The key to the knowledge norm of action is ambiguity

Synthese 199 (3-4):9669-9698 (2021)
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Knowledge-first epistemology includes a knowledge norm of action: roughly, act only on what you know. This norm has been criticized, especially from the perspective of so-called standard decision theory. Mueller and Ross provide example decision problems which seem to show that acting properly cannot require knowledge. I argue that this conclusion depends on applying a particular decision theory which is ill-motivated in this context. Agents’ knowledge is often most plausibly formalized as an ambiguous epistemic state, and the theory of decision under ambiguity is then the appropriate modeling tool. I show how to model agents as acting rationally on the basis of their knowledge according to such a theory. I conclude that the tension between the knowledge norm of action and formal decision theory is illusory; the knowledge-first paradigm should be used to actively select the decision-theoretical tools that can best capture the knowledge-based decisions in any given situation.



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Author's Profile

Patricia Rich
Universität Bayreuth

References found in this work

Knowledge and its limits.Timothy Williamson - 2000 - New York: Oxford University Press.
The Foundations of Statistics.Leonard J. Savage - 1954 - Wiley Publications in Statistics.
The Logic of Decision.Richard C. Jeffrey - 1965 - New York, NY, USA: University of Chicago Press.
What is Justified Belief?Alvin I. Goldman - 1979 - In George Pappas (ed.), Justification and Knowledge. Boston: D. Reidel. pp. 1-25.
Probabilistic Knowledge.Sarah Moss - 2018 - Oxford, United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.

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