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Fr. 465

December 21, 2013

For this reason, Greco’s version of the negative strategy proves, in the end, an amended one in that it calls for the epistemologist to engage with the intuitions surrounding surplus value by evaluating the extent to which these intuitions are likely to be held and fulfilled. Any intuitions which are both likely to be held by ordinary thinkers and be fulfilled at the level of theory are to be retained; those which are neither likely to be held by ordinary thinkers nor liable to be fulfilled at the level of theory through insufficient conceptual resources or argumentative resources are to be discarded as so many illusions. Accordingly, the negation of Kvanvig’s negation produces a positive, of sorts, given 1.) and 2.) are secured as the only claims that require positive philosophical elucidation.

The critical half of his task being carried out, Greco turns to the positive strategy in an attempt to show that knowledge does have value over and beyond that of merely true belief. For Greco, this surplus value owes to the nature of knowledge outlined by virtue epistemology, i.e. that knowledge is success from ability, and falls out of that account quite naturally. Additionally, Greco holds that, not only does this account respond to the demands placed upon it by claims 1.) and 2.), it also has the resources to take on claims 3.) and 4.), whatever the likelihood of their being held by ordinary thinkers.

Recall that, for Greco, “in cases of knowledge S gets things right because she is intellectually able and because she has exercised her abilities”, in contrast with a case of lucky success, as is a possibility in instances of merely true belief (Greco, p. 97). Bearing this in mind, Greco draws a parallel between his account of virtue epistemology and Aristotle’s virtue ethics, in both of which the only human activity “both intrinsically valuable and constitutive of human flourishing” is that achieved through the exercise of the individual’s abilities or virtues (Greco, pp. 97-98). From this, it is possible to conclude that there is a noticeable difference in value between knowledge and merely true belief in that, in cases of knowledge, the individual makes an intrinsically valuable use of her abilities and virtues whereas, in cases of merely true belief, her belief might not appeal to the faculties constitutive of human flourishing and, thus, does not fall under the category of intrinsically valuable activities. It is simple enough to see how other intellectual virtues as courage, understanding and wisdom could likewise be grouped under such a heading (wisdom also being considered by Duncan Pritchard as an instance of intrinsic value (What Is This Thing Called Knowledge?, pp. 16-17)). Hence, Greco’s account of success from abilities and epistemic virtues seems to answer the demands placed upon it by 1.) and 2.) through institution of intrinsically valuable, specifically epistemic goods. What then of 3.) and 4.)?

If, to this point, Greco has shown that knowledge qua intrinsically valuable human activity has value distinct from that of merely true belief’s practical, instrumental value, on his view, this position also secures an answer to 3.) in that knowledge, qua success and ability, is evidently more valuable than “either success without ability or ability without success” (Greco, p. 99). In other words, true belief because of ability will hold more value for the individual than proper exercise of an intellectual ability that does not secure a true belief or improper exercise of an intellectual ability that does secure a true belief. For neither instance is valuable in and of itself, at least, not in the intrinsic fashion set out by Greco’s neo-Aristotelian leanings.

Similarly, 4.) receives its own answer insofar as “success from ability is more valuable than an act that is both successful and from ability, but not successful because from ability” (Greco, p. 99). In broader terms, Greco means to show that the mere coincidence of success and ability is not enough to secure the intrinsic value seen above, even if both constituent elements of knowledge are indeed present in a given case. For example, suppose that, as part of a competition, a talented artist submits a work to be included in an art gallery’s upcoming exhibition. In preparing the work, the artist both produces a work of quality and correctly exercises her artistic virtues, and, at the conclusion of the gallery’s evaluation, her work is accepted for the exhibition. Suppose still further that this success owes not to the work itself, i.e. its quality or success and exercise of proper abilities, but to some extraneous factor, e.g. our artist was the only person to have submitted a work to the competition, the other competitors submitted incomplete works, etc. Here, where there is both success and ability, it remains that this success does not stem from the exercise ability. Unsurprisingly, any observer apprised of these facts will be more likely to attribute value to the efforts of some worthier artist than the artist whose work passed competition due to factors beyond her control. It is precisely this link between ability and result that virtue epistemology emphasizes and which fuels the plausibility of its account of the value problem.

Yet none of the foregoing presentation addresses the dilemma of intrinsic and instrumental value set out above, as Greco’s account seems content to remain at the level of the mere assertion concerning the intrinsic value of knowledge. One can reasonably ask how this intrinsic value might be further characterized or whether it is unable to move beyond the meager conceptual resources available to it qua conceptual primitive or simple, as one might contend on Greco’s behalf. Whatever its successes at the level of negative strategy in lessening the demands built into any surplus value solution, Greco’s account fails to answer the difficulties inherent to the affirmative strategy that this account signaled above. Thus, we are left where we started: can we extricate intrinsic value from the conceptual haze that impedes its definition?



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