Monday, November 06, 2006

"The Troubles With Standard Analytic Epistemology"

Bishop and Trout in their book Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment make a withering indictment of what they call "Standard Analytic Epistemology" (or "SAE"). I'm about 95% in agreement with their claims; 5% of me wants to believe that there is still some good in SAE, particularly out at the contextualist margins.

Anyway, here are some choice quotes. Their point is that SAE really only reports on the intuitions of academically-trained philosophers; as a result, its usefulness in the real world is just about nil:

So what is SAE geared to tell us about? We suggest that it tells us about the reflective epistemic judgmnets of a group of idiosyncratic people who have been trained to use highly specialized epistemic concepts and patterns of thought....The conservative goals and methods of SAE are suited to the task of providing an account of the considered epistemic judgments of (mostly) well-off Westerners with Ph.D.'s in Philosophy. (107)

And on the question of whether SAE can better account for the justification of beliefs than their alternative:

What about the belief recommended by SAE? Its main advantage seems to be that it is the belief that is deemed justified by a bunch of really smart philosophers who have reflected seriously on thier notion of justification. (117)


Blogger Shawn said...

Do you think Bishop and Trout's points about narrowness of intuitions generalizes to all areas of philosophy in which intuitions feature as evidence for some particular position or is there something about the argument that depends on the reflective judgments being epistemological?

8:21 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Well, I'm somewhat in agreement with you, but I'm not sure I agree totally.

Here's the problem. Surely, philosophers are like ordinary people in some way. Both the folk and philosophers communicate with one another, e.g., on the street or in restaurants.

If philosophers and the folk are able to communicate, and if we take communication to be interactive between two or more parties, then just as a folk account is useful for metaphysical or other philosophical concerns so too is philosophy useful for the folk.

What would make Bishop and Trout's "indictment" (I like how you used that!) more powerful, in my humble opinion, is a a few instances of philosophers dismissing folk intuitions EVEN THOUGH the philosopher's trying to provide a folk account.

(I think you've convinced me to pick up their book; much appreciated!)

8:35 PM  

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