, Volume 65, Issue 2, pp 165–183 | Cite as


  • Erik J. Olsson
  • David Westlund


The standard way of representing an epistemic state in formal philosophy is in terms of a set of sentences, corresponding to the agent’s beliefs, and an ordering of those sentences, reflecting how well entrenched they are in the agent’s epistemic state. We argue that this wide-spread representational view – a view that we identify as a “Quinean dogma” – is incapable of making certain crucial distinctions. We propose, as a remedy, that any adequate representation of epistemic states must also include the agent’s research agenda, i.e., the list of question that are open or closed at any given point in time. If the argument of the paper is sound, a person’s questions and practical interests, on the one hand, and her beliefs and theoretical values, on the other, are more tightly interwoven than has previously been assumed to be the case in formal epistemology.


Epistemic State Belief Revision Belief State Belief Change Auxiliary Hypothesis 
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We would like to thank Bengt Hansson and the participants of his weakly research seminar in philosophy of science for their lively discussions and helpful advice on earlier drafts. Thanks to Sven Ove Hansson who commented on an earlier version. We are much obliged to Ulrich Gähde and the members of his research group in Hamburg for their input and, finally, to two anonymous referees for their many suggestions for how the paper could be improved.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyLund UniversityLundSweden

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