The Right in the Good: A Defense of Teleological Non-Consequentialism in Epistemology

In Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij Jeff Dunn (ed.), Epistemic Consequentialism. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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There has been considerable discussion recently of consequentialist justifications of epistemic norms. In this paper, I shall argue that these justifications are not justifications. The consequentialist needs a value theory, a theory of the epistemic good. The standard theory treats accuracy as the fundamental epistemic good and assumes that it is a good that calls for promotion. Both claims are mistaken. The fundamental epistemic good involves accuracy, but it involves more than just that. The fundamental epistemic good is knowledge, not mere true belief, because the goodness of an epistemic state is connected to that state's ability to give us reasons. If I'm right about the value theory, this has a number of significant implications for the consequentialist project. First, the good-making features that attach to valuable full beliefs are not features of partial belief. The resulting value theory does not give us the values we need to give consequentialist justifications of credal norms. Second, the relevant kind of good does not call for promotion. It is good to know, but the rational standing of a belief is not determined by the belief's location in a ranked set of options. In the paper's final section, I explain why the present view is a kind of teleological non-consequentialism. There is a kind of good that is prior to the right, but as the relevant kind of good does not call for promotion the value theory shows us what is wrong with the consequentialist project.

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Clayton Littlejohn
Australian Catholic University


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