I’m interested in a question in the neighborhood of the title, but not exactly. Suppose we think of epistemic principles as (propositional analogues of) rules of belief formation and revision (including reasoning but not limited to it), and that there is a difference between belief change in accord with a rule and belief change that follows a rule. If this is the right way to think about epistemic principles, then we should expect that they have something to do with the distinction between propositional and doxastic justification: only when a rule is followed can that principle be used in an explanation of why a belief is justified (rather than simply having a content that is justified, while the state or event of believing is itself unjustified).
If we assume that rule-following is essential in this way to the distinction between propositional and doxastic justification, then I think we’ll have to give a negative answer to the intended question.
The rules we follow are typically local rather than universal: that look, when displayed by my wife, means anger; displayed by others, it may mean nothing. So too in cases of more complex reasoning. We use mental heuristics and rules of thumb rather than universal rules. And we don’t do this because we’ve arrived at the local rule by some combination of universal rule plus appreciation of the nature of our circumstances. Etiologically speaking, the local rules have priority.
What difference does this point make? It tells us something about what epistemologists are after when they attempt to articulate correct epistemic principles. They can’t be after principles that have imperatival analogues that play some actual explanatory role in belief formation and revision. Those principles are not ones that yield rules that a person needs to follow.
Call the position that disagrees, that holds that there are fundamental epistemic principles that have corresponding rules that we ought to follow the “Boghossian view” (the practice of forming an adjective from a name fails us here… sounds like the view of a follower of some unknown philosopher Boghoss–but that sounds like the result of a consonant-inversion game I used to play with my kids…).
There’s some connection here to van Fraassen’s attack on the Bayesian idea that we have a complete theory of evidence encoded in our conditional degrees of belief, a theory that tells us what adjustments to make (by conditionalization or Jeffreys conditionalization) given any possible future experience. But I’ll leave that connection and maybe come back to it at another time.
If the Boghossian view isn’t a correct account of the search for fundamental epistemic principles in epistemology, what is the alternative? One option is that there are rules that we must conform to in our cognitive practices, but it makes no difference whether we follow the rule or merely operate in accord with the rule. Another option is that epistemologists have been confused, trying both to construct a theory of justification using epistemic principles of various sorts while at the same time trying to construct principles that have corresponding rules that we must follow in order for our beliefs to be doxastically justified. Maybe there are other options as well?