Truth and the Normativity of Naturalistic Epistemology

Dissertation, Washington University (2001)
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Epistemology is supposed to explain the difference between good and bad ways of deciding what to believe. Epistemological naturalism is the view that we should address philosophical questions about knowledge and justified belief from within our best scientific understanding of the world. A puzzle thus arises for naturalism: How can science, which tells us how we do decide what to believe, make the additional normative step of explaining how it would be good for us to do so? A common answer is the following: Science can tell us which ways of deciding what to believe promote truth and which do not; and, since we want true beliefs, it can thereby tell us that the former are good and the latter are bad. There is a problem with this solution, though. We cannot simply take it as given that truth is something we want in our beliefs, or that it is something we have good reasons to want. Furthermore, it is not at all clear that naturalists can consistently argue that truth is a worthwhile cognitive goal. My aim in this dissertation is to show how naturalistic epistemology can be as normative as it needs to be, by showing that naturalists can consistently consider truth to be a worthwhile cognitive goal. Chapter I sets up the problem and the part of the solution. In Chapters II and III, I answer Richard Rorty and Stephen Stich's arguments against the claim that truth is a worthwhile goal. I show that existing naturalistic arguments for the value of truth are unsatisfying in Chapter IV, and I offer a new, naturalistically acceptable argument for the worthiness of the goal of truth in Chapter V



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Chase Wrenn
University of Alabama

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Epistemology as Engineering?Chase B. Wrenn - 2006 - Theoria 72 (1):60-79.

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