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Thu, 14 Feb


Room G7

Barnaby Walker (Warwick) Enquiry and the Value of Knowledge

Time & Location

14 Feb 2019, 16:00 – 18:00

Room G7, Senate House, London WC1B, UK


Philosophical  discussions of the value of knowledge typically focus on questions  about why knowledge is a specially valuable state. The most famous of  these questions is the one Plato raises in the Meno: why is knowledge  more valuable than true belief? It is widely assumed that such questions  are well founded and must therefore be answered by explaining why  knowledge is more valuable than true belief and other doxastic states  that fall short of knowledge. My aim in this paper is to call this  widely held view into question. The claim that knowledge is a specially  valuable state is compelling only if one assumes that questions about  our desires, preferences and aims as enquirers—e.g. why we desire  knowledge, and not just true belief—are to be answered by appealing to  claims about the special value of the state of knowledge. I call this  assumption ‘the value assumption’. Though natural, the value assumption  isn’t obviously correct. After unpacking the line of thought that  underpins the value assumption, I identify what I take to be the most  promising way of resisting it. I then consider a particular attempt to  resist the value assumption in this way, inspired by Bernard Williams  (1978). I will argue that, although this attempt fails, seeing why it  fails is instructive: in seeking to explain why we desire knowledge and  not just true belief in a way that doesn’t assume that knowledge is more  valuable than true belief, we mustn’t take it granted that our desire  for true belief is more basic than our desire for knowledge.

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