around your head in order for us to act on it in accord with–in order for us to act on it.

That’s Wayne Wu’s view and this is like a very broad view and it accords really nicely actually with a lot of the empirical literature. And then there is Sebastian Watzl’s view, which is about structuring your stream of consciousness. And here, Watzl is thinking about the ways that our priorities sort of, and our goals and our intentions, draw things to the center of our cognition or push them to the edges, right?

So, this is the account that I work with in this particular paper. Although I think both accounts have a lot of virtues even though they’re very different. But this account has a lot more to do with the fact that like when you get up in the morning and you decide to make a cup of coffee, there are a whole bunch of things that are like going on in your kitchen as you start that process right? Like the cat’s bugging you for food. Your partner is like, “Hey, what are we doing today?” Right? But you’re focused on the coffee.

So all of that stuff, the meowing, the partner, right? All that stuff goes to the periphery and what is in the center is your coffee, right? Everything that’s relevant to the coffee is closer to the center of your consciousness, and the kind of things you’re thinking about, than everything else, right? So, like, you know, grinding the coffee, getting it in the pour over, warming up the water…doing like all that stuff is what your cognitive faculties from sensory inputs, like what you’re paying attention to in terms of smells, right? Visual perception, auditory perception, all of that stuff is easier to attend to in the center of your stream of consciousness than everything else.

This account really nicely captures what’s going on when you are at a concert, right? So if you’re at a concert and you learn to play bass or guitar at some point, the bass line or the guitar is gonna be super salient to you, right? It is going to be sort of the auditory experience that you have when you are focusing in on the bass line or focusing in on some particular aspect of the experience is gonna be very different, right?

And so this aspect of Watzl’s, this phenomenal aspect of it is one of the things that I think is really valuable about it, that it really captures this way that our experience of the world changes depending on how we attend. There are a couple of different ways to understand attention, but they are trying to capture something like this folk account even if the details are going to be a little bit different.

So using the sort of folk idea like that you are tuning in to what’s going on in front of you and that is attending, that’s actually pretty good, that actually works fairly well. Georgi Gardner has a recent paper in which she sort of does this huge overview of the epistemology of attention, just thinking about every aspect that might be relevant, making a lot of really interesting connections with doxastic morality as well. And she doesn’t even settle on an account in that paper and just like we’re gonna use the folk account, we’re gonna move forward with that different things might come out in different views. But I think that just goes to show like in this area, the sort of folk understanding of attention will get you pretty far.

Christiane: So you write that attention that we’ve just been talking about is what’s missing from the account that we were talking about earlier of doxastic wronging. So how does attention play into all of this?

Cat Saint-Croix: The importance of attention in epistemology kind of can’t be overstated, right? There’s a lot of research in cognitive science looking at the ways that attention makes it possible for us to learn. Attention determines which evidence we get in the world. Above all of that, attention reflects what is important to us. If something matters to you, that’s where you will be directing your attention that matters epistemic because that’s what you’re gonna get evidence about, right?

So the things that you attend to are gonna be the things about which you have more evidence, maybe not better evidence, but that’s a separate question. But it’s also, I think part of why, why we should think of attention as being epistemic in nature and not just practical because where we direct our attention has a lot to do with how, how and whether we succeed.

So you can think about this, in terms of like the Fox News viewer who isolates all of their news consumption to Fox News, doesn’t consume news from anywhere else that may be like Newsmax, like one step further. They end up with a body of evidence as a result of those attentional practices that support some wild beliefs, right? But they can be a perfectly good epistemic agent if all we’re thinking about is how well they respond to that.

So all we have is this like thermometer conception of, are you doing a good job in responding to the evidence that you have? That Fox News viewer who has tons of evidence that like, I don’t know, Joe Biden is trying to get microchips into everybody with vaccines, forming that belief on the basis of their evidence might be entirely rational. It’s just that what they have done is gather their evidence poorly, right? Because they have directed their attention only to sources of evidence, they give them a particular kind of evidence.

And so if we don’t have attention in the mix–and you might also think of this as related to norms about evidence gathering or norms about inquiry–without some of those aspects in the mix, we don’t have a way of saying what’s gone wrong with that agent, right? That’s the sense of how very fundamental norms of attention look like they’re going to be to having a sort of complete account of epistemic normativity.

But the other thing that’s important here is that measure of control that we have. So when your partner comes in from the party and you get that waft of whiskey coming off of their collar, you haven’t really got much options of what your brain does with that new bit of evidence that sent that, olfactory evidence as it comes in, right? It hits you, you respond to it and then you have a new belief. The, “Oh, no, they fell off the wagon” might be something that happens so quickly, but all you have as an option is to react, right?

And I think the question, I think the thing that is actually wounding in that example, when it, when it does seem like it’s wounding, right? When it’s the partner who’s been clean for 10 years and like they’re not dangerous when they’re drunk, they’re just unwise. In that case, what’s wounding is that the partner lets that belief simmer.

They don’t look at it and go, oh, maybe there’s an alternative explanation here. Maybe there’s a more charitable way of understanding what’s happened. That I think is where it feels really painful from the perspective of the partner. Basu and schroeder use as evidence for their argument that there’s a wronging here, the fact that a partner in that situation, a partner coming home from the party might say, like, I can’t believe, you thought that I can’t believe you would think that of me, right? The sense of wounding, right? They feel wounded by this, by learning that you believe this thing, or to Basu’s point, just the believing of it, right.

And I think what’s going on there is it’s not the belief is the thing that’s harmful, but it’s that the believer has it and just accepts it and takes it as settled, the question is done. You believe it and then you move on from that belief as if there’s nothing, there’s no further inquiry to be had.

The other thing that I think is useful about thinking about attention in this case is the sort of related cases that are really nearby in which we don’t actually have a belief, right? So if your partner comes home from that same party and they smell like whiskey, but you don’t form the belief that they fell off the wagon, you instead start ruminating on it. You instead start sort of like listening a little more carefully to the way they’re pronouncing every word, listening for a slur or following them and like watching whether each step is faltering or not right. There, there might not be a belief, but you’re like circling and circling and circling around this question, “Did they fall off the wagon?”

And there, I think that to me, it feels like it’s equally harmful as having that instantaneous belief response. Similarly, if you close that inquiry with no, I don’t think they did, but you got there by like this sort of invasive weird ruminative, epistemic behavior, that also feels bad. And I think one of the things that Basu and Schroeder would say here is like, yeah, there might be more than one wrong going on here, right?

None of what I have said In this last couple of minutes suggests that doxastic wronging as they theorize it could also be happening. And there’s another wrong that is this attentional wronging. But I think that given that the attentional wronging is sort of not controversial in the same way or to the same extent that doxastic wronging is because it doesn’t require this sort of belief-focused agency. I think if we can explain what’s going on by focusing on attention, that’s a better target than having to explain the sort of strange form of agency that must be going on if the doxastic wronging by itself, could be the wrong in this kind of case.

Christiane: So then you then write about something called “attentional epistemic wronging.”
What’s that?

Cat Saint-Croix: An attentional epistemic wronging is a wrong committed by one person against another in virtue of the patterns of attention that brought them to their doxastic attitude. So, in the case of the partner coming home from the party, we can’t know whether it is an instance of wronging without knowing a lot about the specifics of the case and the specifics of the partner’s attentional wronging. So, if that partner, for example, watches themselves form the belief, “Oh, no, they fell off the wagon” and then looks at the partner who just came home and says, “You know, I’ve been watching my partner, deal with their alcoholism for years. They have been responsible and careful and I think I need to reevaluate this.”
That kind of response does a better job of treating the partner as a person. It does a better job of respecting them and it does a better job of, like, sort of being with them in the moment, which is what we want from our partner. Right? Like we want somebody who, if we have fallen off the wagon, like, if they’re not wrong about it, will notice and will care for us, right? And will help.

But who attends to us in a way that is compassionate and that doesn’t just accept the worst possible explanation immediately, without question. And so I think that looking at the difference between that kind of loving attention in Iris Murdoch’s words, and the alternative, which is a sort of a bitter attention that looks at the case and says, “Fell off the wagon, yikes,” right? The sort of contemptuous form of attention. I think that helps to distinguish between cases that feel like wronging and cases that don’t in a way that just looking at the belief simply can’t.

Christiane: So what brought you to this work? Why do you care about this?

Cat Saint-Croix: I found this concept of doxastic wronging really moving. I think that it opens up this really important inquiry into the sense in which we do care about the mental lives of the people around us. And this isn’t like, isn’t like the first time anybody has noticed that, right?

Like you can go back to Charles Taylor’s “The Politics of Recognition,” where he’s talking about the sense in which our identities are sort of co-constituted by the people in our communities, right? Like the ways that people reflect us back to us matter deeply. But I think that the discussion of doxastic wronging really narrows in on how much it matters to us, the way people kind of hold us in their minds.

But I wasn’t satisfied with the idea that it’s the beliefs itself. Partially for these cases where, like, you end up actually not believing the target nasty proposition, but it still feels really bad that you were, like, wondering about it for an hour, right? Like, if you were genuinely questioning whether your partner kicked that puppy and you’re like, “I don’t know, maybe you were a puppy kicker today” and like, you’re really straining over this question. Like that feels terrible even if you end up believing, like, no, no, no, they didn’t do it, right.

Like, I don’t want my partner to think that’s even something I would possibly do. But that’s not a matter of like, the belief, that’s a matter of how they respond to the question. It’s a matter of what they do upon being presented with the proposition, not whether they believe it or no. And so, and is thinking about what, when these kinds of things have come up in my own life has actually bothered me, drew me to this idea of attention and then as it happened, I was in this pandemic-era working group with Georgi Gardner and Rima Basu and a number of other young epistemologists working on the ethics of belief.

I think a lot of us turned to attention kind of at about the same time. And that I think is partially kismet and also partially the fact that there’s been this like recent resurgence on this work in the philosophy of mind, and so it has been sort of at the ready in a way that it hasn’t in some time.

But certainly like the rising of attention goes back, goes back to William James, who has a wonderful and fascinating sort of treatise on the topic, but just hasn’t been a big focus, especially in epistemology. There have been glimmers of it here and there. But it seems like the tide is turning.

[Interview ends] [music: Blue Dot Sessions, Rambling]

Christiane: If you want to find more about Myisha Cherry’s other work, download a transcript, or learn about some of the things we mentioned in today’s episode visit prindleinstitute.org/examining-ethics.

Examining Ethics is hosted by The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics at DePauw University. Christiane Wisehart wrote and produced the show. Our logo was created by Evie Brosius. Our music is by Blue Dot Sessions and can be found online at sessions.blue. Examining Ethics is made possible by the generous support of DePauw Alumni, friends of the Prindle Institute, and you the listeners. Thank you for your support. The views expressed here are the opinions of the individual speakers alone. They do not represent the position of DePauw University or the Prindle Institute for Ethics.

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