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Frontiers of Philosophy in China

ISSN 1673-3436

ISSN 1673-355X(Online)

CN 11-5743/B

Postal Subscription Code 80-983

Front Phil Chin    2012, Vol. 7 Issue (1) : 142-153     DOI: 10.3868/s030-001-012-0008-7
research-article |
Why We Care Whether Our Beliefs Are True: An Answer to Stephen Stich?
CHEN Zhen()
Department of Philosophy, Nanjing Normal University, Nanjing 210046, China
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Do we really care whether our beliefs are true? Stephen Stich gives us a very surprising but challenging answer: Once we find out what it means for a belief to be true, the answer to the above question is “a consistently negative” one. He argues that there is neither intrinsic nor instrumental value in having true beliefs. However, his argument is based on some very dubious reasons. For instance, one of his reasons is that if we value true beliefs intrinsically, we will leave out a huge space of mental states that have no truth values but would vastly increase their user’s power or happiness or biological fitness. But this is false because we can value different things intrinsically at the same time. He is even less successful in arguing against instrumental value in having true beliefs. He admits that he does not establish a knockdown argument against the value of having true beliefs, but he insists that the burden of argument be surely on those who maintain that there is value in having true beliefs. To meet his challenge, we have shown that there is cognitive intrinsic value in holding true beliefs and that generally, true beliefs are more conducive to our survival than false beliefs. If we completely depend on our false beliefs to achieve our goals, we will act like a blind cat who can only catch a mouse by chance.

Keywords truth      true belief      intrinsic value      instrumental value      pragmatism     
Corresponding Authors: CHEN Zhen,   
Issue Date: 05 March 2012
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