The Regulative and the Theoretical in Epistemology

  • Robert Lockie
Schlagworte: Regulative-Theoretical, Epistemology, Justification, Knowledge


The distinction between the regulative (‘practical’, ‘subjective’, ‘decision-procedural’) and the theoretical (‘objective’, ‘absolute’) pertains to the aims (the desiderata) of an account of justification. This distinction began in ethics and spread to epistemology.  Each of internalism, externalism, is separately forced to draw this distinction to avoid a stock, otherwise fatal, argument levelled against them by the other. Given this situation however, we may finesse much partisan conflict in epistemology by simply seeing differing accounts of justification as answering to radically distinct desiderata of adequacy. We should see knowledge as answering to the theoretical desideratum of adequacy alone; and rationality as answering to the regulative desideratum of adequacy alone. Objections to this ‘Gordian’ [knot] approach to epistemology (from virtues theorists and others) are rejected. Such an approach may make for accounts that violate our ordinary language intuitions; but in developing an epistemological axiology, any such intuitions are not to the point.