Epistemic Normativity – Configuring the Debate


CALL: 2017

DOMAIN: SC - Societal Challenges


LAST NAME: Hofmann



HOST INSTITUTION: University of Luxembourg

KEYWORDS: Epistemology, ethics, normativity, reasons, rationality

START: 2017-10-01

END: 2018-03-31

WEBSITE: https://www.uni.lu

Submitted Abstract

Epistemology is changing. Epistemologists increasingly look beyond the nature of knowledge and discuss the value of knowledge. Epistemologists increasingly recognise parallels between their discipline and ethics and more and more ethical vocabulary is introduced in the debate. There are deontological theories of justification; there are debates about epistemic consequentialism, epistemic responsibility and doxastic voluntarism; virtue epistemology has become central to epistemological theorising. Epistemology has moved ever closer to ethics. Central to this development is an increasing concern with the normative aspect of epistemological theorising itself. What is the basis on which epistemology can make recommendations about what one should believe? What is and what explains epistemic normativity? This project has the following main aims: (1) to provide an original methodological framework for debates about epistemic normativity inspired and informed by insights from practical philosophy, (2) to distinguish and analyse the main positions in this debate according to this framework, and (3) to situate the debate about epistemic normativity in a broader philosophical context by showing how it relates to and influences other philosophical debates. – The overarching goal in pursuing these aims is to make a distinctive and positive contribution to the debate by building on previous work by the two collaborators.Despite an increasing number of publications in this field, the area of epistemic normativity itself has not yet properly been configured. This project will provide the necessary framework to clarify what is at stake in debates about epistemic normativity; it will locate and distinguish a variety of positions within this framework and it will describe the central place of the issue of epistemic normativity within the broader fields of ethics and epistemology. The methodological framework we propose for debates about epistemic normativity is double-barrelled: we need to distinguish the first-order question, what are the right epistemic norms, from the second-order question, what explains the normative force of epistemological rules and principles. The imposition of this framework is supported by general considerations about norms. There are many kinds of norms. Norms for cooking, for driving and for how to be polite; the norms of the law and of the land; the ten norms we call commandments; and many more.Some of them we call ‘epistemic norms’: Do not believe contradictions! Make sure your degrees of belief are representable by a probability function! Always use the most reliable method available! For all norms we can ask whether they are ‘truly normative’, i.e. under what conditions are we bound by these norms and what explains their binding force? These questions arise for all norms, including fundamental moral norms. The question, why be moral, has a long history. We are asking parallel questions: why, e.g., should we believe in accordance with the evidence? We are seeking a foundation for epistemology as a normative discipline.Prof Hofmann and Dr Piller are well established researchers in their respective fields of epistemology and ethics, with both having done substantial work on issues of common concern to both disciplines (see 3.2 and 3.3 for details). Whilst sharing a commitment to the standards of analytic philosophy, differences in their philosophical expertise and experience will be the basis for their fruitful interaction on a topic of joint concern.The project will result in finalising a central chapter of a book manuscript on theories of knowledge, and in 3 research papers (see section 2.1 for details). Furthermore, it will increase the international visibility and the impact of the Institute of Philosophy of the University of Luxembourg and it will provide a strong basis for future co-operations.

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