Epistemology as Engineering?



Abstract: According to a common objection to epistemological naturalism, no empirical, scientific theory of knowledge can be normative in the way epistemological theories need to be. In response, such naturalists as W.V. Quine have claimed naturalized epistemology can be normative by emulating engineering disciplines and addressing the relations of causal efficacy between our cognitive means and ends. This paper evaluates that “engineering reply” and finds it a mixed success. Based on consideration of what it might mean to call a theory “normative,” seven versions of the normativity objection to epistemological naturalism are formulated. The engineering reply alone is sufficient to answer only the four least sophisticated versions. To answer the others, naturalists must draw on more resources than their engineering reply alone provides.