Coverage-Reliability, Epistemic Dependence, and the Problem of Rumor-Based Belief

Philosophia 41 (3):763-786 (2013)
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Abstract

Rumors, for better or worse, are an important element of public discourse. The present paper focuses on rumors as an epistemic phenomenon rather than as a social or political problem. In particular, it investigates the relation between the mode of transmission and the reliability, if any, of rumors as a source of knowledge. It does so by comparing rumor with two forms of epistemic dependence that have recently received attention in the philosophical literature: our dependence on the testimony of others, and our dependence on what has been called the ‘coverage-reliability’ of our social environment (Goldberg 2010). According to the latter, an environment is ‘coverage-reliable’ if, across a wide range of beliefs and given certain conditions, it supports the following conditional: If ~p were true I would have heard about it by now. However, in information-deprived social environments with little coverage-reliability, rumors may transmit information that could not otherwise be had. This suggests that a trade-off exists between levels of trust in the coverage-reliability of official sources and (warranted) trust in rumor as a source of information.

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Axel Gelfert
Technische Universität Berlin

References found in this work

The Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1797/1996 - New York: Cambridge University Press.
Individualism and psychology.Tyler Burge - 1986 - Philosophical Review 95 (January):3-45.
Experts: Which ones should you trust?Alvin I. Goldman - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (1):85-110.
The division of cognitive labor.Philip Kitcher - 1990 - Journal of Philosophy 87 (1):5-22.

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