1st Edition

Epistemic Instrumentalism Explained

By Nathaniel Sharadin Copyright 2023

    Do epistemic requirements vary along with facts about what promotes agents' well-being? Epistemic instrumentalists say 'yes', and thereby earn a lot of contempt. This contempt is a mistake on two counts. First, it is incorrectly based: the reasons typically given for it are misguided. Second, it fails to distinguish between first- and second-order epistemic instrumentalism; and, it happens, only the former is contemptible.

    In this book, Nathaniel P. Sharadin argues for rejecting epistemic instrumentalism as a first-order view not because it suffers extensional failures, but because it suffers explanatory ones. By contrast, he argues that epistemic instrumentalism offers a natural, straightforward explanation of why being epistemically correct matters. What emerges is a second-order instrumentalist explanation for epistemic authority that is neutral between competing first-order epistemic theories. This neutrality is an advantage. But, drawing on work from cognitive science and psychology, Sharadin argues that instrumentalists can abandon that neutrality in order to adopt a view he calls epistemic ecologism.

    Epistemic Instrumentalism Explained will be of interest to researchers and advanced students working in epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of mind.

    1. Introduction

    2. Preliminaries

    3. First-Order Epistemic Theory

    4. Epistemic Correctness and the Minimal Functional Criterion

    5. First-Order Epistemic Instrumentalism

    6. The Functionalist Challenge

    7. Second-Order Epistemic Theory

    8. Second-Order Epistemic Instrumentalism

    9. The Content Constraint

    10. Bespoke Explanations

    11. New View Old Problems

    12. Going Further


    Nathaniel P. Sharadin is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong. He is the author of numerous articles on epistemology and ethics.