Why Ideal Epistemology?

Mind 131 (524):1131-1162 (2021)
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Ideal epistemologists investigate the nature of pure epistemic rationality, abstracting away from human cognitive limitations. Non-ideal epistemologists investigate epistemic norms that are satisfiable by most humans, most of the time. Ideal epistemology faces a number of challenges, aimed at both its substantive commitments and its philosophical worth. This paper explains the relation between ideal and non-ideal epistemology, with the aim of justifying ideal epistemology. Its approach is meta-epistemological, focusing on the meaning and purpose of epistemic evaluations. I provide an account on which the fundamental difference between ideal and non-ideal epistemic evaluations is that only the non-ideal epistemic ‘ought’ implies any substantive ‘can’. I argue that only ideal epistemic evaluations are ‘normatively robust’: they are neither conventional nor seriously context-sensitive. Non-ideal epistemic evaluations are normatively non-robust, exhibiting both conventionality and serious context-sensitivity from an interesting variety of distinct sources. For this reason, non-ideal epistemic evaluations won’t characterize the fundamental nature of epistemic rationality. Non-ideal epistemic rationality depends, not merely on what’s epistemically valuable, but also on modally contingent epistemic conventions and contextually contingent constraints on epistemic options. If we want a normatively robust theory of epistemic rationality, ideal epistemology is the only game in town.



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Jennifer Rose Carr
University of California, San Diego

Citations of this work

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Why bounded rationality (in epistemology)?David Thorstad - 2024 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 108 (2):396-413.

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