Episteme

Research Article

A Simulation Approach to Veritistic Social Epistemology

Erik J. Olsson

Abstract

In a seminal book, Alvin I. Goldman outlines a theory for how to evaluate social practices with respect to their “veritistic value”, i.e., their tendency to promote the acquisition of true beliefs (and impede the acquisition of false beliefs) in society. In the same work, Goldman raises a number of serious worries for his account. Two of them concern the possibility of determining the veritistic value of a practice in a concrete case because (1) we often don't know what beliefs are actually true, and (2) even if we did, the task of determining the veritistic value would be computationally extremely difficult. Neither problem is specific to Goldman's theory and both can be expected to arise for just about any account of veritistic value. It is argued here that the first problem does not pose a serious threat to large classes of interesting practices. The bulk of the paper is devoted to the computational problem, which, it is submitted, can be addressed in promising terms by means of computer simulation. In an attempt to add vividness to this proposal, an up-and-running simulation environment (Laputa) is presented and put to some preliminary tests.

Erik J. Olsson is professor of theoretical philosophy at Lund University, Sweden. He has published extensively on epistemology and philosophical logic, and he is the author of Against Coherence: Truth, Probability, and Justification, which appeared with Oxford University Press in 2005.