Knowledge and Prizes

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


We examine two leading theories of rational belief, the Lockean view and the explanationist view. The first is appealing because it fits with some independently plausible claims about the ways that rational persons pursue their aims. The second is appealing because it seems to account for intuitions that cause trouble for the Lockean view. While fitting the intuitive data is desirable, we are troubled that the explanationist view seems to clash with our theoretical beliefs about what rationality must be like. We think that upon further examination, the intuitive appeal of the explanationist view starts to diminish. We also think that these further intuitions that spell trouble for the explanationist spell trouble for any theory that is not expectationist. We propose a novel expectationist theory of rational belief that improves upon the Lockean and the explanationist views. We think that recent defences of the Lockean view contain an important insight. A substantive theory of rational response should be based on a suitable theory of prizes and a suitable theory of how we should pursue prizes in the face of uncertainty. Most theories of rational belief typically take for granted a truth-centred picture of epistemic prizes (e.g., that epistemic desirability and undesirability can be fully understood in terms of accuracy) and then differ in terms of how they recommend pursuing prizes so understood. We think the Lockeans embrace plausible principles of how prizes should be pursued. We trace the difficulties that this view faces to veritistic assumptions about prizes. We suggest that some prizes are epistemically loaded in that a complete description of the prize will itself make reference to our epistemic states or standards. We argue that knowledge matters to rational belief and choice because in the epistemic domain, knowledge is the prize. We see this in practical domains, too. In some choice settings, what's desired is desired, in part, because it involves a kind of connection to reality only knowledge provides.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPutting Knowledge to Work: New Directions for Knowledge-First Epistemology
EditorsArtūrs Logins, Jacques-Henri Vollet
PublisherOxford University Press
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Mar 2024


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