3

In 1967 Richard Rorty edited/published what I consider to be one of the finest philosophical anthologies of the Twentieth Century. The Linguistic Turn: Essays in Philosophical Method, formally introduced what he considered to be a revolutionary methodology that had taken hold in Philosophy over the previous half century, since the publication of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. A sea change. Simply put, Rorty took the new lingusitic philosophy to be the view that philosophical problems are such that “they may be solved (or dissolved) either by reforming language, or by understanding more about the language we currently use.”

This was followed and is in many ways associated with [both Post-Positivism and] what came to be known as the pragmatic turn in philosophy. That is, a renewed appreciation for the ideas of the original Pragmatists (Pierce, James, Dewey and Mead), the rejection of essentialism, and of Cartesianism: the quest for certainty, self evident truth and the “spectator” theory of knowledge, qua Descartes’ “theater of the mind.” All in favor of a more practical approach to knowledge, which acknowledges its corrigibility and fallibility, as well as its relation to action/conduct (a belief is but a habit of action). The later proponents of this movement came to be known as the New Pragmatists -- as distinguished from Rorty's Neo-Pragmatism. (See: Cheryl Misak's new pragmatists, Richard Bernstein's The Pragmatic Turn, and William Edgginton/Mike Sandbothe's The Pragmatic Turn: Contemporary Engagements between Analytic and Continental Thought.)

These would seem to constitute the most significant recent developments in anglophone analytic philosophy.

I recently came across Veli Mitova’s (she was unknown to me) anthology, The Factive Turn in Epistemology, published in 2018. However, even after online perusal of the books 14 page introduction (here: https://www.academia.edu/34096159/THE_FACTIVE_TURN_IN_EPISTEMOLOGY), and this review (https://ndpr.nd.edu/news/the-factive-turn-in-epistemology/), I remain mostly in the dark as to this "turn's" novel claims makes about truth and knowledge.

For instance, the intro begins:

“When you believe something for a good reason, your belief is in a position to enjoy all the cardinal epistemic blessings: it can be rational, justified, warranted, responsible, constitute knowledge, you name it. But what sorts of things out there confer these enviable epistemic statuses on your beliefs? Facts? Propositions? Your psychological perspective? Something else altogether? What kind of ontological beast, in other words, is a good reason for belief.”

And other’s have written:

“Traditionally, epistemologists thought of epistemic normative notions, such as reasons, in terms of the believer's psychological perspective. Recently, however, many have started thinking of them as factive: good reasons for belief are either facts, veridical experiences, or known propositions. This ground breaking volume reflects major recent developments in thinking about this 'factive turn,’ and advances the lively debate around it in relation to core epistemological themes including perception, evidence, justification, knowledge, scepticism, rationality, and action. With clear and comprehensive chapters written by leading figures in the field, this book will be essential for students and scholars looking to engage with the state of the art in epistemology…”

I get that genuine “knowledge” is taken to be to be factive, that is, S knows that p only if p [is true]. That the “knowledge” relation can obtain only between persons and “true” propositions. But, after the 20th Century’ deflationary and contentious stance re [the accessibility of] “truth,” what, aside from conventional or tautological propositions, can be “known” to be “true” in the required sense for proponents of the factive turn. Does the movement represent a kind of reaction to above described philosophical movements and their deflation of the notion of Truth?” Is it simply another term to describe the currently trending “hinge” epistemology, which takes Wittgenstein’s On Certainty as its starting point? [And, as an aside, what exactly is the focus of that movement, aside from possibly [dis]solving radical universal skepticism?]

What exactly are the novel salient ideas of this Factive Turn in epistemology?

  • 1
    This is exactly the question that Whiting asks in his review of Mitova's volume that you linked. And his conclusions are:"Insofar as knowledge is a central focus of epistemology (by definition no less!) one might be surprised by the suggestion that a concern with factivity is a recent development in the field... I am suspicious of the suggestion that there really is a unified or distinctive movement or development in recent epistemology that deserves to be called a 'factive turn'...". To put it more bluntly, it is just a new buzzword. – Conifold Oct 16 at 19:58
  • @Conifold First, a "buzzword," jargon, for what? What do the adherents claim to be the salience of what they are up to. What is their project? Is it really epistemology, or is it more like semantics that they are on about? – gonzo Oct 16 at 23:54
  • @Conifold, please say a word or two about its ostensible relationship to what has come to be known as hinge epistemology. I noticed that one of the contributors, Duncan Pritchard, has also written a couple of papers in that area. For instance his response to Annalisa Oliva's Moore and Wittgenstein; Skepticism, Certainty and Common Sense: Wittgenstein Anti-Skepticism and Epistemic Vertigo. And is this project a kind of 21st C version of what Stanley Cavell was up to,particularly in The Claim or Reason, but also in Must We Mean What we Say? That is: you gotta justify your skepticism. – gonzo Oct 17 at 0:01
  • @ Philosopher of science Surprised you have not chimed in here. Provided a substantial answer to my query, which was directed to to you. – gonzo Oct 17 at 2:33
  • Wittgenstein took his hinge propositions from Moore's direct realism, and On Certainty has been discussed for decades now. The rest of factivism seems to be an outgrowth of the JTB+ formal epistemology that responded to Gettier cases since 1960s. And, as Whiting complains, factivists do not even agree what counts as "good reason" for knowledge claims, or whether factivity is necessary for justification, or what facts are vs evidence. It is hard to see where the "turn" is or what it is supposed to be. – Conifold Oct 17 at 20:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.