The aim of belief and the goal of truth: Reflections on Rosenberg

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Abstract: This paper attempts to sympathetically reconstruct an argument due to Rorty, Davidson, and Rosenberg for the conclusion that truth is neither the aim of belief nor the goal of inquiry. Their argument is not an attempt to make the pluralist point that there may be other equally fundamental epistemic aims and goals, but rather a much more radical attempt to undermine the common appeal by epistemologists to an aim or goal of truth as a way of defining what counts as epistemic (e.g. epistemic reasons, norms, values, etc.). I focus on Rosenberg’s version of the argument because it is most detailed and convincing. I try to explain why several natural reactions to the argument are misguided in the context of its dialectical purpose in undermining appeal to truth in defining epistemic notions. Ultimately, however, I reject the argument. For I think it trades on a failure to appreciate the socially and diachronically perspectival nature of evaluations of belief-forming methods. Moreover, and more importantly, I think the argument conflates the goals of our actions with the ends capable of constraining our policies and procedures. By understanding belief as partially constituted by its evaluability for truth, and accordingly belief-forming methods as partially defined by their evaluability relative to an end of truth, we can sustain the practice of appealing to truth as a way of defining what counts as epistemic. By considering a rigorous version of this famous and radical argument against appeals to truth in epistemology, I think we acquire a better understanding of the role appeals to truth can and should play in defining core epistemic notions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEpistemic Reasons, Norms and Goals
EditorsMartin Grajner, Pedro Schmechtig
Place of PublicationBerlin/Boston
PublisherDe Gruyter
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-049634-5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2016


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