The value and normative role of knowledge

Liber Amicorum Pascal Engel (2014)
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Abstract

Why does knowledge matter? Two answers have been influential in the recent literature. One is that it has value: knowledge is one of the goods. Another is that it plays a significant normative role: knowledge is the norm of action, belief, assertion, or the like. This paper discusses whether one can derive one of the claims from the other. That is, whether assuming the idea that knowledge has value — and some defensible general hypotheses about norms and values —, we could derive the claim that it plays the alleged normative role. Or whether, assuming that knowledge does play that role — and some defensible general hypotheses —, we could derive the claim that it has value. It argues that the route from Value to Norms is unsuccessful. The main problem here is that the idea that knowledge has value does not seem enough to derive the idea that one should act on what one knows. It finds the route from Norms to Value more promising, though a complete path is missing. The main idea here is that knowledge is good because it is normatively required to do good things, such as believing the truth and acting in view of true propositions. But since not all normative conditions for doing something good is itself good, we still lack an explanation of why knowledge would be so. The paper finally suggests an alternative perspective, on which we do not try to derive the idea that knowledge has value from its normative role, but rather use its normative role to explain away the idea that it has value.

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Julien Dutant
King's College London

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