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Thursday, 30 June 2016

The diaspora of epistemic properties

Been thinking in terms of the spread of epistemic properties in the world. Monadologies, typically, assume that all monads, unities of agency, are capable to perceive and often to know. The presence of such properties - that could be less than full-blown knowledge but still epistemically loaded - is a feature of the world. A metaphysics of epistemology, if we can call it this way. So, the issue is whether thermometers, sunflowers, red billiard balls or ticks genuinely know or genuinely have some epistemic properties.

The issue, as I see it, has to be dealt in connection with that of where to find doxastic properties and aletic properties. Epistemic properties are, I claim, independent of doxastic properties. I don´t find very relevant (or very interesting) to claim that thermometers cannot know anything because they don´t have beliefs. Beliefs are good support for epistemic properties, but they are not necessary. There could be non-dosxastic supports, I suppose - if epistemic properties cannot be present if there are no beliefs, we miss the point of the discussion of whether sunflowers genuinely enjoy epistemic properties. On the other hand, epistemic properties require aletic properties - as knowledge requires truth. But epistemic properties are not only aletic properties. To claim that a sunflower knows where the sun is is to say that it has more than a correct opinion about it - epistemic properties are to be more invaluable than mere truth. The issue concerning the size of the diaspora of epistemic properties is not about the diaspora of truth-detectors. There are truth-detectors everywhere as I take to be trivial that sunflowers often detect truths. Aletic properties are very spread. But truth-detectors could be prey of epistemic luck.

Now, another issue concerning epistemic properties, is that their dispersion in the world could be associated to what I could call "counter-epistemic properties". These have to do not with what X can capture (know, perceive, remember) but with what X shows (displays, makes available, presents to perception or knowledge). I think of this issue in terms of considering a knower as a voyeur, but in the more general case, a voyeur who sees something that can decide what is to be shown (and when, and for how long). The knower is a voyeur like a client in a peep-show. If it is so, what one shows - as opposed to what one is - is a different, counter-epistemic property. And here again, a distinction similar to that between epistemic and aletic properties can be drawn. To show something by chance is to be prey of some sort of luck that we can call counter-epistemic luck. For instance, it is arguable that a mouse that briefly venture into open space in her way somewhere else shows herself for by chance. She can be viewed, but it is different than what the bird-watchers look for when they go with their binoculars to see the early fauna: those birds systematically show themselves up at these time. To see the mice is to detect some truths, but what is shown is not part of a counter-epistemic property, it is maybe a mere case of counter-aletic property. To show, as much as to know, requires something like what fixes the Dedalus statues to the floor.

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