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17 Williams’s Pragmatic Genealogy and Self-Effacing Functionality

In Truth and Truthfulness, Bernard Williams sought to defend the value of truth by giving a vindicatory genealogy revealing its instrumental value. But what separates Williams’s instrumental vindication from the indirect utilitarianism of which he was a critic? And how can genealogy vindicate anything, let alone something which, as Williams says of the concept of truth, does not have a history? In this paper, I propose to resolve these puzzles by reading Williams as a type of pragmatist and his genealogy as a pragmatic genealogy. On this basis, I show just in what sense Williams’s genealogy can by itself yield reasons to cultivate a sense of the value of truth. Using various criticisms of Williams’s genealogical method as a foil, I then develop an understanding of pragmatic genealogy which reveals it to be uniquely suited to dealing with practices exhibiting what I call self-effacing functionality—practices that are functional only insofar as and because we do not engage in them for their functionality. I conclude with an assessment of the wider significance of Williams’s genealogy for his own oeuvre and for further genealogical inquiry.

Matthieu Queloz vol. 18 2018
31 Reid's Doxastic Theory of Perception

Reid endorsed a doxastic theory of perception, on which beliefs are constituents of perceptual experiences. This theory faces the problem of known illusions: we can perceive that p while believing that not-p. Some scholars argue that the problem of known illusions and other problems entail that Reid’s view cannot be charitably interpreted as a doxastic theory. This paper explores Reid’s theoretical commitments with respect to belief acquisition and uses textual evidence to show that his theory is genuinely doxastic. It then argues that a Reidian response to the problem of known illusions can be formulated by appeal to the thesis that perceptual beliefs are formed noninferentially. Reid can also resist the intuition that we lack illusory beliefs in known-illusion cases given his independent reasons for doubting our capacity to identify perceptual beliefs by introspection. The paper then surveys other problems raised in the secondary literature and argues that none decisively undermine the doxastic interpretation of Reid.

Jake Quilty-Dunn vol. 19 2019