The Troubles with Standard Analytic Epistemology

The nonsocial components of our approach to epistemology have a particular structure. Epistemology begins with a descriptive core, which naturally yields various epistemic prescriptions; these prescriptions are supported by the Aristotelian Principle (good reasoning tends to lead to good outcomes) and are guided by some general normative assumptions. On our view, the descriptive core of epistemology consists of the empirical findings of Ameliorative Psychology. An example of an episte-mic prescription that flows naturally from Ameliorative Psychology would be, ''Use Goldberg's Rule to make preliminary diagnoses of psychiatric patients.'' And we have argued that Strategic Reliabilism articulates the general assumptions that guide the prescriptions of Ameliorative Psychology. But there is a different way to do epistemology. For much of the past century, epistemology in the English-speaking world has employed the tools of analytic philosophy. Contemporary theories of Standard Analytic Epistemology include versions of foundationalism (Chisholm 1981, Pollock 1974), coherentism (BonJour 1985, Lehrer 1974), reliabilism (Dretske 1981, Goldman 1986), and contextualism (DeRose 1995, Lewis 1996).

While proponents of SAE don't agree about how to define naturalistic epistemology, most agree it can't work. What makes our approach naturalistic is that it begins with a descriptive core and works out from there. (We take this to be sufficient for an approach to be naturalistic; we don't know whether it is also necessary.) The standard objection to this version of naturalism is that epistemology is essentially prescriptive, and a descriptive theory cannot yield normative, evaluative prescriptions. Our aims in this chapter are three. First, we will argue that the theories of SAE are structurally analogous to our own naturalistic approach. They have at their core a descriptive theory, and from that descriptive theory, proponents of SAE draw normative, epistemological prescriptions. Second, we will argue that the prospects for the theories of SAE overcoming the is-ought gap are not good. And finally, we will argue directly for the superiority of Strategic Reliabilism over any extant theory of Standard Analytic Epistemology.

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