Descartes’s Schism, Locke’s Reunion: Completing the Pragmatic Turn in Epistemology

American Philosophical Quarterly 54 (1):25-46 (2017)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

Centuries ago, Descartes and Locke initiated a foundational debate in epistemology over the relationship between knowledge, on the one hand, and practical factors, on the other. Descartes claimed that knowledge and practice are fundamentally separate. Locke claimed that knowledge and practice are fundamentally united. After a period of dormancy, their disagreement has reignited on the contemporary scene. Latter-day Lockeans claim that knowledge itself is essentially connected to, and perhaps even constituted by, practical factors such as how much is at stake, how important the situation is, or how one should act. Latter-day Cartesians claim, by contrast, that knowledge is entirely constituted by truth-related factors such as truth, belief, and evidence. Each side has supported its case with claims about patterns in ordinary behavior and knowledge judgments. Lockeans argue that these patterns are best explained by positing a fundamental and direct link between knowledge and practical factors. Cartesians argue that the patterns can be equally well explained by positing an indirect link, entirely mediated by the traditional factors of truth, belief, and evidence, thereby rendering the Lockean hypothesis unnecessary. We argue that Cartesians are right about some practical factors, in particular stakes and how important a situation is, which have, at best, a modest indirect relationship to knowledge. However, Lockeans are right about actionability: whether a person should pursue a course of action is unquestionably very powerfully and directly connected to knowledge.

Similar books and articles

Stakes, withholding, and pragmatic encroachment on knowledge.Mark Schroeder - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 160 (2):265 - 285.
Knowledge First?Aidan McGlynn - 2014 - New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillian.
Varieties of Pragmatic Encroachment.Hamid Vahid - 2014 - Acta Analytica 29 (1):25-41.
Knowledge claims and context: belief.Wayne A. Davis - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (2):399-432.
Intrusión pragmática y valor epistémico.Pascal Engel - 2011 - Areté. Revista de Filosofía 23 (1):25-51.
Competence to know.Lisa Miracchi - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (1):29-56.
Two Kinds of Stakes.Alex Worsnip - 2015 - Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (3):307-324.
Knowledge ascriptions and the psychological consequences of changing stakes.Jennifer Nagel - 2008 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2):279-294.
Applying pragmatics to epistemology.Kent Bach - 2008 - Philosophical Issues 18 (1):68-88.

Analytics

Added to PP
2015-10-20

Downloads
852 (#14,758)

6 months
146 (#17,275)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author Profiles

John Turri
University of Waterloo
Wesley Buckwalter
George Mason University

References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge and practical interests.Jason Stanley - 2005 - New York: Oxford University Press.
Knowledge in an uncertain world.Jeremy Fantl & Matthew McGrath - 2009 - New York: Oxford University Press. Edited by Matthew McGrath.
Theory of knowledge.Roderick M. Chisholm - 1966 - Englewood Cliffs, N.J.,: Prentice-Hall.
Meditations on First Philosophy.René Descartes - 1984 [1641] - Ann Arbor: Caravan Books. Edited by Stanley Tweyman.

View all 86 references / Add more references