The Cognitive Basis of the Conditional Probability Solution to the Value Problem for Reliabilism

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The value problem for knowledge is the problem of explaining why knowledge is more valuable than mere true belief. The problem arises for reliabilism in particular, i.e., the externalist view that knowledge amounts to reliably acquired true belief. Goldman and Olsson argue that knowledge, in this sense, is more valuable than mere true belief due to the higher likelihood of future true beliefs (produced by the same reliable process) in the case of knowledge. They maintain that their solution works given four empirical assumptions, which they claim hold “normally.” However, they do not show that their assumptions are externalistically acceptable; nor do they provide detailed evidence for their normality claim. We address these remaining gaps in Goldman and Olsson’s solution in a constructive spirit. In particular, we suggest an externalist interpretation of the assumptions such that they essentially spell out what it means for a broad range of organisms capable of belief-like representations to be epistemically adapted to their environment. Our investigation also sheds light on the circumstances in which the assumptions fail to hold and knowledge therefore fails to have extra value in Goldman and Olsson’s sense. The upshot is a deeper understanding of their solution as a contribution to naturalized epistemology and a strengthened case for its empirical validity.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages22
JournalActa Analytica
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy
  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)


  • Value problem
  • Conditional probability solution
  • Reliabilism
  • Naturalized epistemology
  • Cognitive science


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