Ethics in Epistemology


Registration, Coffee

Introduction (IP, Twente)

10h30- 11h20

Lorraine Code (York University, CA; Durham, UK) 'They Treated Him Well': Fact, Fiction, and the Politics of Knowledge

11h20- 11h40 Discussion

11h40-11h50 Pause

11h50- 12h30

Sandra Laugier (University of Picardie, Fr): Ethics in Epistemology : Virtue or Care?

12h30-12h45 Discussion

12h45-13h30 LUNCH

13h30- 14h20

Linda Zagzebski, (Oklahoma University, USA): Moral Egoism, Epistemic Egoism.

14h20- 14h40 Discussion

14h40- 14h50 Pause

14h50- 15h30

Bas van Fraassen (Princeton University, USA): Values, Choices and Epistemic Stance.

15h30- 15h45 Discussion

15h45- 15h55 Pause

15h55- 17h00 Discussion

Round Table with the speakers- Open Discussion

“They Treated Him Well”: Fact, Fiction, and the Politics of Knowledge

For Ethics in Epistemology Workshop, Twente May 2007

Lorraine Code, York University, Toronto, Canada

In this paper I show how fact and fiction, collaboratively, can inform a moral epistemology that moves toward deriving principles for understanding difference; for responding well to alterity. Specifically, I elaborate certain impediments that derive from positions of white privilege, to knowing how it is to live racial inequality. Starting from Nadine Gordimer’s novel, July’s People, written when South African apartheid was moving violently toward its dissolution; yet where polite, concepts/ideals integral to liberal enlightenment discourse, such as emancipation, equality, and welfare, were under strain, I examine the phrase “they treated him well” for how it permits the novel’s white protagonists to ignore the extent of an Otherness that is allegedly erased in the provisions they make for the comfort and welfare of July, their black servant. The language is neutral, well-intentioned, self-confessedly liberal, and oblivious to the barriers and exclusions it sustains. Yet it contains the “white folks” within an epistemological-ethical imaginary of sameness where they cannot understand the need to relinquish the taken-for-granted distinctions, taxonomies, and assumptions about “natural kinds” through which they know “their” world, even when those distinctions lose their pertinence. July knows their world and their ways far better than they know his, yet their failure to recognize the extent of his epistemic privilege ultimately leads to social disintegration. I will consider some epistemological implications of this apparent incommensurability.

Ethical and Epistemic Egoism and the Ideal of Autonomy

For Ethics in Epistemology Workshop, Twente May 2007

Linda Zagzebski, Oklahoma University

In this paper I argue that the common ideal of epistemic autonomy is incoherent. I begin with an exploration of several forms of epistemic egoism, each of which has an ethical analogue, and will argue that each form of epistemic egoism is inconsistent. Since epistemic autonomy is often described in a way that makes it indistinguishable from epistemic egoism, it follows that epistemic autonomy as widely understood is incoherent. I will end by raising some questions about the coherence of autonomy in the moral sense.

Values, Choices and Epistemic Stance

For Ethics in Epistemology Workshop, Twente May 2007

Bas van Fraassen, Princeton University.



the subject of inquiry in epistemology; two levels of ‘mundane’ reasoning, followed by a third level of philosophical inquiry (epistemology); value judgments appear to be at the center; but is that really so?

One. Epistemology naturalized (?)

Can the apparent value judgments in epistemology be re-construed as factual ‘grading’ judgments? Example: ‘instrumental rationality’

Thesis: this is illusory. a value judgment has a factual correlate but the two are not the same. In the example of rationality, this point is independent of what standards are set, whether instrumental or a priori, for example: the point is a general logical point about the two sorts of judgment

Two. How epistemic value judgments function in dialogue

We continue with the example of judgments of instrumental rationality. How are such judgments made? We need to distinguish the case of a claim on one’s own behalf and an attribution to someone else

Thesis: in the latter case too, the judge’s own standards enter into the judgment, so the conclusion expresses (to some extent) a value judgment

Three. Stances as involving values

In the mundane tasks the conclusion arrived at is typically a cluster of attitudes (including judgments); a philosophical position is also such a cluster (a ‘stance’). Chakravartty has argued that this view could undermine philosophy itself, by removing the possibility of settling philosophical differences, if value judgments are irreducible elements of such stances. The argument hinges on supposed differences between value judgment and factual judgment.

Thesis: this is a case of false contrasts, and the dilemma posed is in the last analysis incoherent