Epistemic Value

Monday, March 05, 2007

ECP: 'Epistemology Through Thick and Thin'

The journal Philosophical Papers is running a special issue on epistemology which I've been asked to publicise on this blog. It looks very interesting to me. Here's the announcement:

'Epistemology Through Thick & Thin'

Special edition of *Philosophical Papers*
Guest editors: Ben Kotzee & Jeremy Wanderer (U. of Cape Town)

The distinction between thick concepts (e.g., 'deceit', 'gratitude') and thin concepts (e.g., 'good', 'wrong'), and their relevant importance to philosophical research, has been central to recent ethical theory. Metaethical discussion traditionally focuses on the thin, leading some to contend that moving from considering thin concepts to thick concepts leads to a very different, and preferable, conception of ethics.

A similar distinction suggests itself within epistemology. 'Justification' and 'knowledge' seem to be thin epistemic concepts, whilst 'intellectual curiosity', 'trust' and 'gullibility' seem to be thick ones. Like metaethicists, epistemologists have focused on the thin, raising the question whether a move from thin to thick would lead to an alternative and/or preferable conception of epistemology.

Only those approaching epistemology from the point of view of virtue ethics and those interested in ethno-epistemology have tended to recognize a distinction between a thick and thin epistemology. The aim of this special issue of *Philosophical Papers* is to consider the distinction between thick and thin epistemic concepts both within and without specific conceptions of epistemology, as well as providing a forum for discussion of specific thick epistemic concepts.

Possible Questions for Discussion:
1. What is the best way to understand the distinction between thick and thin epistemic concepts? Are there problems with the analogy from the case of ethics?
2. Would the move from a thick to thin epistemology lead to significant changes in how we do epistemology? If so, is this desirable?
3. How should particular examples of thick epistemic concepts be understood?
4. Do particular debates within epistemology (e.g., internalism vs. externalism, foundationalism vs. coherentism) or more general approaches to epistemology favour one kind of concept over the other?

The deadline for receipt of submissions is 30 June 2008. This issue of *Philosophical Papers*, comprising both invited and submitted articles, will appear in November 2008.

Authors are encouraged to submit manuscripts electronically, as a pdf- or word-document attachment, to Philosophical.Papers@ru.ac.za. Authors should include their full name, affiliation, and address for e-mail correspondence with their submission.

Further enquiries may be addressed to Ben Kotzee (philosophy@uct.ac.za) or Ward Jones, Editor, *Philosophical Papers* (w.jones@ru.ac.za).


  • At 5:34 AM, Blogger Aidan said…

    A question I got interested in a while ago is whether there is worrying analogue of Prichard's dilemma in epistemology. Scanlon presents the original version as a dilemma facing any account of what makes an action wrong. We want to know why the fact (assuming for now that it is one) that an act is wrong gives us reason not to do it. The worry is that we'll either end up giving an uninformative answer like 'Because it's wrong!', or we'll end up citing some feature of the act which supposedly substantively explains why we have reason not to perform it which intuitively has no connection to its wrongness (that performing the act would lead to social ostracism, for example).

    In his critical study of Scanlon, David Sosa suggests that there's no worrying theoretical analogue of Prichard's dilemma - that when we ask 'why does the fact that p is false give us reason not to believe that p?', we can be satisfied with the answer 'Because p is false!' - and that this should make us suspect that trivial answers should be satisfactory in the ethical case too. I'm inclined to think Prichard's dilemma bites in both cases, and that there's a rich discussion to be had on these issues. I'd love to see some work done towards that.


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