ABSTRACT: In “Belief in the Face of Controversy,” Hilary Kornblith argues for a radical form of epistemic modesty: given that there has been no demonstrable cumulative progress in the history of philosophy – as there has been in formal logic, math, and science – Kornblith concludes that philosophers do not have the epistemic credibility to be trusted as authorities on the questions they attempt to answer. After reconstructing Kornblith’s position, I will suggest that it requires us to adopt a different conception of philosophy’s epistemic value. First, I will argue that ‘progress’ has a different meaning in logic, science and philosophy, and that to judge one of these disciplines by the standards appropriate to one of the others obscures the unique epistemic functions of all. Second, I will argue that philosophy is epistemically unique in that it is a non-relativistic but historically determined excavation of foundations. Finally, drawing on Frank Herbert’s Dune, I will suggest that Kornblith leaves us with a choice between two epistemic ideals: the hyper-logical ‘Mentat,’ or the historically informed ‘pre-born.’

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