Denial of the epistemic gradient:

Definition Example
When semantic resolution is decreased by invoking artificially binary or granular epistemic categories. Either you believe in space aliens or you don’t. You need to make up your mind.
  Notes
Evidence most commonly arrives in degrees. If belief is to be rational, it must map to the degree of the evidence. Therefore, rational belief is necessarily non-discrete.


Sometime, binary belief is confused with binary decisions. While you must make a binary decision to cross an old bridge, it does not follow that your belief that the bridge is safe must also be binary.


This is closely related to the semantic pixelization fallacy.


Case Study One

Both theists and atheists often over-categorize the position of others by suggesting one must either believe or disbelieve in a god. However, the evidence invoked for belief/disbelief in the god in question is rarely non-incremental, and therefore rational belief in that god will fall somewhere on a continuum.


Case Study Two

Some articles/books on financial/business success suggest you must believe with 100% certainty you will succeed to succeed. While this delusion may result in decisions that make success more likely, it does not make success certain, and the belief is therefore irrational.
[Example: “But if you don’t in fact have it then you don’t in fact want it.“]


Keep in mind that a fallacious argument does not entail an erroneous position.


One Response to Denial of the epistemic gradient:

  1. I’ve recently encountered some who insist that belief is intrinsically binary. And this claim is not referring to the binary nature of the linguistic terms “believe” and “disbelief”, but rather to the very concept of belief if I understand the claim clearly. And this claim is not from theists who often treat belief as binary to align with their belief system, but among non-believers. This claim has me intrigued.

    I am claiming that rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of the evidence. That is, when new confirming/disconfirming evidence arrives, the credence the rational mind previously held moves up/down accordingly, and can occupy any point along the epistemic gradient.

    I am claiming that, not only is this notion that rational belief is intrinsically gradient intuitive, it is held by practitioners who require a rigorous and nuanced epistemology in their work. This is true in AI (in which Bayesian reasoning rules the day), in medicine (in which diagnoses must follow nuanced calculations that incorporate nuanced credences), in the stock market (in which multi-dimensional thinking calculates credences to maximize predictive power), and even the US Department of Defense (in which binary “I believe” or “I don’t believe” from analysts are not allowed).

    But lest I and these professionals have overlooked something, I am willing to hear out a rigorous and well-presented case for the notion the concept of belief is intrinsically binary. Those arguments can be presented below. They will not be deleted or modified.

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