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Traditional
Epistemologists often criticize naturalized epistemology for its lack of
normative force. However, Analytic Epistemology is vulnerable to these charges
to an even greater extent. Traditional Epistemologists have the goal of
discovering analytic truths of justification. But the failure of analyticity to
ground normativity is fully general. Quine proposes that each individual’s
understanding of justification is a representation of that individual’s best
attempt at understanding based on all the data presented to the individual at a
certain time. Naturalized epistemology assigns no special status to intuitions
about the criteria for justification. Naturalized epistemologists ask the
question “What kinds of reasoning or evidence are conducive to true beliefs?”
rather than asking “What do we mean by justification?”

Kim
denies that the details of psychology are relevant to justification. Yet, even
traditional epistemologists are forced to endorse even a minimal commitment to
psychology. Whatever logical property that a person’s beliefs consist in, it is
possible that a person’s beliefs could stand in that relationship without that
person having knowledge. If a person believes p ? q, p, and q, he doesn’t know
q unless he came to believe q because he believed in p ? q and p. If he happens
to believe q because of a lucky guess, he still doesn’t know it, even though
his beliefs stand in the correct logical relation. It is a psychological
question of whether the individual realizes the implication of their beliefs
and concludes q, or whether the individual came to the belief of q for another
(perhaps bad) reason.

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Strong
psychologists will press this point even further. They note that how much
weight we ought to give to different types of evidence depends in part on what
mechanisms are involved. Many long-running debates in epistemology concern the
status of our knowledge of specific domains like memory, testimony, and the
mental states of others. Empirical data about how human memories work bears on
the epistemic status of memory. It may make a normative difference whether
remembering is more akin to replaying a videotape or assembling a jigsaw
puzzle. Of course, whatever we learn about memory will bear on the status of
other epistemic domains that involve memory. It is an empirical question to
what extent our knowledge of the past or our self-knowledge depends on memory.

The
debate over innate ideas is naturalized epistemology in action. The controversy
spans philosophy and science. An example of this is human infants and grammar.
Some philosophers (as well as linguists) claim that human children are born
with innate knowledge of grammar because they are not exposed to enough
evidence to learn the grammar of their native tongue from scratch. This
hypothesis is supported by observations of children and their environments.
Some argue that the observed input is insufficient to explain output. These
individuals therefore conclude that infants are born with some innate grammar
knowledge. Others argue that there must be some mechanism that is not yet
understood which would account for empirical language learning.

Note
that scientists are appealing to concepts that are known to be traditionally
“philosophical” in nature such as evidence and justification. Philosophers are
relying on empirical evidence about the acquisition of a language. Everyone is
appealing to more general methodological and conceptual ideas like explanatory
power, inference to the best explanation, and so on. A traditional
epistemologist may dismiss the linguist’s ideas on innate knowledge for purely
conceptual reason. For example, the traditional epistemologist may claim to
know a priori that no individual can
be born with knowledge because no individual is born with justification. In
contrast, a naturalized epistemologist is not bound by the traditional epistemologist’s
pre-theoretical intuitions.

Scientists
and philosophers are negotiating the best methods to describe our cognitive
development as humans. Both agree that the mind has some innate structure. If
further evidence suggests that we as humans are born with a certain set of
capacities, what are our ground for applying, or even withholding, the term
“knowledge?” Quine argues that there is no difference in principle between
modifying the language we use to describe a phenomenon and modifying our claims
with regards to the phenomenon itself.  

Quine
argues that epistemology should be naturalized as an applied science like engineering.
On this view, the primary task of naturalized epistemology is to generate recommendations
for accomplishing our epistemic goals. If we wish to understand knowledge, we
have no choice but to study knowledge as a natural phenomenon.

Naturalized
epistemology issues hypothetical imperatives. These are statements about the
best means to cognitive ends. If you want true beliefs, these are the
guidelines you ought to follow. Scientific methodology issues advice of the
same kind. If you want to find out how many calories are in a tomato,
scientists advise you to incinerate the tomato in a calorimeter and measure the
heat that is emitted. You must select the right calorimeter, making sure that
it has been well calibrated. For further guidance, consult relevant literature;
preferably peer reviewed journals.

I
have argued that Quine’s Naturalized Epistemology is normative because it
possesses the goal of describing the best means to our cognitive ends. Quine
naturalized epistemology by rejecting a
priori knowledge and embracing psychology. Quine states that “Epistemology
in its new setting, conversely, is contained in natural science, as a chapter
of psychology  (…) There is thus
reciprocal containment, though containment in different senses: epistemology in
natural science and natural science in epistemology.” (Quine, 297) Quine cannot
be advocating the replacement of one approach with the other if he believes the
two are the same. The accusation that Quine wishes to replace a normative
epistemology with a purely descriptive psychology is without grounds.

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