Epistemic Value

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Knowledge and Value Paper

You can download a draft of my new paper entitled 'Knowledge and Value' here. (It's also available on the Research Resources webpage). It's still very much at the draft stage, but I'll be speaking to this material as part of my Royal Institute of Philosophy Epistemology lecture next week and also at the Arche Basic Knowledge conference in St. Andrews in November, so it should improve rapidly over the coming weeks (here's hoping anyway!).


  • At 11:26 PM, Blogger Chase Wrenn said…

    I enjoyed the paper Duncan, and I'd like to press on your claim that knowledge without final value always depends on knowledge with final value (around p. 18).

    The case you make depends crucially on the idea that knowledge without final value stands at one end of a causal chain that has knowledge with final value on the other end. Lackey-style cases of testimonial knowledge fit that model very well.

    But what about instances of innate knowledge? Plausibly, they don't have final value, and they don't depend on knowledge that has final value either. They seem to constitute a counterexample to the claim that knowledge without final value depends on knowledge with final value.

  • At 3:40 PM, Blogger Duncan Pritchard said…

    Hi Chase,

    Thanks for the comment on the paper. You're absolutely right that innate knowledge is a problem for me (as might be 'transparent' knowledge--i.e., immediate knowledge of one's own mental states). I'm afraid to say that I haven't worked out what to say about this yet, though I guess I'm inclined towards the idea that innate knowledge presupposes innate cognitive skill so that it is less a case of epistemic free-riding than one might have initially supposed (and certainly involves less free-riding than in the testimonial case). Even so, I'm not happy with the idea that I'm committed to understanding innate knoweldge in such a specific way, so I'll need to put some more thought into this.


  • At 10:11 AM, Blogger Duncan Pritchard said…

    I'm posting this on behalf of Miranda Fricker, who has had some difficult posting it herself. I respond to this below:

    I enjoyed your paper, Duncan, and ever since I read it I've been meaning to ask you something. Why do you interpret Socrates in the Meno as proposing basically a reliabilist solution? Generally I think the whole value of kn debate is distorted by a certain Analytical Presumption - the presumption that the special value of knowledge is imported by whatever warrant converts
    mere tb into kn. This presumption distorts the issue by imposing a *retrospective* point of view, so that when looking for the value of kn we
    look to the *aetiology* of the true belief that is held as knowledge (was it arrived at by a reliable method, by a virtuous motive, by some other
    creditworthy process? etc.) Instead I think that the fundamental value of knowledge (or one of the fundamental values of kn) resides in something
    *prospective*, namely the improved prospects of survival in the face of non-defeating counter-evidence. Further, I think that's what Socrates is
    proposing in his talk of knowledge being 'shackled' (I've got a different translation form you - I think you say 'tied down'). So my view, and my reading of Plato, is that the basic value of knowledge is that true belief possessed as knowledge better survives the test of time. (I say roughly this in a recent response to Jason Baehr's stuff on the value of knowledge on janusblog, and as I mention your interpretation of Plato/Socrates there, I specially wanted to ask you about it directly.)

  • At 10:13 AM, Blogger Duncan Pritchard said…

    Hi Miranda,

    Thanks for the interest in the paper! Basically, I agree with what you say. That paper has gone through so many re-writes that I'm not sure what I did say on this score in that version of the paper, but if I suggested that Socrates's suggestion should be--as opposed to merely could in part be--understood along reliabilist--and thus epistemically instrumental--lines then that's not right. For one thing, I think that part of the instrumental value in question is clearly practical rather than specifically epistemic (and hence immune to the swamping problem anyway). For another, as you say, there is instrumental value that is 'forward-looking' in the relevant sense. More generally, what I'm trying to do in the paper is explore one proposal for accounting for the special (i.e., non-instrumental) value of knowledge, one which does relate specifically to how the belief was formed. Crucially, though, the thesis isn't that this is the only way in which knowledge might be specifically valuable, much less that the instrumental value of knowledge should be purely understood in terms of the aetiology of the belief. Probably, though, earlier versions of this paper weren't as clear as they could have been as to what I was up to on this score (I'll aim to post a new version soon).


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