Theories deploy various theoretical representations of their explananda and one question we can ask about those representations is whether to regard them under a realist attitude, i.e. as revealing the nature of what they represent, or whether to regard them under an instrumentalist attitude instead, i.e. as serving particular explanatory ends without the further revelatory aspect. I consider structured propositions as theoretical representations within a particular explanatory setting -- the metaphysics of what is said -- and argue that a realist (...) attitude towards them is unwarranted. I offer various considerations against the widespread tendency to regard structured propositions as revealing the nature of what is said and conclude that they should be regarded under an instrumentalist attitude instead. (shrink)
Epistemic instrumentalists face a puzzle. In brief, the puzzle is that if the reason there is to believe in accord with the evidence depends, as the instrumentalist says it does, on agents’ idiosyncratic interests, then there is no reason to expect that this reason is universal. Here, I identify and explain two strategies instrumentalists have used to try and solve this puzzle. I then argue that we should find these strategies wanting. Faced with the failure of these strategies, I articulate (...) a heretofore neglected solution on behalf of instrumentalism. (shrink)
Epistemic instrumentalists seek to understand the normativity of epistemic norms on the model practical instrumental norms governing the relation between aims and means. Non-instrumentalists often object that this commits instrumentalists to implausible epistemic assessments. I argue that this objection presupposes an implausibly strong interpretation of epistemic norms. Once we realize that epistemic norms should be understood in terms of permissibility rather than obligation, and that evidence only occasionally provide normative reasons for belief, an instrumentalist account becomes available that delivers the (...) correct epistemic verdicts. On this account, epistemic permissibility can be understood on the model of the wide-scope instrumental norm for instrumental rationality, while normative evidential reasons for belief can be understood in terms of instrumental transmission. (shrink)
According to the thesis of pragmatic encroachment, practical circumstances can affect whether someone is in a position to know or rationally believe a proposition. For example, whether it is epistemically rational for a person to believe that the bank will be open on Saturdays, can depend not only on the strength of the person’s evidence, but also on how practically important it is for the person not to be wrong about the bank being open on Saturdays. In recent years, philosophers (...) have argued that moral considerations can also affect the epistemic rationality of belief, thus giving rise to moral encroachment. In previous work (Steglich-Petersen, forthcoming a), I have developed an explanation of pragmatic encroachment grounded in an instrumentalist theory of epistemic reasons. Here, I argue that this explanation extends to moral encroachment as well, including so-called “radical” moral encroachment. I also show how this explanation dispels the worry raised by Gerken (2019), that pragmatic encroachment might give rise to morally adverse consequences in the form of epistemic injustice. (shrink)
Political instrumentalism claims that the right to rule should be distributed such that justice is promoted best. Building on a distinction made by consequentialists in moral philosophy, I argue that instrumentalists should distinguish two levels of normative thinking about legitimacy, the critical and applied level. An indirect instrumentalism which acknowledges this distinction has significant advantages over simpler forms of instrumentalism that do not.
According to epistemic instrumentalism, epistemic normativity arises from and depends on facts about our ends. On that view, a consideration C is an epistemic reason for a subject S to Φ only if Φ-ing would promote an end that S has. However, according to the Too Few Epistemic Reasons objection, this cannot be correct since there are cases in which, intuitively, C is an epistemic reason for S to Φ even though Φ-ing would not promote any of S’s ends. (...) After clarifying both EI and the Too Few Epistemic Reasons objection, I examine three major instrumentalist replies and argue that none of them is satisfactory. I end by briefly sketching a fourth possible response, which is, I suggest, more promising than the other three. (shrink)
Inquiry is an aim-directed activity, and as such governed by instrumental normativity. If you have reason to figure out a question, you have reason to take means to figuring it out. Beliefs are governed by epistemic normativity. On a certain pervasive understanding, this means that you are permitted – maybe required – to believe what you have sufficient evidence for. The norms of inquiry and epistemic norms both govern us as agents in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and, on the (...) surface, they do so in harmony. Recently, however, Jane Friedman (2020) has pointed out that they are in tension with each other. In this paper, I aim to resolve this tension by showing that reasons for acts of inquiry – zetetic reasons – and epistemic reasons for belief can both be understood as flowing from the same general normative principle: the transmission principle for instrumental reasons. The resulting account is a version of epistemic instrumentalism that offers an attractive unity between zetetic and epistemic normativity. (shrink)
I defend an instrumentalist account of moral responsibility and adopt Manuel Vargas’ idea that our responsibility practices are justified by their effects. However, whereas Vargas gives an independent account of morally responsible agency, on my account, responsible agency is defined as the susceptibility to developing and maintaining moral agency through being held responsible. I show that the instrumentalism I propose can avoid some problems more crude forms of instrumentalism encounter by adopting aspects of Strawsonian accounts. I then show (...) the implications for our understanding of responsibility: my account requires us to adopt a graded notion of responsibility and accept the claim that certain individuals may not be responsible because they are not susceptible to being influenced by our moral responsibility practices. Finally, I discuss whether the account is committed to allowing the instrumentalization of non-responsible individuals in cases where blaming them may benefit others’ moral agency. (shrink)
Instrumentalism is usually understood as a semantic thesis: scientific theories are neither true nor false, but are merely instruments for making predictions. Scientific realists are on firm ground when they reject this semantic claim. This paper focuses on epistemological rather than semantic instrumentalism. This form of instrumentalism claims that theories are to be judged by their ability to make accurate predictions, and that predictive accuracy is the only consideration that matters in the end. I consider how (...) class='Hi'>instrumentalism is related to a quite different proposal concerning how theories should be evaluated—scientific realism. Instrumentalism allows for the fact that a false model can get one closer to the truth than a true one. (shrink)
The logical empiricists said some good things about epistemology and scientific method. However, they associated those epistemological ideas with some rather less good ideas about philosophy of language. There is something epistemologically suspect about statements that cannot be tested. But to say that those statements are meaningless is to go too far. And there is something impossible about trying to figure out which of two empirically equivalent theories is true. But to say that those theories are synonymous is also to (...) go too far. My goal in this paper is not to resuscitate all these positivist ideas, but to revisit just one of them. Instrumentalism is the idea that theories are instruments for making predictions. Of course, no one would disagree that this is one of the things we use theories to do. In just the same way, no one could disagree with the emotivist claim that one of the things we do with ethical terms like "good" and "right" is to express our feelings of approval and disapproval. Instrumentalism and emotivism become contentious, and therefore interesting, when these claims are supplemented. (shrink)
Do epistemic requirements vary along with facts about what promotes agents' well-being? Epistemic instrumentalists say 'yes', and thereby earn a lot of contempt. This contempt is a mistake on two counts. First, it is incorrectly based: the reasons typically given for it are misguided. Second, it fails to distinguish between first- and second-order epistemic instrumentalism; and, it happens, only the former is contemptible. In this book, Nathaniel P. Sharadin argues for rejecting epistemic instrumentalism as a first-order view not (...) because it suffers extensional failures, but because it suffers explanatory ones. By contrast, he argues that epistemic instrumentalism offers a natural, straightforward explanation of why being epistemically correct matters. What emerges is a second-order instrumentalist explanation for epistemic authority that is neutral between competing first-order epistemic theories. This neutrality is an advantage. But, drawing on work from cognitive science and psychology, Sharadin argues that instrumentalists can abandon that neutrality in order to adopt a view he calls epistemic ecologism. Epistemic Instrumentalism Explained will be of interest to researchers and advanced students working in epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
When one has both epistemic and practical reasons for or against some belief, how do these reasons combine into an all-things-considered reason for or against that belief? The question might seem to presuppose the existence of practical reasons for belief. But we can rid the question of this presupposition. Once we do, a highly general ‘Combinatorial Problem’ emerges. The problem has been thought to be intractable due to certain differences in the combinatorial properties of epistemic and practical reasons. Here we (...) bring good news: if we accept an independently motivated version of epistemic instrumentalism—the view that epistemic reasons are a species of instrumental reasons—we can reduce The Combinatorial Problem to the relatively benign problem of how to weigh different instrumental reasons against each other. As an added benefit, the instrumentalist account can explain the apparent intractability of The Combinatorial Problem in terms of a common tendency to think and talk about epistemic reasons in an elliptical manner. (shrink)
According to epistemic instrumentalism, epistemically rational beliefs are beliefs that are produced in ways that are conducive to certain ends that one wants to attain. In “Epistemic Rationality as Instrumental Rationality: A Critique,” Thomas Kelly advances various objections to epistemic instrumentalism. While I agree with the general thrust of Kelly’s objections, he does not distinguish between two forms of epistemic instrumentalism. Intellectualist forms maintain that epistemically rational beliefs are beliefs arrived at in compliance with rules that are (...) conducive to epistemic ends, such as believing true propositions and not believing false propositions. Pragmatist forms maintain that rational beliefs are those that are formed, maintained, and revised in accordance with rules that are conducive to whatever ends one wants to attain. In this paper, I argue against both forms of epistemic instrumentalism and suggest that epistemic instrumentalism grows out of a mistaken conception of what it means to say that the standards of epistemic rationality are ‘normative.’. (shrink)
I want to examine critically a certain strategy of moral justification which I shall call instrumentalism. By this I mean the view that a moral theory is rationally justified if the actions, life-plan, or set of social arrangements it prescribes can be shown to be the best means to the achievement of an agent's final ends, whatever these may be. Instrumentalism presupposes a commitment to what I shall call the Humean conception of the self. By this I mean (...) a certain way of conceiving the motivational and structural constituents of the self. Briefly, the self on this conception is motivated by its desires for states of affairs that are temporally or spatiotemporally external to the self. And it is structured by the normative requirements of instrumental rationality: The self is conceived as rationally coherent to the extent that theoretical reason calculates and schedules the satisfaction of as many of its desires as possible, with the minimum necessary costs. The motivational and structural elements of the Humean conception of the self combine to form a familiar explanatory model of human agency: We make sense of an agent's behavior by ascribing to her the desire to achieve the ends that she does in fact achieve, and the theoretically rational belief that, given the information and resources available to her, behaving as she did was the most efficient way to do so. I shall want to argue that to the extent that instrumentalism is successful in providing an objective justification of a moral theory - and I shall contend that it cannot be completely successful - it cannot provide a moral justification. But when we attempt to modify it so as to produce a specifically moral justification, we see that either it is impossible to do this, or else the Humean notion of instrumental rationality is doing no justificatory work. (shrink)
Mathematical instrumentalism construes some parts of mathematics, typically the abstract ones, as an instrument for establishing statements in other parts of mathematics, typically the elementary ones. Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem seems to show that one cannot prove the consistency of all of mathematics from within elementary mathematics. It is therefore generally thought to defeat instrumentalisms that insist on a proof of the consistency of abstract mathematics from within the elementary portion. This article argues that though some versions of mathematical (...)instrumentalism are defeated by Gödel’s theorem, not all are. By considering inductive reasons in mathematics, we show that some mathematical instrumentalisms survive the theorem. (shrink)
I've previously suggested that the historical evidence used to challenge scientific realism should lead us to embrace what I call Uniformitarianism, but many recently influential forms of scientific realism seem happy to share this commitment. I trace a number of further points of common ground that collectively constitute an appealing Middle Path between classical forms of realism and instrumentalism, and I suggest that many contemporary realists and instrumentalists have already become fellow travelers on this Middle Path without recognizing how (...) far they have thereby diverged from those who share their labels and slogans. I conclude by describing their central remaining disagreement and the sorts of evidence needed to resolve it. (shrink)
Constitutive instrumentalism is the view that responsibility practices arise from and are justified by our being prosocial creatures who need responsibility practices to secure specific kinds of social goods. In particular, responsibility practices shape agency in ways that disposes adherence to norms that enable goods of shared cooperative life. The mechanics of everyday responsibility practices operate, in part, via costly signaling about the suitability of agents for coordination and cooperation under conditions of shared cooperative life. So, there are a (...) range of identifiable conditions where the ordinary operation of responsibility practices—and thus, the usual normative force of the practices—is disrupted. Even so, these conditions are not so widespread as to favor a more thoroughgoing abandonment of responsibility practices. (shrink)
Instrumentalism is the view that all requirements of practical reason can be derived from the instrumental principle, that is, from the claim that one ought to take the suitable means to one's ends. Rationalists, by contrast, hold that there are requirements of practical reason that concern the normative acceptability of ends. To the extent that rationalists put forward these requirements in addition to the instrumental principle, rationalism might seem to go beyond instrumentalism in its normative commitments. This is (...) why it is sometimes thought that rationalism is stronger than instrumentalism in a way that entails that instrumentalism is the default view, while rationalists carry the burden of proof. In this paper, I explore and discuss different ways of spelling out this idea. I argue that rationalism is not stronger than instrumentalism in a way that has implications for matters of justification and differences in prima facie defensibility of the two sorts of views. (shrink)
Representationalists and anti-representationalists disagree about whether a naturalisation of mental content is possible and, hence, whether positing mental representations in cognitive science is justified. Here, I develop a novel way to think about mental representations based on a philosophical description of (cognitive) science inspired by cognitive instrumentalism. On this view, our acceptance of theories positing mental representations and our beliefs in (something like) mental representations do not depend on the naturalisation of content. Thus, I conclude that if we endorse (...) cognitive instrumentalism about mental representations, then we can finally leave the dispute between representationalism and anti-representationalism behind. (shrink)
Tom Kelly argues that instrumentalist aeeounts of epistemie rationality fail beeause what a person has reason to believe does not depend upon the eontent of his or her goals. However, his argument fails to distinguish questions about what the evidence supports from questions about what a person ought to believe. Once these are distinguished, the instrumentalist ean avoid Kelly’s objeetions. The paperconcludes by sketehing what I take to be the most defensible version of the instrumentalist view.
Two seemingly complementary trends stand out currently in school science education in the United States: one is the increased emphasis on inquiry activities in classrooms, and the other is the high level of attention given to student understanding of the nature of science. This essay looks at the range of activities that fall within the first trend, noting, in particular, the growing popularity of inquiry activities that engage students in engineering-type tasks. The potential for public disengagement from science and technology (...) issues is described as a result of the continued juxtaposition of these sorts of inquiry activities with our current, idealized portrayals of the nature of science—the emphasis of the second trend. Drawing on Dewey's instrumental theory of knowledge, an alternative way of thinking about science is offered that would not only provide for a more authentic understanding of science, but also invite much needed public participation in the broad governance of science in modern-day democratic societies. (shrink)
In the concluding chapter of Exceeding our Grasp Kyle Stanford outlines a positive response to the central issue raised brilliantly by his book, the problem of unconceived alternatives. This response, called "epistemic instrumentalism", relies on a distinction between instrumental and literal belief. We examine this distinction and with it the viability of Stanford's instrumentalism, which may well be another case of exceeding our grasp.
In order to rescue human intentionality and mental causation from determinism and reductionism, it is necessary to clarify what we mean by intentionality, which is often coloured by a problematic, one-sided instrumentalism in both current theory and the wider culture. Rethinking this narrow instrumentalism requires distinguishing clearly between what has been termed 'means-end'and 'constituent- end'human practices and appreciating the primacy of the latter in human affairs. It also requires appreciation of the fact that social enquiry itself is a (...) form of practice that is shaped by at its core, and shapes in turn, the aims and practices of the human community. (shrink)
Tom Kelly argues that instrumentalist accounts of epistemic rationality fail because what a person has reason to believe does not depend upon the content of his or her goals. However, his argument fails to distinguish questions about what the evidence supports from questions about what a person ought to believe. Once these are distinguished, the instrumentalist can avoid Kelly’s objections. The paper concludes by sketching what I take to be the most defensible version of the instrumentalist view.
According to a subjectivist theory, normative reasons are grounded in facts about our desires. According to an instrumentalist theory, reasons are grounded also in facts about the relevant means to desired objects. These are distinct theories. The widespread tendency to conflate the normativity of subjective and instrumentalist precepts obscures two facts. First, instrumentalist precepts incorporate a subjective element with an objective one. Second, combining these elements into a single theory of normative reasons requires explaining how and why they are to (...) be combined. I argue that the most plausible justification for combining the two elements—which appeals to a theory of well‐being—exposes the inadequacy of the instrumentalist theory: The grounds required to justify the instrumentalist combination are also grounds for the normativity of prudential precepts and with them practical reasons that may have no internal connection to an agent's conative, motivational states. (shrink)
In this paper, by means of a novel use of insights from the literature on scientific modelling, I will argue in favour of an instrumentalist approach to the models that are crucially involved in the study of adaptive systems within the Free-Energy Principle (FEP) framework. I will begin (§2) by offering a general, informal characterisation of FEP. Then (§3), I will argue that the models involved in FEP-theorising are plausibly intended to be isomorphic to their targets. This will allow (§4) (...) to turn the criticisms moved against isomorphism-based accounts of representation towards the FEP modelling practice. Since failure to establish an isomorphism between model and target would result in the former’s failure to represent the latter, and given that it is highly unlikely that FEP-models are ever isomorphic to their targets, maintaining that FEP-models represent their targets as they are, in a realist sense, is unwarranted. Finally (§5), I will consider what implications my argument in favour of an instrumentalist reading of FEP-models has for attempts at making use of the FEP to elaborate an account of what cognition exactly is. My conclusion is that we should not dismiss FEP-based accounts of cognition, as they would still be informative and would further our understanding of the nature of cognition. Nonetheless, the prospects of settling the philosophical debates that sparked the interest in having a “mark of the cognitive” are not good. (shrink)
Many have found it plausible that practical circumstances can affect whether someone is in a position to know or rationally believe a proposition. For example, whether it is rational for a person to believe that the bank will be open tomorrow, can depend not only on the person’s evidence, but also on how practically important it is for the person not to be wrong about the bank being open tomorrow. This supposed phenomenon is known as “pragmatic encroachment” on knowledge and (...) rational belief. Assuming that the phenomenon is real, I ask what explains it. I argue that a variant of instrumentalism about epistemic reasons offers a natural explanation, that at the same time is able avoid commitment to a more radical form of pragmatism. (shrink)
According to epistemic instrumentalists the normativity of evidence for belief is best explained in terms of the practical utility of forming evidentially supported beliefs. Traditional arguments for instrumentalism—arguments based on naturalism and motivation—lack suasive force against opponents. A new argument for the view—the Argument from Coincidence—is presented. The argument shows that only instrumentalists can avoid positing an embarrassing coincidence between the practical value of believing in accordance with one’s evidence, and the existence of reasons so to believe. Responses are (...) considered and shown to be inadequate. (shrink)
Scientific realists often appeal to some version of the conjunction objection to argue that scientific instrumentalism fails to do justice to the full empirical import of scientific theories. Whereas the conjunction objection provides a powerful critique of scientific instrumentalism, I will show that mathematical instnrunentalism escapes the conjunction objection unscathed.
Steve Fuller seeks to blame Kuhn for the present state of the philosophy of science. It has become ‘Kuhniferous’, he argues, both in structure and in content. I begin by taking issue with this judgement, suggesting that Kuhn wasn’t as influential as his realist and naturalist opponents. I then proceed to argue that Fuller fails to clinch one of his central charges, that Kuhn disconnected the philosophical defence of scientific progress from any substantive ends of science. Kuhn has a story (...) to tell here that should commend itself to Fuller’s ‘instrumentalist’ instincts. That Fuller doesn’t seem to recognise it, I suggest, is down to a certain sort of blindness to epistemological issues, a failure to appreciate that claims to epistemic progress on the part of science may be more than self-serving. (shrink)
Akaike’s framework for thinking about model selection in terms of the goal of predictive accuracy and his criterion for model selection have important philosophical implications. Scientists often test models whose truth values they already know, and they often decline to reject models that they know full well are false. Instrumentalism helps explain this pervasive feature of scientific practice, and Akaike’s framework helps provide instrumentalism with the epistemology it needs. Akaike’s criterion for model selection also throws light on the (...) role of parsimony considerations in hypothesis evaluation. I explain the basic ideas behind Akaike’s framework and criterion; several biological examples, including the use of maximum likelihood methods in phylogenetic inference, are considered. (shrink)
This paper primarily deals with the conceptual prospects for generalizing the aim of abduction from the standard one of explaining surprising or anomalous observations to that of empirical progress or even truth approximation. It turns out that the main abduction task then becomes the instrumentalist task of theory revision aiming at an empirically more successful theory, relative to the available data, but not necessarily compatible with them. The rest, that is, genuine empirical progress as well as observational, referential and theoretical (...) truth approximation, is a matter of evaluation and selection, and possibly new generation tasks for further improvement. The paper concludes with a survey of possible points of departure, in AI and logic, for computational treatment of the instrumentalist task guided by the ‘comparative evaluation matrix’. (shrink)
Most Christian scientists currently appear to favor a "realist" view of scientiﬁc theories. Apparent conﬂicts between science and Scripture are then generally resolved by modifying either our reading of Scripture or the oﬀending scientiﬁc theories. In this paper we examine a third possibility: the adoption of an instrumentalist approach to scientiﬁc theories. This alternative enables one to make use of the practical results of scientiﬁc theories while at the same time withholding any commitment as to the validity of their epistemological (...) content. (shrink)
The last person, or people, argument is often assumed to be a potent weapon against a purely instrumental attitude toward nature, for it is said to imply the permissible destruction of nature under certain circumstances. I distinguish between three types of instrumentalism—strong instrumentalism and two forms of weak instrumentalism:, which includes the psychological and aesthetic use ofnature, and, which focuses on the public service use of nature—and examine them in terms of two scenarios, the après moi, le (...) déluge and the “ultimate humanization of nature” scenarios. With regard to the first, I show that LPA is irrelevant to all the three versions of instrumentalism. With regard to the second scenario, I show that even though it is redundant insofar as is concerned and irrelevant insofar as is concerned, it is, surprisingly, effective against, despite the fact that as a form of weak instrumentalism it is not the target of LPA. In addition, I examine the implications of LPA for the three variants when it is applied to the preservation rather than the destruction of nature and conclude that LPA is effective against and, but not as effective against, which can recognize a permission, though not a duty, to save nature. (shrink)
Akaike's framework for thinking about model selection in terms of the goal of predictive accuracy and his criterion for model selection have important philosophical implications. Scientists often test models whose truth values they already know, and they often decline to reject models that they know full well are false. Instrumentalism helps explain this pervasive feature of scientific practice, and Akaike's framework helps provide instrumentalism with the epistemology it needs. Akaike's criterion for model selection also throws light on the (...) role of parsimony considerations in hypothesis evaluation. I explain the basic ideas behind Akaike's framework and criterion; several biological examples, including the use of maximum likelihood methods in phylogenetic inference, are considered. (shrink)
This paper develops a new version of instrumentalism, in light of progress in the realism debate in recent decades, and thereby defends the view that instrumentalism remains a viable philosophical position on science. The key idea is that talk of unobservable objects should be taken literally only when those objects are assigned properties (or described in terms of analogies involving things) with which we are experientially (or otherwise) acquainted. This is derivative from the instrumentalist tradition in so far (...) as the distinction between unobservable and observable is taken to have significance with respect to meaning. (shrink)
Logical pluralism is the theory that there is more than one right logic. Logical instrumentalism is the view that a logic is a correct logic if it can be used to fruitfully pursue some deductive inquiry. Logical instrumentalism is a version of logical pluralism, since more than one logic can be used fruitfully. In this paper, I will show that a logical instrumentalist must accept linear logic as a correct logic, since linear logic is useful for studying natural (...) language syntax. I further show that this means that the logical instrumentalist must accept a wide range of connectives, in particular concatenation. I end by explaining why this is a feature rather than a bug. (shrink)
This article develops a new version of instrumentalism, in light of progress in the realism debate in recent decades, and thereby defends the view that instrumentalism remains a viable philosophical position on science. The key idea is that talk of unobservable objects should be taken literally only when those objects are assigned properties with which we are experientially acquainted. This is derivative from the instrumentalist tradition insofar as the distinction between unobservable and observable is taken to have significance (...) with respect to meaning. (shrink)
This paper critically examines logical instrumentalism as it has been put forth recently in the anti-exceptionalism about logic debate. I will argue that if one wishes to uphold the claim that logic is significantly similar to science, as the anti-exceptionalists have it, then logical instrumentalism cannot be what previous authors have taken it to be. The reason for this, I will argue, is that as the position currently stands, first, it reduces to a trivial claim about the instrumental (...) value of logical systems, and second, by its denial that logic aims to account for extra-systemic phenomena it significantly differs from science, in contrast with the AEL agenda. I will conclude by proposing a different kind of logical instrumentalism that I take to have a broad appeal, but especially for anti-exceptionalists, for it is developed as analogous to—and thus much closer aligned with—scientific instrumentalism. (shrink)
Epistemic instrumentalism views epistemic norms and epistemic normativity as essentially involving the instrumental relation between means and ends. It construes notions like epistemic normativity, norms, and rationality, as forms of instrumental or means-end normativity, norms, and rationality. I do two main things in this paper. In part 1, I argue that there is an under-appreciated distinction between two independent types of epistemic instrumentalism. These are instrumentalism about epistemic norms and instrumentalism about epistemic normativity. In part 2, (...) I argue that this under-appreciated distinction matters for the debate surrounding the plausibility of EI. Specifically, whether we interpret EI as norm-EI or as source-EI matters for the widely discussed universality or categoricity objection to EI, and for two important motivations for adopting EI, namely naturalism and the practical utility of epistemic norms. I will then conclude by drawing some lessons for epistemic instrumentalism going forward. (shrink)
There exists a family of views concerning the foundations of epistemic normativity that all travel under the heading “epistemic instrumentalism”. These views are unified by their attempt to explain epistemic normativity in terms of instrumental normativity. Very roughly, they all say that we have reason to respond to truth-related considerations when forming and maintaining doxastic attitudes since regulating our doxastic attitudes in this way helps us satisfy our aims, interests, or goals. Thus, according to epistemic instrumentalists, truth-related considerations constitute (...) reasons for belief, but they only do so because regulating our beliefs on their basis is an effective way to satisfy our ends. I will first try to clarify the question that epistemic instrumentalism is supposed to answer. I will then identify a plausible normative commitment and show that the main varieties of epistemic instrumentalism fail to vindicate it. I will conclude by arguing that this provides us with prima facie grounds for rejecting epistemic instrumentalism. (shrink)