Epistemology has for a long time focused on the concept of knowledge and tried to answer questions such as whether knowledge is possible and how much of it there is. Often missing from this inquiry, however, is a discussion on the value of knowledge. In The Value of Knowledge and the Pursuit of Understanding Jonathan Kvanvig argues that epistemology properly conceived cannot ignore the question of the value of knowledge. He also questions one of the most fundamental assumptions in epistemology, (...) namely that knowledge is always more valuable than the value of its subparts. Taking Platos' Meno as a starting point of his discussion, Kvanvig tackles the different arguments about the value of knowledge and comes to the conclusion that knowledge is less valuable than generally assumed. Clearly written and well argued, this 2003 book will appeal to students and professionals in epistemology. (shrink)
This book is devoted to articulating the connections between the nature and value of faith and humility. The goal is to understand these two virtues in a way that does not discriminate between religious and secular. Jon Kvanvig claims that each provides a necessary, compensating balance to the potential downside of the other.
Jonathan L. Kvanvig presents a new account of rationality, Perspectivalism, which both avoids elevating rationality so that only the most reflective of us are capable of rational beliefs, and avoids reducing it to the level of beasts. He defends optionality about what it is reasonable to think, and provides a framework for rational disagreement.
I begin by expressing my sincere thanks to my critics for taking time from their own impressive projects in epistemology to consider mine. Often, in reading their criticisms, I had the feeling of having received more help than I really wanted! But the truth of the matter is that we learn best by making mistakes, and I appreciate the conscientious attention to my work that my critics have shown.
The most pressing difficulty coherentism faces is, I believe, the problem of justified inconsistent beliefs. In a nutshell, there are cases in which our beliefs appear to be both fully rational and justified, and yet the contents of the beliefs are inconsistent, often knowingly so. This fact contradicts the seemingly obvious idea that a minimal requirement for coherence is logical consistency. Here, I present a solution to one version of this problem.
Epistemologists often offer theories of justification without paying much attention to the variety and diversity of locutions in which the notion of justification appears. For example, consider the following claims which contain some notion of justification: B is a justified belief, S's belief that p is justified, p is justified for S, S is justified in believing that p, S justifiably believes that p, S's believing p is justified, there is justification for S to believe that p, there is justification (...) for S's believing p, and S has a justification for believing that p. In addition to these passive uses of the notion of justification, there are active uses as well: S justified his belief in p, believing e justifies believing p, etc. The syntactic variety involves semantic difference as well. For example, the proposition S has a justification for believing that p does not entail that S believes p, whereas the proposition S justifiably believes that p does entail that S believes p. Our ultimate goal is to show that this diversity is only superficial by arguing that there is a basic kind of justification. On the way, however, we shall argue that there are three central uses of a notion of justifica- tion in the above list: propositional justification (as in p is justified for S), personal justification (as in S is justified in believing that p) and doxastic justification (as in S's believing p is justified). Our preliminary argument will be that the multiplicity above can be explained in terms of these three locutions, and the substance of our argument will be to show that one of these three is the basic kind of justification. Success in this task will thereby justify, at least in part, the practice of contem- porary epistemologists. Our conclusions, however, shall not be of much comfort to contemporary epistemology, for the way in which the apparent diversity in the uses of the notion of justification is eliminated undermines much of recent epistemology. (shrink)
Jonathan Kvanvig presents a compelling new work in philosophical theology on the universe, creation, and the afterlife. Organised thematically by the endpoints of time, the volume begins by addressing eschatological matters and the doctrines of heaven and hell and ends with an account of divine deliberation and creation. Kvanvig develops a coherent theistic outlook which reconciles a traditional, high conception of deity, with full providential control over all aspects of creation, with a conception of human beings who are free and (...) morally responsible. The resulting position and defense is labeled "Philosophical Arminianism," and deserves attention in a broad range of religious traditions. (shrink)
The flight from foundationalism in the earlier part of this century left several options in its wake. Distress over the possibility of foundationalist replies to the regress problem, coupled with consternation over the thought of circular reasoning mysteriously becoming acceptable as the circle gets large led to the attraction of holistic theories of a coherentist variety. Yet, such coherentisms seemed to leave the belief system cut off from the world, and perhaps a better idea was to abandon the approach to (...) epistemology that centered on the concepts of evidence and justificatory relations and focus instead on connections between our thoughts and the world which they are about, an idea leading to causal and reliability theories. (shrink)
A dispute in epistemology has arisen over whether some class of things epistemic (things known or justified, for example) is closed under some operation involving the notion of what follows deductively from members of this class. Very few philosophers these days believe that if you know that p, and p entails q, then you know that q. But many philosophers think that something weaker holds, for instance that if you know that p, and p entails q, then you are in (...) a position to know that p, or if you know that p and you competently deduce p from q, then you know that q. However there are some considerations tracing back to Wittgenstein’s On Certainty and some early work by Fred Dretske that suggests even these weaker principles are false. (shrink)
National Enquirer commercials tell us that some people want to know. I have no idea what such a desire has to do with reading tabloid journalism, but the avowal of wanting to know interests me. Maybe this desire is shared by all; at the very least, curiosity is universal. Curiosity may amount to a desire for knowledge, or perhaps it might be explained in other terms, such as a desire for understanding or for finding the truth. Perhaps none of these, (...) even. Maybe the desire is only one of being able to make sense of one's experience of the world. Or maybe the important matter is not the existence of any desire at all. Perhaps, that is, it is not desire as such that drives the search, but rather some need or interest or purpose. (shrink)
The knowability paradox threatens metaphysical or semantical antirealism, the view that truth is epistemic, by revealing an awful consequence of the claim [i] that all truths are knowable. Various attempts have been made to find a way out of the paradox.
Coherence theorists have universally defined justification as a relation only among (the contents of) belief states, in contradistinction to other theories, such as some versions of foundationalism, which define justification as a relation on belief states and appearance states.
Alan Millar's paper (2011) involves two parts, which I address in order, first taking up the issues concerning the goal of inquiry, and then the issues surrounding the appeal to reflective knowledge. I argue that the upshot of the considerations Millar raises count in favour of a more important role in value-driven epistemology for the notion of understanding and for the notion of epistemic justification, rather than for the notions of knowledge and reflective knowledge.
Contextualists claim two important virtues for their view. First, contextualism is a non-skeptical epistemology, given the plausible idea that not all contexts invoke the high standards for knowledge needed to generate the skeptical conclusion that we know little or nothing. Second, contextualism is able to preserve closure concerning knowledge – the idea that knowledge is extendable on the basis of competent deduction from known premises. As long as one keeps the context fixed, it is plausible to think that some closure (...) principle can be articulated that will survive scrutiny. Opponents of contextualism often try to gain an advantage over it by claiming that their view mimics these virtues of contextualism as well as having other virtues. A recent example of the same is termed ‘contrastivism," as presented by Jonathan Schaffer. I will argue that the representation made is chimerical, that in fact contrastivism has no hope of mirroring these twin virtues of contextualism. (shrink)
Suppose we want to know whether a person justifiably believes a certain claim. Further, suppose that our interest in this question is because we take such justification to be necessary for knowledge. To justifiably believe a claim requires more than there being a justification for that claim. Presumably, there is a justification for accepting all sorts of scientific theories of which I have no awareness; because of my lack of awareness, I do not justifiably believe those theories. Further, even if (...) I, by chance, did believe one of those theories, I might not justifiably believe it; for I may be completely unaware of any justification for it. I then would not believe it.. (shrink)
Van Fraassen's epistemology is forged from two commitments, one to a type of Bayesianism and the other to what he terms voluntarism. Van Fraassen holds that if one is going to follow a rule in belief-revision, it must be a Bayesian rule, but that one does not need to follow a rule in order to be rational. It is argued that van Fraassen's arguments for rejecting non-Bayesian rules is unsound, and that his voluntarism is subject to a fatal dilemma arising (...) from the non-monotonic character of reasoning. (shrink)
There are two different kinds of theories of the concept of epistemic defeat. One theory begins with propositional relationships, only by implication describing what happens in the context of a noetic system. Such a theory places inforrmation about defeat up front, not informing us of how the defeat relationships play out in the context of actual belief, at least not initially. The other theory takes a back door to the concept of defeat, assuming a context of actual belief and an (...) entire noetic system, and describing defeat in terms of what sort of doxastic and noetic responses would be appropriate to the addition of particular pieces of information. Where the house is the noetic structure itself, the front door approach characterizes the concept of defeat in terms of the propositional contents a belief might have, thus characterizing defeat at the front door. The backdoor approach characterizes defeat in terms of what leaves the house, in terms of beliefs that exit the noetic system in response to changes to it, in terms of what the staff of a well-run household kicks out the backdoor for making a mess of things. Alvin Plantinga’s theory of epistemic defeat is a back-door theory, and here I will argue that his theory and approaches like it will be unable to explicate accurately the concept of epistemic defeat. I will argue that a front door approach is needed rather than a back door approach. (shrink)
Duncan Pritchard’s book (Epistemic Luck, Oxford University Press, 2005) concerns the interplay between two disturbing kinds of epistemic luck, termed “reflective” and “veritic,” and two types of arguments for skepticism, one based on a closure principle for knowledge and the other on an underdetermination thesis about the quality of our evidence for the everyday propositions we believe. Pritchard defends the view that a safety-based account of knowledge can answer the closure argument and provide an account of how veritic epistemic luck (...) is eliminated. He also argues that reflective epistemic luck cannot be eliminated, and that even though it is the sort of luck with which the underdetermination argument is concerned, the fact that this type of luck cannot be eliminated doesn’t undermine knowledge. Instead, it undermines the assertibility of our knowledge, at least in skeptical contexts. So when the skeptic challenges the idea that we know using the underdetermination principle, we have no legitimate response to offer, and it is this fundamental fact of epistemic life that Pritchard terms our inevitable epistemic angst. (shrink)
Anti-intellectualist theories of knowledge claim that in some way or other, practical stakes are involved in whether knowledge is present. Interest in pragmatic encroachment arose with the development of contextualist theories concerning knowledge ascriptions. In these cases, there is an initial situation in which hardly anything is at stake, and knowledge is easily ascribed. The subsequent situation is one where the costs of being wrong are fairly significant from a practical point of view, and the claim made by pragmatic encroachers (...) is that knowledge should not be ascribed in such situations and typically is not by competent speakers. My goal here is to show how mistaken the idea of pragmatic encroachment is. (shrink)
The knowability paradox derives from a proof by Frederic Fitch in 1963. The proof purportedly shows that if all truths are knowable, it follows that all truths are known. Antirealists, wed as they are to the idea that truth is epistemic, feel threatened by the proof. For what better way to express the epistemic character of truth than to insist that all truths are knowable? Yet, if that insistence logically compels similar assent to some omniscience claim, antirealism is in jeopardy. (...) Response to the paradox has drifted toward a common theme, a theme I will argue is a non-starter in resolving the paradox. Seeing this point will also make clear the philosophical inadequacy of simply viewing the paradox as a refutation of a wide range of antirealisms. (shrink)
The heart of coherentism is found in two aspects, one negative and one positive. On the negative side, coherentism is a contrary of foundationalism, the view that the epistemic status of our beliefs ultimately traces to, or derives from, basic beliefs.
Alan Millar's paper involves two parts, which I address in order, first taking up the issues concerning the goal of inquiry, and then the issues surrounding the appeal to reflective knowledge. I argue that the upshot of the considerations Millar raises count in favour of a more important role in value-driven epistemology for the notion of understanding and for the notion of epistemic justification, rather than for the notions of knowledge and reflective knowledge.
This paper argues for a solution to a problem that contrastivism faces. The problem is that contrastivism cannot preserve closure, in spite of claims to the contrary by its defenders. The problem is explained and a response developed.
Reflection on the issues surrounding the value of knowledge and other cognitive states of interest to epistemologists can be traced to the conversation between Socrates and Meno in Plato’s dialogue named after the latter. The context of discussion concerns the hiring of a guide to get one to Larissa, and the proposal on the table is that one would want a guide who knows the way. Socrates sees a problem, however, for it is not clear why a guide with merely (...) true opinion will not be just as good. (shrink)