Monday, September 11, 2006

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.

0 Comment(s):