Mattias Skipper Rasmussen - new PhD at the Department of Philosophy and History of Ideas

Matthias Skipper Rasmussen will be working on the project: The Epistemology of Higher-Order Evidence

12.09.2016 | Camilla Dimke

Higher-order evidence is, roughly put, evidence which indicates that my current belief state is irrational or unjustified. If I learn that I've been systematically too optimistic in my weather predictions, I can lower my confidence in fair weather tomorrow. Or if I learn that my trusted colleague prescribes antibiotics less often than I do, I can start to question my own prescription practice. In both cases, my loss of confidence is rationalized by higher-order evidence indicating that my former belief state was rationally sub-par. By contrast, ordinary first-order evidence rationalizes a change of belief without indicating that I've been less than fully rational. If I get an updated weather forecast, I may well be required to lower my confidence in fair weather tomorrow, but this does not show that my former high confidence was unjustified given the evidence I had at the time.

Higher-order evidence is a pervasive feature of human life. We all live our lives in states of epistemic imperfection, not only because we base our beliefs on limited evidence, but also because we do not always respond to the evidence we have in the best way. Accommodating one’s own cognitive fallibility is an important part of any rational human life. In this regard, higher-order evidence is a valuable source of epistemic self-improvement: it provides an opportunity for rectifying our rational mistakes, whether these are due to systematic bias or occasional cognitive blunders.

 Yet, we currently lack a basic theoretical understanding of the nature and bearing of higher-order evidence. Specifically, philosophers remain puzzled about how to understand the interaction between higher-order evidence and ordinary first-order evidence. This puzzlement crops up in many important epistemological debates about, e.g., disagreement, testimony, epistemic akrasia, and epistemic dilemmas. In my project, I aim to approach these and related debates through a general theoretical investigation of the nature and bearing of higher-order evidence.

I received a BA in philosophy from Aarhus University in 2015, including a stay at University of St Andrews in the spring of 2014. In 2015, I began my MA studies in philosophy at Aarhus University. I work on various topics in epistemology (formal and social), philosophical logic, formal semantics, and philosophy of mind. My publications include "Dynamic Epistemic Logic and Logical Omniscience" (In: Logic and Logical Philosophy 2015), "Counterpossibles and the Nature of Impossible Worlds" (In: Sats: Northern European Journal of Philosophy), and "A Higher-Order Approach to Disagreement" (forthcoming in Episteme). For more information about me and my research, visit

Supervisor: Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen
Co-supervisor: Jens Christian Bjerring

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