Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Feldman's "essential dependence" theory of Gettierization

This is just a quick thought dashed off after class, but what's the problem with this precisification of Rich's view.

Let LL "for Lucky Lemma" be the general name for the falsehood essentially depended upon.

S's inference from premises P to conclusion C essentially depends on LL iff (i) S infers C from P, and (ii) it is not possibly the case that (a) S infers C from P and (b) C is justified for S and (c)d justifiedly believes LL is not true.

This seems to capture the intuition of the no-defeaters theory without the doomed subjunctive conditional.

That's awefully rough and I probably shouldn't post in a hurry, but I had the idea that something like this might work for what he says in the mid-to-upper 30's of the Epistemology Intro.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Putting some things together on epistemic value.

So in two posts below I've asserted

(VI) Cognitive acts which are *guided by* ideals are more valuable than cognitive acts which merely go *according to* rules.

and tried to say something about what I mean.

The original context was to underwrite the following value judgement in epistemology:

(TD1) Consciously inferred beliefs are more intrinsically epistemically valuable than basic beliefs.

The premise which gets us from (VI) to (TD1) is something like

(L) Conscious inference is guided by ideals and basic beliefs are not.

The conclusion I'd like to draw is parallel to that others--especially Jon Kvanvig--have drawn about knowledge and other states: roughly, let's focus on what's really valuable. I'm saying that just as epistemic virtues are arguably more valuable than knowledge and so deserve a greater share of the attention of epistemologists, likewise inferentially justified beliefs are more valuable than basic justified beliefs and so deserve a greater share of the attention of epistemologists.

Foundationalists have spent waaaaaaaaay too much time in my opinion on trying to come up with theories of justification for perceptual beliefs. The dilemma is always the same: either you intellectualize justified belief by saying that it takes second-order thought to have justified perceptual beliefs and thus rule out lots of simple kinds of justified belief which is mostly "autonomic" or you let in any old autonomic belief and suddenly it looks like clairvoyants have justified beliefs. The literature is as thick as the Gettier literature from the 70's.

When an inference is justified is in fact enough trouble in its own right, as illustrated by "Carroll's Paradox" illustrated by Carroll's story--published in Mind--"What the Tortoise said to Achilles." This is a subject to which I hope to return with something useful to say.

Giving Some Account of "Value" for Value-driven Epistemology

I just proposed the following principle:

(VI) Cognitive acts which are *guided by* ideals are more valuable than cognitive acts which merely go *according to* rules.

So I need to say what it means.

Let's keep cognitive acts fairly broad and natural. Though I think the notion is broader, it's probably wise to restrict scope to the token I'm most interested in: conscious inferences.

Rules I don't have much to say about yet, but we can probably passably define ideals as rules one consciously endorses.

"According to" I don't have much to say about yet, but perhaps it can be defined in terms of "guided by".

The first step would be to give us a toy theory to Chisholm on. Say that

(G1) S is guided by rule R (hopefully no vicious circularity here) just in case (i) S consciously considers R, and (ii) intends to follow R.

The first thing that we should probably relativize the notion to the intended subject of discourse.

(G2) S is guided by rule R in making inference I just in case (i) S consciously considers R, (ii) S makes I, (iii) S intends to follow R in making I.

I'm taking consciously considering as a basic notion. Likewise for making an inference (not because it's trivial, but because its natural), and I suppose I'll have to take intending to do M for the sake of E as basic as well. I'm OK with all this at this point.

The big question is what kind of value we're talking about here. I see no way to avoid--indeed I want to endorse--that there are various kinds of irreducible intrinsic value. You'll want to know "value for what" or "for whom" or "according to what scale" and I've got not much to say there. The best I can do--and you may not think it much--is to advert to a traditional Aristotelian notion of orders of function like the "Porphyrian Tree".

Plants are of more value than rocks because they have all the value of composite material objects plus the value added by organic unity constituting a life. Animals have all this value plus the value added by the ability to represent the world in some kind of internal mental system. Humans have all this plus the added value of being able to reflect consciously upon it and represent even representations (all the way up).

Whatever kind of value this is--and I'm endorsing that there is this kind of value--it is the kind of value I have in mind. If great-chain-of-being-value weren't so cumbersome I'd be fine with that. Calling it "metaphysical value" makes it sound too "Continental". I'd like to call it "organic value" I think. I don't have much (more?) illuminating to say about it.

I don't know if most other value-driven epistemologists think the relative value of epistemic states are a special kind of purely *epistemic* value or not. At any rate, I do not. Perhaps a values epistemologist could take something like reflection to be a basic epistemic value and then remain agnostic about where such values come from or how they fit into a greater system of value. Perhaps some just think there's nothing more than conventional instrumental value at stake. For my own part I think of the relative value of epistemic states as arising out of what kind of organic value they happen to instantiate.

For the sake of ease of discussion let me call the kind of value exemplified when epistemic states exemplify organic value "intrinsic epistemic value". The reason I favor this term is that I think it aptly distinguishes the subject from means-end value in getting to the truth which would be well-represented by reliability. The main problem is that Chisholm has a notion of the value of epistemic states which could reasonably go by this name. However, I'm going to stick with my terminology in part because I have an eye on explicating just what Chisholm had in mind.

Conscious Knowledge vs. Unconscious Knowledge

During the discussion of knowledge-how and knowledge-that, we focused on an example like that of my daughter below. Because of the difficulties in stating what propositional knowledge she acquired and when she acquired it, Rich said today that the main subject of epistemology--at least this course--was knowledge at the conscious level.

Perhaps I'm reading this wrongly, but it seems that the question which drives the engine of architectural epistemology--foundationalsm v. coherentism; internalism v. externalism, etc.--and the discussion in Rich's book--is the status of empirical beliefs. But empirical beliefs are almost always unconscious.

Having said this, most of my epistemological inquiries focus on the conscious level and you might even say that what I'm interested in is the justification of *inferences* (Fumerton talks this way a lot). I'm not even sure the rationality of basic beliefs or empirical beliefs is rightly treated in anything very similar to the the rationality of inferences.

To look at it from another angle, it's not clear to me that basic beliefs can have as much value as non-basic beliefs, at least *conscious* non-basic beliefs (unconscious inference is something I'd like to know more about, but I'd make the same kind of value judgement). The reason, very roughly, is that in making conscious inferences we are guided by an ideal.

Basic beliefs and unconscious inferences might go *according to* a rule, but they are not *guided by* rules in the way that conscious inferences are. I've been assuming the following thesis which might be even more controversial than I guess:

(VI) Cognitive acts which are *guided by* ideals are more valuable than cognitive acts which merely go *according to* rules.

This begins to change the subject a bit, so I'll try to make (VI) more clear in a separate post.

Is knowing-how reducible to knowing-that?

This question came up in Rich's Epistemology survey which I'm auditing this semester. One suggestion, the one I'm *inclined* to endorse--for various reasons that may be revealed--is that all knowledge-how *can* be reduced to knowing-that.

Since we shouldn't postulate kinds of knowledge without necessity, we shouldn't endorse irreducible knowledge-how unless there are cases of putative knowing-how which we can't reduce to knowing-that.

A common objection to the reduction is something about ineffability. Knowing-how often seems incommunicable.

I think this objection can largely be handled by the use of demonstratives. For example, by daughter, who just went off training-wheels this past weekend, knows that [When I move like this, the bike goes like that.] The referents of the demonstratives will be very hard to articulate, but this doesn't stop the knowledge from being propositional knowledge.

Furthermore, it should be remembered that many of our beliefs are automatic and yet still "propositional beliefs".

I don't have a clear conception of what information is, but I think it's surely intimately related to propositional content. Minimally, I think any item of information will entail some proposition (it would be nice if information just were propositions, but I haven't thought about it hard enough to make that assertion).

There's little doubt that there is--to steal a phrase from Dretske--a "flow of information" going on in her cognitive system while she's riding her bike. Some of these will be hosted affirmatively or negatively, so I think we've got propositional knowledge here and I see no reason yet to think anything else is necessary.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

New Semester, New Blog (again)

Thanks to Jason's work we have a new look and location for the blog (without having to use a standard Blogger template). Happily this means we can say goodbye to the inhospitable "hosting" of the Computer Interest Floor. As soon as I can get the old site repaired, we'll have a link to it for archives.

I'm looking forward to some good interaction concerning classes among grad students. Classes begin this week, so blogging should commence forthwith.

Friday, September 01, 2006


To the home of the Grad Student Blog for the University of Rochester, New York.