120 Chapter 5

is not that they share some common natural property but simply that they are found to be acceptable by commonsense intuitions.

Now let us reflect on just where these intuitions themselves come from. Why do we have these particular intuitions rather than those that would sanction REFERENCE*, REFERENCE**, or one of the others? The short answer, of course, is that no one knows in any detail just how these intuitions arise. But it's a good bet that, like other complex systems of intuitions such as those concerning grammaticality or morality or politeness, the intuitions in question are themselves culturally transmitted and acquired by individuals from the surrounding society with little or no explicit instruction. Another possibility, though I am inclined to think it is vastly less likely, is that the intuitions are innate and coded in our genes. And, of course, it is entirely possible that both genetic and cultural factors are involved. Whatever the explanation, it is clear that our intuitions do not result from a systematic and critical assessment of the many alternative interpretation functions and the various virtues that each may have. One way or another, we have simply inherited our intuitions; we have not made a reflective choice to have them. Those who find intrinsic value in holding true beliefs (rather than TRUE* ones, or TRUE** ones, ... ) are accepting unreflectively the interpretation function that our culture (or our biology) has bequeathed to us and letting that function determine their basic epistemic value. In so doing, they are making a profoundly conservative choice; they are letting tradition determine their cognitive values without any attempt at critical evaluation of that tradition.

Now of course nothing that I have said comes even close to a knockdown argument against according intrinsic value to having true beliefs. Indeed, traditionalists who are inclined toward extreme conservatism in matters epistemic might well find their attachment to truth reinforced by the realization that it is so very conservative a value. However, there are many people, and I am among them, who are not much inclined to value what is traditional and familiar for its own sake in matters epistemic. And for them the fact that true beliefs must be within the domain of the interpretation function, the fact that the domain of the interpretation function is limited to systems of cognitive storage similar to our own, and the realization that the function is an idiosyncratic hodgepodge bequeathed to us by our cultural and/or biological heritage may well be reason enough to decide that they do not really value true beliefs intrinsically. For those whos reflective epistemic values run along these lines, true beliefs may stilt turn out to be valuable, but their value will be instrumental. They will

Do We Really Care Whether Our Beliefs Are True 121

have to be good for something. So let us now ask how strong a case can be made for the instrumental value of true beliefs.

To explore the instrumental value of true beliefs is to ask whether having true beliefs will lead to something else that is valued, where the something else may itself be valued either instrumentally or intrinsically. Since people probably value many things intrinsically, and surely value many things instrumentally, I'll make no attempt to argue that having true beliefs could not be instrumentally valuable. For to demonstrate this would require showing that true beliefs don't facilitate anything that people might sensibly value. I have no idea how one might argue for so sweeping a conclusion, and my goal is much more modest. It is widely believed that the instrumental value of true belief is obvious-that having true beliefs is clearly good for lots of things. However, it is my contention that this doctrine is anything but obvious. It requires some serious argument of a sort that, so far as I know, no one has even begun to provide. In support of this contention I'll make three points, the first aimed at clarifying what is at issue, the second aimed at short-circuiting one argument that seems to tempt a fair number of people, and the third sketching a general difficulty that any argument for the instrumental value of truth must overcome.

It might be thought that to ask whether truth is instrumentally valuable is to ask whether having true beliefs would increase the likelihood of some other valued goal being attained. But posing the question in this way is seriously misleading, for it does not specify what the instrumental value of true beliefs is to be compared with. In the absence of such a specification, it would be easy to suppose that the relevant comparison was between true beliefs and false ones and that our question was whether having true beliefs is more instrumentally valuable than having false beliefs. But showing that the answer to this question is 'yes', though hardly trivial, is not nearly enough. What really needs to be shown is not just that true beliefs are more conducive to some independently desirable goal than false beliefs but also that true beliefs serve us better than TRUE* ones or TRUE** ones, or any of the other categories of belief picked out by interpretation functions that don't happen to be favored by intuition and tradition. For surely if TRUE* beliefs are more conducive to the goal in question than true ones, then, other things being equal, it is the TRUE* ones rather than the true ones that we really want to have. Moreover, it will not always be the case that TRUE** ... * beliefs which aren't true will be false. For some of the mental states to which TRUTH** ... * CONDITIONS are assigned may have no truth conditions at all. So there will be TRUE*...* beliefs that are neither true nor false. Thus showing that true beliefs are better at achieving some goal than false one does not come close to establishing that true beliefs are more insstrumentally valuable in pursuit of that goal than TRUE*. . .* ones.