Epistemological Strata and the Rules of Right Reason

Synthese 141 (3):287 - 331 (2004)
It has been commonplace in epistemology since its inception to idealize away from computational resource constraints, i.e., from the constraints of time and memory. One thought is that a kind of ideal rationality can be specified that ignores the constraints imposed by limited time and memory, and that actual cognitive performance can be seen as an interaction between the norms of ideal rationality and the practicalities of time and memory limitations. But a cornerstone of naturalistic epistemology is that normative assessment is constrained by capacities: you cannot require someone to do something they cannot or, as it is usually put, ought implies can. This much we take to be uncontroversial. We argue that differences in architectures, goals and resources imply substantial differences in capacity, and that some of these differences are ineliminable. It follows that some differences in goals and architectural and computational resources matter at the normative level: they constrain what principles of normative epistemology can be used to describe and prescribe their behavior. As a result, we can expect there to be important epistemic differences between the way brains, individuals, and science work
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