In Linda Zagzebski (ed.), Virtue Epistemology: Essays on Epistemic Virtue and Responsibility. Oxford University Press, (2000)
|Abstract||“Rational beings pursue and value truth (the true, along with the good and the beautiful). Intellectual conduct is to be judged, accordingly, by how well it aids our pursuit of that ideal.” What does this mean, and is it true? Even if intelligent life had never evolved or otherwise existed, Venus would still have orbited the Sun, so it would still have been true that Venus orbited the Sun. It is not the being thus true of what is true that we value indiscriminately. Some truths are good, but not all, far from it. In loving the truth, then, what we value is not the being true of the truths. What we value in pursuing truth is rather our grasping it, our having it. What does this mean? Only through believing it does one relevantly have a truth: we have the truth that snow is white by believing that snow is white. In pursuing the truth what we want is (at least) true beliefs. Suppose you enter your dentist’s waiting room and find all the magazines taken. Deprived of reading matter, you’re sure to doze off, but you need no sleep. Are you then rationally bound to reach for the telephone book in pursuit of truth? Were you not to do so, you would forfeit a chance to pluck some desired goods within easy reach. If random telephone numbers do not elicit a wide enough yawn, consider a randomly selected cubic foot of the Sahara. Here is a trove of facts, of the form grain x is so many millimeters in direction D from grain y, than which few can be of less interest. Or take some bit of trivia known to me at the moment: say, that it was sunny in Rhode Island at noon on October 21, 1999. I confess that I will not rue my loss of this information, nor do I care either that or how early it will be gone. As interpreted so far, the view that we rationally want truth as such reduces to absurdity, or is at best problematic. What then is it we want in pursuing truth? If it is not after all true beliefs indiscriminately, what then is it? A manageable number of true beliefs? Obviously not; it is not just a matter of numbers..|
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