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Epistemic Consequentialism

Philip Percival and Robert Stalnaker
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volumes
Vol. 76 (2002), pp. 121-151+153-168
Published by: Wiley on behalf of Aristotelian Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4106966
Page Count: 47
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Epistemic Consequentialism
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Abstract

[Philip Percival] I aim to illuminate foundational epistemological issues by reflecting on 'epistemic consequentialism'-the epistemic analogue of ethical consequentialism. Epistemic consequentialism employs a concept of cognitive value playing a role in epistemic norms governing belief-like states that is analogous to the role goodness plays in act-governing moral norms. A distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' versions of epistemic consequentialism is held to be as important as the familiar ethical distinction on which it is based. These versions are illustrated, respectively, by cognitive decision-theory and reliabilism. Cognitive decision-theory is defended, and various conceptual issues concerning it explored. A simple dilemma suggests that epistemic consequentialism has radical consequences. /// [Robert Stalnaker] After reviewing the general ideas of the consequentialist framework, I take a critical look at two of the epistemic consequentialist projects that Philip Percival considers in his paper: the first assumes that there is a notion of acceptance that contrasts with belief and that can be evaluated by its expected epistemic utility. The second uses epis utility to evaluate beliefs and partial beliefs themselves, as well as actions, such as gathering information in the course of an inquiry. I express scepticism about the notion of acceptance required for the first project, and argue that the second kind of project can be fruitful only with a richer notion of epistemic utility than has yet been developed.

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