ArticlePublisher preview available

Why can’t what is true be valuable?

Authors:
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

In recent discussions of the so-called “value of truth,” it is assumed that what is valuable in the relevant way is not the things that are true, but only various states and activities associated with those things: knowing them, investigating them, etc. I consider all the arguments I know of for this assumption, and argue that none provide good reason to accept it. By examining these arguments, we gain a better appreciation of what the value of the things that are true would be, and why it would matter. We also encounter three indications that what is true really is valuable, each of which provides a promising starting point for a serious argument with that conclusion.
Synthese (2021) 198:6935–6954
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02499-w
VALUE OF TRUTH
Why can’t what is true be valuable?
Jim Hutchinson1,2
Received: 1 May 2019 / Accepted: 28 November 2019 / Published online: 11 December 2019
© Springer Nature B.V. 2019
Abstract
In recent discussions of the so-called “value of truth,” it is assumed that what is
valuable in the relevant way is not the things that are true, but only various states
and activities associated with those things: knowing them, investigating them, etc. I
consider all the arguments I know of for this assumption, and argue that none provide
good reason to accept it. By examining these arguments, we gain a better appreciation
of what the value of the things that are true would be, and why it would matter. We also
encounter three indications that what is true really is valuable, each of which provides
a promising starting point for a serious argument with that conclusion.
Keywords Truth ·Val u e ·Epistemology ·Normativity
1 The value of truths dismissed
Peter Geach tells us of “a wartime slogan in Poland…we fight for Truth and Poland:
a slogan of which those who upheld logic and other learning at such peril in the
underground Universities showed themselves worthy.”1Truth often appears in slogans
like these alongside the other things that are most important to us: Poland, freedom,
love, art, justice, and so on. Like these other things, Geach observes that “truth is often
found worth living and dying for.”
Let us suppose that these slogans and descriptions are not badly misleading, and
also that those at the underground Universities and others who find truth worth living
and dying for are not making any kind of evaluative mistake. Under these suppositions,
there must be some important value that is somehow closely connected with truth—a
value with which devoted scholars, scientists, teachers, and journalists are somehow
engaged. Moreover, the fact that these people sometimes pursue this value without
1Geach (1979), p. 234.
BJim Hutchinson
jim.hutchinson@alumni.utoronto.ca
1Indiana University, Bloomington, United States of America
2Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, Canada
123
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
What is the source of epistemic normativity? In virtue of what do epistemic norms have categorical normative authority? According to epistemic teleologism, epistemic normativity comes from value. Epistemic norms have categorical authority because conforming to them is necessarily good in some relevant sense. In this article, I argue that epistemic teleologism should be rejected. The problem, I argue, is that there is no relevant sense in which it is always good to believe in accordance with epistemic norms, including in cases where the matter at hand is completely trivial. Therefore, if epistemology is normative, its normativity won't come from value.
Chapter
While buck-passing accounts are widely discussed in the literature, there have been surprisingly few attempts to apply buck-passing analyses to specific normative domains such as aesthetics and epistemology. In particular, there have been very few works which have tried to provide complete and detailed buck-passing analyses of epistemic values and norms. These analyses are, however, both interesting and important. On the one hand, they can bring to the surface the advantages and difficulties of extending the buck-passing account to specific normative spheres, either providing further support for the approach or highlighting substantive difficulties. On the other hand, epistemic buck-passing analyses can be beneficial for normative epistemology, providing new perspectives on traditional epistemological problems, and possibly providing fresh approaches to such problems. This chapter aims at partially filling this gap.
Chapter
§ 1. In the preceding chapter I have left undetermined the emotional characteristics of the impulse that prompts us to obey the dictates of Reason. I have done so because these seem to be very different in different minds, and even to vary much and rapidly in the same mind, without any corresponding variation in the volitional direction of the impulse. For instance, in the mind of a rational Egoist the ruling impulse is generally what Butler and Hutcheson call a “calm” or “cool” self-love: whereas in the man who takes universal happiness as the end and standard of right conduct, the desire to do what is judged to be reasonable as such is commonly blended in varying degrees with sympathy and philanthropic enthusiasm. Again, if one conceives the dictating Reason—whatever its dictates may be—as external to oneself, the cognition of rightness is accompanied by a sentiment of Reverence for Authority; which may by some be conceived impersonally, but is more commonly regarded as the authority of a supreme Person, so that the sentiment blends with the affections normally excited by persons in different relations, and becomes Religious.
Article
Some philosophers hold that so-called "thick" terms and concepts in ethics (such as 'cruel,' 'selfish,' 'courageous,' and 'generous') are contextually variable with respect to the valence (positive or negative) of the evaluations that they may be used to convey. Some of these philosophers use this variability claim to argue that thick terms and concepts are not inherently evaluative in meaning; rather their use conveys evaluations as a broadly pragmatic matter. I argue that one sort of putative examples of contextual variability in evaluative valence that are found in the literature fail to support the variability claim and that another sort of putative examples are open to a wide range of explanations that have different implications for the relationship between thick terms and concepts and evaluation. I conclude that considerations of contextual variability fail to settle whether thick terms and concepts are inherently evaluative in meaning. In closing I suggest a more promising line of research.
Chapter
The Unqualified Value of Knowledge and UnderstandingBad Truth and Pointless TruthBasic Research and Pointless TruthIntellectualist PositionsConclusion
Article
Certain things, like justice, have impersonal value, other things carry personal values: they have value for some person rather than have value, period. The philosophical literature as well as non-philosophical literature is inundated with suggestions about the kinds of thing that are good for us or, if it is a negative personal value, what is bad for us. This is a stimulating and vivid area of philosophical research, but it has tended to monopolize the notion of 'good-for', linking it necessarily to welfare or well-being. Since these more or less well-grounded pieces of advice are seldom accompanied by an analysis of the notion of 'good-for', there is a need for such an analysis. This book aims to remedy this need, by offering a novel way of analyzing the notion of personal value. It defends the idea that we have reason to expand our classical value taxonomy with these personal values. By fine-tuning a pattern of value analysis which has roots in the writings of the Austrian philosopher Franz Brentano, this sort of analysis will come to cover personal values, too. In addition the book makes contributions to a number of issues, including hedonism vs. preferentialism, subjectivism vs. objectivism, value bearer monism vs. value bearer pluralism, and the wrong kind of reason problem - all of which are much debated among today's value theorists.