Elgin, Catherine Z., and . True Enough

2004, Philosophical Issues 14 (1): 113-131. also reprinted in Epistemology: and Anthology, Wiley 2008

Abstract: Truth is standardly considered a requirement on epistemic acceptability. But science and philosophy deploy models, idealizations and thought experiments that prescind from truth to achieve other cognitive ends. I argue that such felicitous falsehoods function as cognitively useful fictions. They are cognitively useful because they exemplify and afford epistemic access to features they share with the relevant facts. They are falsehoods in that they diverge from the facts. Nonetheless, they are true enough to serve their epistemic purposes. Theories that contain them have testable consequences, hence are factually defeasible.

Comment: In a context in which epistemology takes truth to be a necessary condition for knowledge and falsehood as an immediate knowledge defeater, this paper offers a new perspective on the epistemic value of falsehood as playing an important role both in science and in philosophy. In a nutshell, the author argues that although falsehoods diverge from the facts, they are "true enough" to serve their epistemic purpose. Some of the falsehoods employed both in science and philosophy result in models, idealisations and thought experiments: by sharing and exemplifying relevant features of the facts, they end up being cognitively useful. This could work as secondary literature for a postgraduate course in epistemology and philsoophy of science, insofar as it gives a new perspective on epistemic value falshood can play.

Zagzebski, Linda, and . On Epistemology

2009, Wadsworth

Publisher’s Note: What is knowledge? Why do we want it? Is knowledge possible? How do we get it? What about other epistemic values like understanding and certainty? Why are so many epistemologists worried about luck? In ON EPISTEMOLOGY Linda Zagzebski situates epistemological questions within the broader framework of what we care about and why we care about it. Questions of value shape all of the above questions and explain some significant philosophical trends: the obsession with answering the skeptic, the flight from realism, and the debate between naturalism and anti-naturalism. THE WADSWORTH PHILOSOPHICAL TOPICS SERIES (under the general editorship of Robert Talisse, Vanderbilt University) presents readers with concise, timely, and insightful introductions to a variety of traditional and contemporary philosophical subjects. With this series, students of philosophy will be able to discover the richness of philosophical inquiry across a wide array of concepts, including hallmark philosophical themes and themes typically underrepresented in mainstream philosophy publishing. Written by a distinguished list of scholars who have garnered particular recognition for their excellence in teaching, this series presents the vast sweep of today’s philosophical exploration in highly accessible and affordable volumes. These books will prove valuable to philosophy teachers and their students as well as to other readers who share a general interest in philosophy.

Comment: Zagzebski offers a very approachable overview of main issues in Epistemology. Particularly useful in undergraduate teaching are: Chapter 1 which provides a general introduction focusing on the relationship between knowing and caring; Chapter 2 which introduces scepticism and presents some contemporary responses to it; and Chapter 5 which introduces Gettier problems. The remaining chapters expand on those topics and offer an overview of virtue epistemology.

Zagzebski, Linda, and . Epistemic Value Monism

2004, Greco, John (ed.), Ernest Sosa and His Criticis. Oxford: Blackwell. 190-198

Introduction: Where does the state of knowledge get its value? Virtually everyone agrees that it comes partly from the value of the truth that is thereby acquired, but most philosophers also agree that knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief. If so, what is the source of the extra value that knowledge has? Curiously, several well-known contemporary epistemic theories have trouble answering this question. In particular, I have argued that reliabilism is unable to explain where knowledge gets its value. I call this the value problem. Sosa addresses the value problem in a recent paper, moving his theory in a more Aristotelian direction. In this chapter I will review the moves Sosa makes to solve the problem and will suggest a simpler approach that I believe does justice to all his desiderata.

Comment: In this paper, Zagzebski examines Sosa's solution to the value problem against reliabilism according to which a reliable process or faculty is good only because of the good of its product. It is a good material for teaching on epistemic value at either lower or upper level undergraduate courses.

Zagzebski, Linda, and . The Search for the Source of the Epistemic Good

2003, Metaphilosophy 34(1-2): 12-28.

Abstract: Knowledge has almost always been treated as good, better than mere true belief, but it is remarkably difficult to explain what it is about knowledge that makes it better. I call this “the value problem.” I have previously argued that most forms of reliabilism cannot handle the value problem. In this article I argue that the value problem is more general than a problem for reliabilism, infecting a host of different theories, including some that are internalist. An additional problem is that not all instances of true belief seem to be good on balance, so even if a given instance of knowing p is better than merely truly believing p, not all instances of knowing will be good enough to explain why knowledge has received so much attention in the history of philosophy. The article aims to answer two questions: What makes knowingp better than merely truly believing p? The answer involves an exploration of the connection between believing and the agency of the knower. Knowing is an act in which the knower gets credit for achieving truth. What makes some instances of knowing good enough to make the investigation of knowledge worthy of so much attention? The answer involves the connection between the good of believing truths of certain kinds and a good life. In the best kinds of knowing, the knower not only gets credit for getting the truth but also gets credit for getting a desirable truth. The kind of value that makes knowledge a fitting object of extensive philosophical inquiry is not independent of moral value and the wider values of a good life.

Comment: This paper nicely elucidates different respects of the value problem about knowledge and enriches the debate by bringing multiple resources and perspectives into consideration, such as the agency of the knower and the wider value of good life. It is good for teachings on epistemic values in an epistemology course at either an advanced or introductory level.