Elizabeth Fricker of Notre Dame University and Oxford University speaks on "Epistemic and Practical Dependence and the Value of Skills" on Friday, March 29 at 3:30pm in 115 Peabody Hall as part of the Scott & Heather Kleiner Lecture Series presented by the UGA Department of Philosophy.
In the modern world there is extensive division of intellectual and practical labour. Skills are distributed differentially in the population, due to variations in native talent and in specialized training and education. For many of one's practical and epistemic objectives, one relies on the skills of others that oneself lacks. This division of epistemic and practical labour is of huge benefit in modern society One's life would be almost unimaginably impoverished without it. But what are its downsides? One obvious one is the risks that come with the dependence on others one thereby incurs. But risks apart, does one miss out on something by failing to acquire and exercise a skill, instead relying on others to exercise it on one's behalf? In this paper I examine this question: is there something non-instrumentally valuable about acquiring and exercising a skill?
My conclusions are: first, that this is not true for all skills; some skills are merely necessary drudgery to achieve a needed end - such as doing laundry or ironing. Second, that for some skills, one misses out on something of value, by failing to acquire and exercise them - the pleasure of reading Russian poetry, for instance, by failing to learn Russian. Third, I suggest that each one of us has reason to ensure that she is not skill-less; and lastly I conjecture that there is a core set of skills, implicated in one's ability to be in control of one's own life, such that each one of us has non-instrumental reason to acquire and exercise these