Instrumental rationality, epistemic rationality, and evidence-gathering

Philosophical Perspectives 24 (1):85-120 (2010)
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This paper addresses the question of whether gathering additional evidence is always rationally required, both from the point of view of instrumental rationality and of epistemic rationality. It is shown that in certain situations, it is not instrumentally rational to look for more evidence before making a decision. These are situations in which the risk of “misleading” evidence – a concept that has both instrumental and epistemic senses – is not offset by the gains from the possibility of non-misleading evidence. These situations also undermine a particular argument for the claim that it is epistemically rational to look for more evidence, though it is argued that the relationship between instrumental and epistemic rationality makes such arguments flawed to begin with. Furthermore, these situations show us that our epistemic and our practical goals sometimes point us in different directions, not merely because of our limited resources or because our desires are sometimes best served by being in particular epistemic states, but because of the nature of rational action.



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Lara Buchak
Princeton University

Citations of this work

Can it be Rational to have Faith?Lara Buchak - 2012 - In Jake Chandler & Victoria Harrison (eds.), Probability in the Philosophy of Religion. Oxford University Press. pp. 225.
The Value of Biased Information.Nilanjan Das - 2023 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 74 (1):25-55.
A Faithful Response to Disagreement.Lara Buchak - 2021 - The Philosophical Review 130 (2):191-226.
Checking again.Jane Friedman - 2019 - Philosophical Issues 29 (1):84-96.

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References found in this work

Reasons and Persons.Derek Parfit - 1984 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Epistemology and cognition.Alvin I. Goldman - 1986 - Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Risk and Rationality.Lara Buchak - 2013 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press.
Reasons and Persons.Joseph Margolis - 1986 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47 (2):311-327.

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