Fundamental Epistemological Questions

October 29, 2012 — 1 Comment

How do we naturalize the normative?

A normative claim is a claim that one is justified in doing something. Normative claims are evaluative rather than factual. Naturalism emphasizes the empirical. When we talk about a normative aim, we need to justify that this aim is worthy of being pursued. Simply ‘making sense’ (coherent) is not enough – truth conducive.

How can an evaluative claim be derived from an empirical one?

Quine’s naturalized epistemology is characterized as placing itself in the school of psychology; that is, to describe a physical human subject – how humans produce beliefs. Epistemology then becomes a science. It addresses the questions of how justified belief works, ignoring completely justification itself as a central epistemological question. It’s the ‘technology of truth-seeking’.

Kornblith sees epistemology as normative. Despite his naturalism he thinks there is such a thing as epistemic justification. However, normativity is not the topic of the book, this is just a background context for the aims of the book (see chpt 1 notes – Inductive Inference and its Natural Ground) The stated focus of the book is investigating the reliability of our inductive inferences, and their relationship to the causal structure of the world. However, if our inductive inferences are reliable, then this reliability leads to a normative philosophy i.e. we should use this reliable method of inductive inference. So should not the source of normativity (a response to Quine) be part of the focus of the book?

If Kornblith assumes that truth is valued, that the goal of inductive inferences is to seek truths about the world, then he is positing a normative philosophy, just without a comprehensive establishment of what it is that inductive inference is reliable with regards to. Epistemic norms are a means to an end.

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