forum 6: week of 13 Feb - K & practical interests

Fragment of a discussion from Course talk:Phil440A
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I think the bank example does - to a large degree - successfully illustrates the point of the epistemic priorities and and helps to highlight our meta-epistemological concerns of whether something can be properly called knowledge depends on its importance to us.

First, I just want to go back to that picture we had in class today. There were two parallel lines, with the endpoint of each being knowledge and desire respectively. I think in order for knowledge to really be prioritized, it needs to be subsumed under desire. So the picture would be: desire/sentiments -> goals -> steps needed to satisfy that goal (e.g. evidence, facts, other observations) -> beliefs of how to achieve said desires -> finally, actions.

Save for those initial set of conditions - i.e. what we termed desires/sentiments - it seems natural to suppose that every step in that long chain is ration. If rationality were constantly and consistently applied, however, we find that it will in cases conflict with our epistemological goals and ideals, and this is where the notion of prioritization comes from.

Prioritization is the rational provision of knowledge. Often times, it is good and preferable to know. Knowledge enabled us to make actions in order to effect those outcomes we desire. If one desires to make steam, it is for example, necessary to first possess the knowledge that water makes steam when heated, and water could be heated by building a fire underneath it. Without such pieces of knowledge, we would not be able to effectuate our initial desire to make steam.

Since knowledge and desire often coincide, it is difficult to know which causes which. And while it is true that they often occur in mutually beneficial and sustaining cycles, there is still a master and a slave in the relationship.

Just as Hume supposes the reason and rationality are slaves to our moral sentiments, the same can be said of knowledge. When knowledge is indeed assumed to be subsumed under the aegis of desires, its subservience to it becomes clear.

And so it is clear that when there should be divergences between the two, we should favor desire over knowledge since desire is its master. For example, we desire to save time, and so seek the shorter of two paths. We have the background knowledge that they are roughly the same length, but one is approximately takes 5 minutes less than the other to complete. But determining which path is the shorter actually requires 20 minutes of calculations and measurements, and thus, in order to actually satisfy our initial desire to save time, it is necessary to remain ignorant of some values in our temporal calculus.

06:20, 15 February 2012