A forum for VE lucubration

Monday, February 26, 2007

History of Epistemic Value

I am working on scrounging together some resources on the history of epistemic value, and have my hat in my hand for suggestions.

As most know, Plato's Meno is the paragon starting point for discussion of quesitons related to the value of knowledge. I am hoping to locate other important detours in the history of philosophy in which this sort of discussion takes place.

Important quesitons include (for example): in virtue of what is knowledge valuable? Why is having knowledge better than having than mere true opinion?

As an aside:

I've put up links to drafts of some of my papers on VE and EV on my website; as always, comments are welcome!




Thursday, February 15, 2007

Social Epistemology Conference at Stirling

For those not aware, I wanted to post this:

There is a major international conference on Social Epistemology here at Stirling August 31 - September 2, 2007. The speakers and commentators comprise quite the redoubtable list of names, indeed!

Here is a link:


Also, for more information on this check out Stirling's Epistemic Value Blog:


There is also info on the value blog regarding two other upcoming epistemology conferences at Stirling: one on Action and Knowledge, and the other on John McDowell, both taking place later this year.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

New Draft: Luck and Credit in the Space of Reasons

Greetings: Below is a link to a rough draft of a paper I've recently written on McDowell's epistemology; the paper charges his account with failing two anti-luck desiderata.

Warning: I am not entirely satisfied with this paper; thanks to some recent suggestions, I am aware that my section on perceptual-recognitional abilities needs amended. (Also, I need to re-think some other claims I make). I've decided to post it nonetheless, in case others wish to consider the nascent arguments and/or or provide any comments.

Here is the abstract, and below is a link to the paper:

ABSTRACT: This essay will advance the view that the McDowellian theory of knowledge fails to satisfy the requirements of an adequate anti-luck epistemology. Section 1 presents two twin anti-luck desiderata that, I shall argue, an account must accomodate: (i) If S knows p, then S could not have easily been wrong that p; (ii) If S knows p, then S is credit-worthy for her true belief that p. In Section 2, I outline the salient differences between McDowell’s iconoclastic anti-luck strategy and traditional strategies. Section 3 offers reasons for thinking that McDowell fails to satisfy what I have presented as the first anti-luck desideratum; section 4 offers reasons for thinking that McDowell fails the second desideratum.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Perceptual-Recognitional Abilities, Barn Facades and the problem of Individuating Environments

One line of thought in the literature on perceptual knowledge makes important use of the idea of perceptual-recognitional abilities. Such an ability would be, for example, the ability to recognize by looking whether or not it is an azalea that sits on a hill in front of you. (If you couldn't tell an azalea from a daffodill, or if the hill is salted with silk-made fraud azaleas, then you wouldn't have such an ability).

In his forthcoming paper "Perceptual Recognitional Abilities and Perceptual Knowledge", Alan Millar advances the idea that the exercising of perceptual-recogntional abilities is required for perceptual knowledge. Given that, even to the most seasoned horticulturalist, a hill of fake (and perceptually indistinguishable from real) azaleas would create a situation in which our horticultiralist no longer has the ability to recognize an azalea, Millar points out that 'whether' one has such an ability will depend, in part, on facts about the environment within which one is inquiring.

I confess that I don't have a clear idea how ‘environments’ are supposed to be individuated. Suppose, for example, that we take on one hand Goldman’s valley salted with barn facades and determine that that valley constitutes an environment. Suppose, further, that you are lost while driving in the general area. You come to a fork in the road; one road leads down Goldman’s barn façade valley, the other road leads down a valley of all genuine barns. You flip a coin and happen to take the road that leads down the road with all genuine barns. It is unclear to me whether this road constitutes a ‘good’ environment simply by virtue of the fact that there are no barn facades in the valley to potentially deceive you. Or, should we say that it is part of a ‘bad’ environment (i.e. one in which you do not have barn-recognizing perceptual recognitional abilities) by virtue of the fact that you so easily could have driven down Goldman lane. Alan Millar, in conversation, has suggested to me that—at least on his view—it will be inevitable that there will be some indeterminate cases in which the issue of whether one has exercised perceptual-recognitional abilities in a certain environment will not be clear given that the delineation of the environment relative to which one would have such abilities is obfuscated.

Some quesitons for discussion:

1. Is the project of indexing perceptual-recognitional abilities to environments undermined by the fact that some cases will be indeterminate?
2. Is the project doomed to concede that, within its framework, we can never 'know' that we know? It seems to me that this would have to be conceded because, even in cases in which the environments are such that, if we were to learn all the facts about them, they would be 'clear cut' cases, it's not the case that during the time in which we make perceptual judgments we have all the facts about the particular environments in which we make these judgments. Put another way, to know that we know, we must know that we are in an environment apposite to our exercising our perceptual-recognitional abilities--a tough antecedent order, indeed! Thoughts/comments welcome.