Conceptual Construction: Why the Content of Our Folk Terms Has Only Limited Significance

In Masaharu Mizumoto & Stephen Stich (eds.), Ethno-Epistemology (forthcoming)
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Standard Analytic Epistemology typically relies on conceptual analysis of folk epistemic terms such as ‘knowledge’ or ‘justification’. A cross-cultural and cross-linguistic perspective on this method leads to the worry that there might not be universally shared epistemic concepts, and that different languages might use folk notions that have different extensions. Moreover, there is no reason to believe that our epistemic common-sense terms pick out what is epistemically most significant or valuable. In my paper, I take these issues as a starting point for exploring the prospects of an alternative methodological approach that I call ‘alethic instrumentalism’. The core idea behind this approach is to start with a properly designed epistemic goal and then to develop a framework of instrumentally valuable methods oriented towards this goal. This results in a somewhat revisionary framework of newly constructed core epistemic terms. In the paper, I elucidate the foundations of this new framework and address a number of methodological and content-related objections to the approach.
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