Broad and narrow epistemic standing: its relevance to the epistemology of disagreement

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Epistemologists who have studied disagreement have started to devote attention to the notion of epistemic standing. One feature of epistemic standing they have not drawn attention to is a distinction between what I call “broad” and “narrow” epistemic standing. Someone who is, say, your broad epistemic peer with respect to some topic is someone who is generally as familiar with and good at handling the evidence as you are. But someone who is your narrow epistemic peer with respect to that topic is someone who is familiar with the evidence and as good at handling it as you are on that particular occasion. Thus, it’s possible for you to be my broad peer while also being my narrow inferior or superior. Attending to this distinction elicits different intuitions about some of the well-known cases in the epistemology of disagreement. Focusing on broad epistemic standing, which epistemologists have done, tends to yield conciliationist responses. But focusing on narrow epistemic standing, which epistemologists have not done, yields steadfast responses. The reason for this difference has to do with how we figure out someone’s broad or narrow epistemic standing: to determine her broad epistemic standing, you need to look at her epistemic traits and her familiarity with the evidence rather than to examine the evidence she gives. But to determine her narrow epistemic standing, you have to focus on her disclosed evidence rather than her epistemic traits or familiarity with the evidence.



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Robert Gressis
California State University, Northridge

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Epistemology of disagreement: The good news.David Christensen - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (2):187-217.
The skeptic and the dogmatist.James Pryor - 2000 - Noûs 34 (4):517–549.
Reflection and disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
Skepticism and the Veil of Perception.Michael Huemer (ed.) - 2001 - Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Peer disagreement and higher order evidence.Thomas Kelly - 2010 - In Alvin I. Goldman & Dennis Whitcomb (eds.), Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Oxford University Press. pp. 183--217.

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