Truth, Lies, and Good Reasons

Dissertation, University of Minnesota (2002)

Authors
Brian Huss
State University of New York at Potsdam
Abstract
Any adequate account of rationality must be highly normative. This requirement creates a problem because it is exceedingly difficult to ground normative claims in such a way that they motivate people to act in accordance with them. This problem is well-known and has lead many to accept instrumentalist accounts of practical reasoning---reasoning about what to do. According to instrumentalist accounts, one ought to reason in such a way that one is more likely to get what one wants. I argue that instrumentalist accounts of practical reasoning avoid many of the problems associated with other normative accounts, and that the same goes for instrumentalist accounts of theoretical reasoning---reasoning about what to believe. ;I suggest that the worth of theoretical reasoning must be made relative to the values people hold. These values are not deemed good or bad in themselves, but it is claimed that there is a fact of the matter as to whether this or that method of reasoning is likely to be successful, given one's values. The normative claim is that individuals should form beliefs in such a way that they are more likely to achieve whatever it is that they want to achieve. The normativity here is of a very special kind. Its force stems from the fact that it is nonsensical for someone to ask "Why should I want to get what I want?" ;One of the novel aspects of my account is that it does not direct individuals to form true or epistemically justified beliefs unless truth is what they value in the given situation. I defend this conclusion against several challenges, in part by arguing that the supposed distinction between theoretical and practical reasoning is not sound and in part by arguing that accounts which treat true belief as the only proper end of theoretical reasoning lack normative force. Although my view is in many ways similar to the one put forth by Stephen Stich in The Fragmentation of Reason, I argue that he is wrong to think that we should not care whether our beliefs are true
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