Epistemic Value and the Jamesian Goals

In Jeffrey Dunn Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (ed.), Epistemic Consequentialism. Oxford University Press (2017)
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William James famously tells us that there are two main goals for rational believers: believing truth and avoiding error. I argues that epistemic consequentialism—in particular its embodiment in epistemic utility theory—seems to be well positioned to explain how epistemic agents might permissibly weight these goals differently and adopt different credences as a result. After all, practical versions of consequentialism render it permissible for agents with different goals to act differently in the same situation. Nevertheless, I argue that epistemic consequentialism doesn’t allow for this kind of permissivism and goes on to argue that this reveals a deep disanalogy between decision theory and the formally similar epistemic utility theory. This raises the question whether epistemic utility theory is a genuinely consequentialist theory at all.

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Sophie Horowitz
University of Massachusetts, Amherst


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