Research Group
in Analytic Philosophy

Methods: Epistemology beyond belief

Duration: 2022 - 2025

Code: PID2021-122566NB-I00

Principal Investigator

Sven Rosenkranz (rosenkranz.sven@gmail.com)

All researchers

Work team:

Julien Dutant (King's College London)
Maria Lasonen-Aarnio (University of Helsinki)
Clayton Littlejohn (Australian Catholic University, Melbourne)
Jack Lyons (University of Glasgow)
Aybüke Özgün (University of Amsterdam)
Daniel Waxman (University of Singapore)

Summary

Cognitive methods are types of causal processes that, at some level of description, output propositions. Belief formation but also perception, imagination, intuition and other cognitive processes involve cognitive methods. The projects main hypothesis is that much of epistemology can be recast, without significant loss, in terms of a systematic theory of cognitive methods that makes no appeal to the conditions under which subjects hold or form beliefs. Successful defence of this hypothesis would mark a radical departure from the traditional conception of epistemology as centred on the theories of knowledge and doxastic justification. The hypothesis proceeds from two observations. First, traditional epistemology concerns itself with the conditions under which beliefs have certain epistemically goodmaking features like being knowledge, justified, or rational. Yet, whether a given belief has one of these features depends on features of the methods used in forming it. Secondly, pertinent such methods may successfully be applied without issuing in any beliefs at all: they may proffer propositions as candidates for being believed, while the subject is, rightly or wrongly, hesitant to give her assent to those propositions. Once methods are conceived as process types that need not issue in beliefs, their epistemically relevant features might differ from those process types that correspond to the subjects dispositions to believe the propositions proffered by those methods. It will be argued that there is good reason to privilege the epistemically relevant features of the former over those of the latter when it comes to explaining the epistemically relevant features of beliefs. The systematic exploration and critical assessment of the central hypothesis and its implications involves pursuit of four principal research objectives: (I) to clarify why, and to what extent, epistemology needs to appeal to methods in order to properly characterize beliefs as knowledgeable, justified, or rational, what assumptions it tends to make about the nature of such methods, and how these assumptions relate to those commonly made in the philosophy of science; (II) to devise a formal framework for a liberal characterization of methods that does justice to insights from both traditional epistemology and the philosophy of science, to explain how applications of methods may proffer propositions whether or not they are accepted as true, and to show how epistemically good-making features of beliefs systematically depend on epistemically good-making features of methods so characterized; (III) to explicate the various ways in which methods may depend on others, to use these dependencies in order to retrace, and diversify, the traditional distinctions between inferential and non-inferential knowledge and between first-order knowledge and higher-order knowledge, and to show how, and to what extent, such dependencies imply dependencies in the distribution of epistemically good-making features of methods standing in those relations; (IV) to demonstrate the fruitfulness of giving pride of place to methods, their epistemically good-making features, and their dependencies, by applying the formal framework to current issues in contemporary epistemology and epistemic logic and showing how these issues might be addressed without relying on the beliefs formed by epistemic agents.