Epistemic Utility Theory: Foundations and Applications

Research project key facts
Project title Epistemic Utility Theory: Foundations and Applications
School Arts
Department Philosophy
Dates January 2013 – December 2016
Funder ERC Starting Researcher Grant
Contact Richard Pettigrew

More about this project

This project aims to apply the powerful tools of decision theory to provide novel arguments for the epistemic norms that we take to govern what it is rational to believe; and to discover new epistemic norms. We treat the possible epistemic states of an agent as if they were epistemic actions between which that agent must choose. And we consider how we should measure the purely epistemic utility of being in such a state. We then apply the general apparatus of decision theory to determine which epistemic states are rational in a given situation from a purely epistemic point of view; and how our epistemic states should evolve over time. This allows us, often for the first time, to give formal justifications of epistemic norms without appealing to pragmatic considerations that seem intuitively irrelevant to the norms in question. These formal arguments have the great advantage that their assumptions are made mathematically precise and their conclusions are deduced from their assumptions by means of a mathematical theorem. We call their study epistemic utility theory.

The project divides into two parts, each with two subparts: in the first part, we aim to provide secure foundations for epistemic utility theory; in the second, we aim to apply the approach to give the promised justifications of epistemic norms.

People involved in this project

Principal investigator: