The IKEA Effect & The Production of Epistemic Goods

Philosophical Studies:1-20 (forthcoming)
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Behavioral economists have proposed that people are subject to an IKEA effect, whereby they attach greater value to products they make for themselves, like IKEA furniture, than to otherwise indiscernible goods. Recently, cognitive psychologist Tom Stafford has suggested there may be an epistemic analog to this, a kind of epistemic IKEA effect. In this paper, I use Stafford’s suggestion to defend a certain thesis about epistemic value. Specifically, I argue that there is a distinctive epistemic value in being an active producer of epistemic goods, like true belief, as opposed to just a passive recipient of such goods, and that because of this it can be rationally permissible to sacrifice truth in a certain way for the sake of this other value. In particular, it is rationally permissible for an epistemic agent to prefer a belief set that contains fewer overall truths but more truths obtained through the agent’s own intellectual labor, in something like the way that a practical agent might prefer furniture they have made through their own manual labor to inherently superior furniture made by someone else. In making my case, I draw on Ernest Sosa’s discussion of causation and praxical epistemic values, and Jennifer Lackey’s testimony-based criticism of the credit view of knowledge. After defending my thesis about epistemic value, I further clarify it by connecting it to the focus of Stafford’s discussion, conspiracy theorists.

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Justin Tiehen
University of Puget Sound


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