Cognitive islands and runaway echo chambers: problems for epistemic dependence on experts

Synthese 197 (7):2803-2821 (2020)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

I propose to study one problem for epistemic dependence on experts: how to locate experts on what I will call cognitive islands. Cognitive islands are those domains for knowledge in which expertise is required to evaluate other experts. They exist under two conditions: first, that there is no test for expertise available to the inexpert; and second, that the domain is not linked to another domain with such a test. Cognitive islands are the places where we have the fewest resources for evaluating experts, which makes our expert dependences particularly risky. Some have argued that cognitive islands lead to the complete unusability of expert testimony: that anybody who needs expert advice on a cognitive island will be entirely unable to find it. I argue against this radical form of pessimism, but propose a more moderate alternative. I demonstrate that we have some resources for finding experts on cognitive islands, but that cognitive islands leave us vulnerable to an epistemic trap which I will call runaway echo chambers. In a runaway echo chamber, our inexpertise may lead us to pick out bad experts, which will simply reinforce our mistaken beliefs and sensibilities.

Similar books and articles

Kuhn e a racionalidade da escolha científica.Eros Moreira de Carvalho - 2013 - Principia: An International Journal of Epistemology 17 (3):439-458.
Experts, Evidence, and Epistemic Independence.Ben Almassi - 2007 - Spontaneous Generations 1 (1):58-66.
A Problem About Epistemic Dependence.Tim Oakley - 2006 - In Stephen Hetherington (ed.), Aspects of Knowing. Elsevier Science. pp. 17.
What is an Expert?Bruce D. Weinstein - 1993 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 14 (1).

Analytics

Added to PP
2018-01-23

Downloads
2,631 (#1,637)

6 months
191 (#2,521)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

C. Thi Nguyen
University of Utah

Citations of this work

Echo Chambers and Epistemic Bubbles.C. Thi Nguyen - 2020 - Episteme 17 (2):141-161.
The Seductions of Clarity.C. Thi Nguyen - 2021 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 89:227-255.
Moral Outrage Porn.C. Thi Nguyen & Bekka Williams - 2020 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 18 (2):147-72.
Expertise and the Fragmentation of Intellectual Autonomy.C. Thi Nguyen - 2018 - Philosophical Inquiries 6 (2):107-124.

View all 22 citations / Add more citations

References found in this work

Trust and Antitrust.Annette Baier - 1986 - Ethics 96 (2):231-260.
The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement.Thomas Kelly - 2005 - In Tamar Szabó Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Volume 1. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 167-196.
Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?Alvin I. Goldman - 2001 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (1):85-110.
Epistemic Dependence.John Hardwig - 1985 - Journal of Philosophy 82 (7):335-349.

View all 31 references / Add more references