chapter  3
26 Pages

The case for the rationality of radical reflective equilibrium

The argument I will offer against alternatives to reflective equilibrium turns on a particular factor that is relevant to assessing the rationality of belief, namely, whether all relevant beliefs held by the inquirer have been taken into account. My claim is that the alternative methods that have been proposed systematically exclude certain types of belief, and hence, are liable to lead inquirers to make revisions of belief that are irrational, in the subjective sense I identified in the last chapter. Since the method of reflective equilibrium excludes none of the inquirer’s beliefs, at least in this respect, it is apparently a rational method. However, as we ordinarily think of rationality, the rationality of a given belief, or revision of belief, is not determined solely by the belief’s connections with the inquirer’s other beliefs. In some cases, we consider a belief to be irrational, even though all the evidence the inquirer accepts supports it, for example, when the inquirer has not bothered to gather sufficient evidence. I will show that the same holds for my subjective conception of rationality. When we consider this element of the rationality of belief, in terms of my subjective conception, it will once again turn out that the radical method of reflective equilibrium constitutes a rational method of inquiry. We will have, then, by the end of this chapter, discovered that the sorts of alternatives to reflective equilibrium that have been proposed are either irrational or not really alternatives. We will also have, what I consider, a fairly strong positive argument for thinking that the radical method is a rational method of inquiry. But this positive argument is only preliminary.