Homeostatic epistemology : reliability, coherence and coordination in a Bayesian virtue epistemology

Dissertation, (2013)
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How do agents with limited cognitive capacities flourish in informationally impoverished or unexpected circumstances? Aristotle argued that human flourishing emerged from knowing about the world and our place within it. If he is right, then the virtuous processes that produce knowledge, best explain flourishing. Influenced by Aristotle, virtue epistemology defends an analysis of knowledge where beliefs are evaluated for their truth and the intellectual virtue or competences relied on in their creation. However, human flourishing may emerge from how degrees of ignorance are managed in an uncertain world. Perhaps decision-making in the shadow of knowledge best explains human wellbeing—a Bayesian approach? In this dissertation I argue that a hybrid of virtue and Bayesian epistemologies explains human flourishing—what I term homeostatic epistemology. Homeostatic epistemology supposes that an agent has a rational credence p when p is the product of reliable processes aligned with the norms of probability theory; whereas an agent knows that p when a rational credence p is the product of reliable processes such that: 1) p meets some relevant threshold for belief, 2) p coheres with a satisficing set of relevant beliefs and, 3) the relevant set of beliefs is coordinated appropriately to meet the integrated aims of the agent. Homeostatic epistemology recognizes that justificatory relationships between beliefs are constantly changing to combat uncertainties and to take advantage of predictable circumstances. Contrary to holism, justification is built up and broken down across limited sets like the anabolic and catabolic processes that maintain homeostasis in the cells, organs and systems of the body. It is the coordination of choristic sets of reliably produced beliefs that create the greatest flourishing given the limitations inherent in the situated agent.

Author's Profile

S. Kate Devitt
Trusted Autonomous Systems Defence CRC


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