An instrumentalist unification of zetetic and epistemic reasons

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy (2021)
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Abstract

Inquiry is an aim-directed activity, and as such governed by instrumental normativity. If you have reason to figure out a question, you have reason to take means to figuring it out. Beliefs are governed by epistemic normativity. On a certain pervasive understanding, this means that you are permitted – maybe required – to believe what you have sufficient evidence for. The norms of inquiry and epistemic norms both govern us as agents in pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and, on the surface, they do so in harmony. Recently, however, Jane Friedman (2020) has pointed out that they are in tension with each other. In this paper, I aim to resolve this tension by showing that reasons for acts of inquiry – zetetic reasons – and epistemic reasons for belief can both be understood as flowing from the same general normative principle: the transmission principle for instrumental reasons. The resulting account is a version of epistemic instrumentalism that offers an attractive unity between zetetic and epistemic normativity.

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