This paper attempts to answer two questions: What is epistemicagency? And what are the motivations for having this concept? In response to the first question, it is argued that epistemicagency is the agency one has over one’s belief-forming practices, or doxastic dispositions, which can directly affect the way one forms a belief and indirectly affect the beliefs one forms. In response to the second question, it is suggested that the above conception of (...) class='Hi'>epistemicagency is either implicitly endorsed by those theorists sympathetic to epistemic normativity or, at minimum, this conception can make sense of the legitimacy of the normative notions applicable to how and what one should believe. It is further contended that belief formation in some respects is a skill that can be intentionally developed and refined. Accepting this contention and the existence of certain epistemic norms provide inconclusive yet good reasons to endorse this concept. Recent challenges to this concept by Hillary Kornblith and Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij are also considered. (shrink)
This paper argues that group attitudes can be assessed in terms of standards of rationality and that group-level rationality need not be due to individual-level rationality. But it also argues that groups cannot be collective epistemic agents and are not collectively responsible for collective irrationality. I show that we do not need the concept of collective epistemicagency to explain how group-level irrationality can arise. Group-level irrationality arises because even rational individuals can fail to reason about how (...) their attitudes will combine with those of others. In some cases they are morally responsible for this failure, in others they are not. Moreover, the argument for collective epistemicagency is incoherent because reasons-for-groups are ipso facto reasons-for-individual. Instead of talking about reasons-for-groups, we should therefore distinguish between self-regarding reasons and group-regarding reasons. Both kinds of reasons are reasons-for-individuals. These conceptual considerations in favour of moderate individualism are strengthened by an analysis of our moral practice of responding to collective shortfalls of rationality and by the unpalatable moral implications of collectivism about epistemicagency. There is no need to change the subject. Groups can be rational or irrational, but they do not reason. (shrink)
Stereotype threat is a psychological phenomenon that occurs when individuals become aware that their behavior could potentially confirm a negative stereotype. Though stereotype threat is a widely studied phenomenon in social psychology, there has been relatively little scholarship on it in philosophy, despite its relevance to issues such as implicit cognition, epistemic injustice, and diversity in philosophy. However, most psychological research on stereotype threat discusses the phenomenon by using an overly narrow picture of it, which focuses on one of (...) its effects: the ability to hinder performance. As a result, almost all philosophical work on stereotype threat is solely focused on issues of performance too. -/- Social psychologists know that stereotype threat has additional effects, such as negatively impacting individuals’ motivation, interests, long-term health, and even their sense of self, but these other effects are often downplayed, or even forgotten about. Therefore, the “standard picture” of stereotype threat needs to be expanded, in order to better understand the theoretical aspects of the phenomenon, and to develop broader, more effective interventions. This dissertation develops such an “expanded picture” of stereotype threat, which emphasizes how the phenomenon can negatively impact both self-identity and epistemicagency. In doing so, I explore the nature of stereotypes more generally and argue that they undermine groups’ moral status and contribute to what is called “ontic injustice.” I also show how stereotype threat harms members of socially subordinated groups by way of coercing their self-identity and undermining their epistemicagency, which I argue is a form of epistemic injustice. Lastly, I analyze the expanded picture’s implications for addressing the low proportion of women in professional philosophy. I critically engage recent arguments that these low numbers simply reflect different interests women have, which if innate or benign, would require no intervention. My expanded picture shows the mistakes in this sort of reasoning, which is also present in discussions on the underrepresentation of women in science. The expanded picture of stereotype threat that this dissertation develops is not only practically important, but also advances key philosophical debates in social epistemology, applied ethics, and social metaphysics. (shrink)
Argues for a deflationary account of epistemicagency. We believe things for reasons and our beliefs change over time, but there is no further sense in which we are active in judgement, inference, or belief.
This article discusses the arguments against associating epistemic responsibility with the ordinary notion of agency. I examine the various 'Kantian' views which lead to a distinctive conception of epistemicagency and epistemic responsibility. I try to explain why we can be held responsible for our beliefs in the sense of obeying norms which regulate them without being epistemic agents.
Over the years, the notion of epistemicagency has played a larger and larger role in Ernest Sosa’s epistemology. In his most recent work, epistemicagency plays an absolutely central role in explaining why it is that our beliefs are subject to normative evaluation. This chapter argues that there are problems with the accounts of epistemicagency which Sosa gives at every stage of his work. More than this, there are other resources within Sosa’s (...) epistemology which can do all the work he calls on epistemicagency to perform. As a result, the problematic appeal to epistemicagency may be deleted without any deleterious effects. (shrink)
There is a tendency, a bad tendency, to make epistemicagency the central focus of epistemology. In brief, epistemologists have traditionally elevated epistemicagency as the crucial issue to be addressed, and ask all other epistemological questions in light of that issue. This is not surprising given the Cartesian influence on epistemology, but I argue that epistemicagency should not always be the central focus of epistemology. There are times when giving central place to (...)epistemicagency gets in the way of good epistemology. In this paper, I show how one approach to a communitarian epistemology falters precisely because of the primacy given to epistemicagency. Specifically, I take a close look at Lynn Hankinson Nelson?s notion of epistemological communities in terms of epistemicagency and analyze both its merits and its shortcomings. This is an important analysis for general consideration given the trend in non-traditional epistemologies to look towards social complexes as the real seats of knowledge. But this is also important because my analysis pushes one to consider an alternative framing concept for epistemology?that of epistemic practises instead of epistemicagency. (shrink)
What is the best model of epistemicagency for virtue epistemology? Insofar as the intellectual and moral virtues are similar, it is desirable to develop models of agency that are similar across the two realms. Unlike Aristotle, the Stoics present a model of the virtues on which the moral and intellectual virtues are unified. The Stoics’ materialism and determinism also help to explain how we can be responsible for our beliefs even when we cannot believe otherwise. In (...) this paper I show how a neo-Stoic model of epistemicagency can address common objections to treating epistemic and moral agency similarly and allow a robust explanatory role for character in determining our actions and beliefs. The picture of epistemic responsibility that flows from this model also explains why we often deserve credit for our knowledge, while demonstrating that the truth of our beliefs is not something for which we are epistemically responsible. (shrink)
In a couple of recent papers Deborah Tollefsen has argued that groups should be viewed as having some of the intentional and epistemic properties as do individuals. In “Organizations as True Believers” she argues that corporations really do have intentional states.1 In “Collective EpistemicAgency”2 she continues her development of group agency and she now argues that collectives can be genuine knowers. The target of her arguments is, naturally, the wide spread view that “knowers are individuals, (...) and knowledge is generated by mental processes and lodged in the mind-brain.”3 According to Tollefsen, “An epistemic agent is a deliberator that is subject to epistemic assessment; she can be charged with incoherency, inconsistency, ambiguity, and so on.”4 Further, “To be a deliberator in the rich sense in which you or I deliberate is to be subject to the immediacy that is characteristic of reason. When we engage in reasoning (and assuming we have the appropriate desires) we are moved to act immediately or think in accordance with the reasons that we arrive at through deliberation.”5 When we identify which attitudes and acts should be shaped or informed, then such identification takes place from a point of view. Typically, the point of view is the first person singular I, but Tollefsen argues that reflections on group deliberation show that the we-concept often marks the point of view in question. So, Tollefsen argues in effect that 1. A group can be a deliberator 2. A deliberator, in the sense being discussed, is an epistemic agent 3. An epistemic agent can have knowledge 4. So a group can have knowledge. The bulk of Tollefsen’s paper, “Collective EpistemicAgency,” is focused on arguing that (1) is true, i.e., that a group can be a deliberator. One of the examples she uses to make her case involves the decision made by a college admissions committee. The three committee members consider each candidate and vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on whether or not the candidate should be accepted into the program.. (shrink)
There are mental actions, and a number of epistemic attitudes involve activity. But can there be epistemicagency? I argue that there is a limit to any claim that we can be epistemic agents, which is that the structure of reasons for epistemic attitudes differs fundamentally from the structure of reasons for actions. The main differences are that we cannot act for the wrong reasons although we can believe for the wrong reasons, and that reasons (...) for beliefs are exclusive in a sense in which our reasons for actions are not. Epistemicagency is possible in the weak sense that we can be active, but not in the strong one in which we could have some elbow room for our epistemic reasons in reasoning leading to beliefs and other epistemic states. (shrink)
In ??Epistemological communities? and the problem of epistemicagency? (Social Epistemology 25 (4): 341?360), Chris Calvert-Minor outlines Lynn Hankinson Nelson?s theory of evidence and her claims with respect to communities as primary epistemic agents, and criticizes both Nelson and her critics (including myself) for their undue emphasis on epistemicagency. Calvert-Minor argues instead for an epistemology framed around practises rather than epistemic agents. I argue that Calvert-Minor?s criticism that epistemicagency plays too (...) central a role in the epistemology of Nelson and myself is problematically vague, and I suggest that Calvert-Minor?s concerns with Nelson might be articulated better in terms of the overly theoretical nature of her view of epistemicagency and evidence. I also argue that the contrast between an agent-centered and a practise-centered epistemology is not as stark as Calvert-Minor portrays, particularly when one considers my development of a view of epistemic agents as individuals-in-communities. I suggest that the heart of the disagreement between Calvert-Minor and the likes of Nelson and myself concerning the appropriate role of epistemicagency in epistemology may lie in different understandings of the underlying goals of epistemology. (shrink)
I present and motivate a new solution to the generality problem for reliabilism. I suggest that we shift our focus from process-types that can be characterized independently of a subject’s epistemic concerns to process-types that play important roles in the life of the epistemic agent. Once we do so, a simple, promising solution suggests itself: the C-Typing Thesis. According to the C-Typing Thesis, how an epistemic agent forms her degree of confidence in a believed proposition determines the (...) epistemically relevant type of belief-forming process for that belief. First I motivate this view generally, arguing that it satisfies important desiderata for a solution to the generality problem. Then I show that it makes the intuitively correct predictions for a wide range of cases. I also show how it can solve Brian Weatherson’s temporal generality problem, and, relatedly, Jonathan Vogel’s bootstrapping problem for reliabilism. The C-Typing Thesis is plausible not only because it makes correct predictions, but also because it does so in a way that responds to a common charge against reliabilism: that reliability is disconnected from our lives as epistemic inquirers. The C-Typing Thesis shows how epistemicagency can play a significant role in an externalist account of justification and knowledge. (shrink)
This response considers the question whether empiricists are condemned to silence about the epistemicagency their theories attribute or presuppose. It is argued that, unlike Reichenbach or Carnap, Neurath allowed for and indeed provided specifications of the role of epistemicagency in scientific inquiry. If this is correct, it underscores once more the need to distinguish between the various strands of logical positivism which show different strengths and weaknesses.
In this presentation, I argue for a conception of rational capacities that makes us epistemic agents without essential reference or appeal to self-consciousness/self-knowledge, contrary to McDowell, Moran, and others. At the same time, his conception of rational capacities as powers at the personal level saves our epistemicagency against worries that Hilary Kornblith has put forward.
Every time we act in an effort to attain our epistemic goals, we express our epistemicagency. The present study argues that a proper understanding of the actions and goals relevant to expressions of such agency can be used to make ameliorative recommendations about how the ways in which we actually express our agency can be brought in line with how we should express our agency. More specifically, it is argued that the actions relevant (...) to such expressions should be identified with the variety of actions characteristic of inquiry; that contrary to what has been maintained by recent pluralists about epistemic value, the only goal relevant to inquiry is that of forming true belief; and that our dual tendency for bias and overconfidence gives us reason to implement epistemically paternalistic practices that constrain our freedom to exercise agency in substantial ways. In other words, when it comes to our freedom to express epistemicagency, more is not always better. In fact, less is often so much more. (shrink)
This book collects cutting edge essays on epistemicagency and related topics by distinguished senior contributors to epistemology, as well as rising figures in the field. The assembly of scholars is impressive, as is reflected by the quality and range of their contributions.
Contemporary cognitive science clearly tells us that attention is modulated for speech and action. While these forms of goal-directed attention are very well researched in psychology, they have not been sufficiently studied by epistemologists. In this book, Abrol Fairweather and Carlos Montemayor develop and defend a theory of epistemic achievements that requires the manifestation of cognitive agency. They examine empirical work on the psychology of attention and assertion, and use it to ground a normative theory of epistemic (...) achievements and virtues. The resulting study is the first sustained naturalized virtue epistemology, and will be of interest to readers in epistemology, cognitive science, and beyond. (shrink)
Controlling one's mental agency encompasses two forms of metacognitive operations, self-probing and post-evaluating. Metacognition so defined might seem to fuel an internalist view of epistemic norms, where rational feelings are available to instruct a thinker of what she can do, and allow her to be responsible for her mental agency. Such a view, however, ignores the dynamics of the mind–world interactions that calibrate the epistemic sentiments as reliable indicators of epistemic norms. A 'brain in the (...) lab' thought experiment suggests that an internalist view of epistemic feelings is unable to account for the contrast between norm-tracking, educated sentiments, and illusory feelings. (shrink)
On the assumption that genuinely normative demands concern things connected in some way to our agency, i.e. what we exercise in doing things with or for reasons, epistemologists face an important question: are there genuine epistemic norms governing belief, and if so where in the vicinity of belief are we to find the requisite cognitive agency? Extant accounts of cognitive agency tend to focus on belief itself or the event of belief-formation to answer this question, to (...) the exclusion of the activity of maintaining a system of beliefs. This paper argues that a full account of epistemic normativity will need to make sense of this activity as a core locus of cognitive agency. This idea is used to motivate the conclusion that one important and often overlooked kind of epistemic norms is the kind of norms governing the various cognitive activities by which we check, sustain, and adjust our belief systems. (shrink)
The paper evaluates Christopher Hookway's claim that individual epistemic vice can enhance the value of collective epistemic virtue. I suggest that this claim can be defended on the grounds of a dynamic account of collective intentional properties that is supplemented by an account of a spontaneous ordering mechanism such as the "intangible hand". Both these accounts try to explain how individual traits integrate into collective traits by way of aggregation. In this respect, they are different from normative and (...) summative accounts of plural subjects. I argue that it is the repeatable and self-amplifying nature of character traits that calls for a dynamic account of collective virtues. With regard to epistemic virtues and their role in the acquisition of knowledge I hold that their dynamic and self-amplifying character warrants their reliability, since it is this character that bottoms out in repeated acts of epistemally correct behavior that constitute a 'responsible practice'. The successful appliance of the latter amplifies the attitude it origins from. If epistemic virtues construed along these lines are attributed to collectives, a dynamic aggregate account supplemented by an account of an "intan-gible hand" device might explain how an aggregate of virtuous efforts of individuals can not only absorb a certain amount of vice but be even enhanced by the 'spice' of some non-intentional epistemically vicious side effects of epistemically virtuous en- deavor. (shrink)
In this essay, I address the question of whether the indisputable progress being made by the neurosciences poses a genuine threat to the language game of responsible agency. I begin by situating free will as an ineliminable component of our practices of attributing responsibility and holding one another accountable, illustrating this via a discussion of legal discourse regarding the attribution of responsibility for criminal acts. I then turn to the practical limits on agents' scientific self-objectivation, limits that turn out (...) to be mirrored philosophically in the conceptual problems that plague reductionist strategies. Having shown that free will is rooted in unavoidable performative presuppositions belonging to agents' participant perspective, I then take up the difficult issue of how to reconcile an epistemic dualism of participant and observer perspectives with the assumption of ontological monism. I critically review a range of proposed physicalist solutions, including non-reductionist and (standard) compatibilist approaches. An underlying problem with scientistic, physicalist approaches is the methodological fiction of an exclusive ?view from nowhere? which relies on the problematic move of disengaging the objectivating perspective of the scientific observer from the investigators' participant perspective of those engaged in scientific practice. Since there is no way of getting around the requisite complementarity of both the observer's encounter with the objective world and the participant's involvement in shared lifeworld practices, the remaining option is to take an epistemological turn. But even the recognition that science is ultimately constituted from within the lifeworld still leaves us with the question as to how the human mind can understand itself as the product of natural evolution. I conclude with some tentative suggestions as to how this difficult question might be addressed. (shrink)
In this work, I argue for the possibility of epistemic akrasia. An individual S is epistemically akratic if the following conditions hold: S knowingly believes that P though she judges that it is epistemically wrong to do so and Having these mental states displays a failure of rationality that is analogous to classic akrasia. I propose two different types of epistemic akrasia involving different kinds of evidence on which the subject bases her evaluation of her akratic belief. I (...) examine three objections to their possibility. I suggest that the key to defending the possibility of epistemic akrasia is to explain condition. I finally argue that epistemic akrasia is possible, and that it represents a failure of mental agency. (shrink)
Modern epistemic questions have largely been focused around the individual and her ability to acquire knowledge autonomously. More recently epistemologists have begun to look more broadly in providing accounts of knowledge by considering its social context, where the individual depends on others for true beliefs. Hardwig explains the effect of this shift starkly, arguing that to reject epistemic dependency is to deny certain true beliefs widely held throughout society and, more specifically, it is to deny that science and (...) scholarship can provide true belief. Alternatively, Hardwig argues that beliefs could be granted to communities or groups but denied to individuals. This paper approaches these broad assertions using a group agency model from List and Pettit. Through a discussion of the ‘epistemic desideratum’ of group agents, I conclude that List and Pettit give us reason to accept some of Hardwig's concerns, but that attributing beliefs to groups does not require us to deny them to individuals, rather an individual can use a group agent as a source of epistemic dependence.Export citation Request permission. (shrink)
Arguments for and against direct-to-consumer drug advertising (DTCA) center on two issues: (1) the epistemic effects on patients through access to information provided by the ads; and (2) the effects of such information on patients’ abilities to make good choices in the healthcare marketplace. Advocates argue that DTCA provides useful information for patients as consumers, including information connecting symptoms to particular medical conditions, information about new drug therapies for those conditions. Opponents of DTCA point out substantial omissions in information (...) provided by the ads and argue that the framing of the ads may mislead patients about the indications, uses, and effectiveness of the drugs advertised. They also suggest that DTCA has a number of potentially negative effects on the doctor–patient relationship. The standard arguments appear to assume a simplistic correlation—more information means more agency for patients. However, empirical studies on medical decision making suggest that this relationship is much more complex and nuanced. I examine recent research on ways in which patients are vulnerable with respect to DTCA. In order to address the complex issues of information acquisition and consumer decision-making in the health care marketplace, the focus should not be simply on what information patients need in order to make medical decisions, but also on the conditions under which patients actually are able to make medical decisions requiring complex medication information. This requires examining both the cognitive limitations of patients with respect to drug information and investigating patients’ preferences and needs in a variety of medical contexts. (shrink)
A prominent issue in mainstream epistemology is the controversy about doxastic obligations and doxastic voluntarism. In the present paper it is argued that this discussion can benefit from forging links with formal epistemology, namely the combined modal logic of belief, agency, and obligation. A stit-theory-based semantics for deontic doxastic logic is suggested, and it is claimed that this is helpful and illuminating in dealing with the mentioned intricate and important problems from mainstream epistemology. Moreover, it is argued that this (...) linking is of mutual benefit. The discussion of doxastic voluntarism directs the attention of doxastic logicians to the notion of belief formation and thus to dynamic aspects of beliefs that have hitherto been neglected. The development of a formal language and semantics for ascriptions of belief formation may contribute to clarifying the contents and the implications of voluntaristic claims. A simple observation concerning other-agent nestings of stit-operators, for instance, may help illuminating the notions of making belief and responsibility for beliefs of others. In this way, stit-theory may serve as a bridge between mainstream and formal epistemology. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue for a conditional parity thesis: if we are agents with respect to our intentions, we are agents with respect to our beliefs. In the final section, I motivate a categorical version of the parity thesis: we are agents with respect to belief and intention. My aim in this paper is to show that there is no unique challenge facing epistemicagency that is not also facing agency with respect to intention. My thesis (...) is ambitious on two fronts. First, the parity thesis is a substantive thesis about the nature of belief and intention. I argue that there is a structural parity of belief and intention; the status of whether they are agential stands and falls together. Second, the parity thesis illuminates the nature of agency. It constrains what counts as a satisfactory account of agency: either we must accept agency of both belief and intention, or we must reject both. In the final section, I argue that we have prima facie reason to accept agency of belief and intention. Finally, I diagnose why there has been such resistance to epistemicagency. Epistemicagency is problematic, but its problems are problems with agency, not problems with epistemicagency. (shrink)
We argue, primarily by appeal to phenomenological considerations related to the experiential aspects of agency, that belief fixation is broadly agentive; although it is rarely voluntary, nonetheless, it is phenomenologically agentive because of its significant phenomenological similarities to voluntary-agency experience. An important consequence is that epistemic rationality, as a central feature of belief fixation, is an agentive notion. This enables us to introduce and develop a distinction between core and ancillary epistemic virtues. Core epistemic virtues (...) involve several inter-related kinds of epistemic rationality in belief fixation. Other “habits of mind” pertinent to belief fixation constitute ancillary epistemic virtues. Finally, we discuss the relationship between both kinds of virtues, offering a unified account of epistemic virtuousness. (shrink)
Ever since John Locke, philosophers have discussed the possibility of a normative epistemology: are there epistemic obligations binding the cognitive economy of belief and disbelief? Locke's influential answer was evidentialist: we have an epistemic obligation to believe in accordance with our evidence. In this dissertation, I place the contemporary literature on agency and reasons at the service of some such normative epistemology. I discuss the semantics of obligations, the connection between obligations and reasons to believe, the implausibility (...) of Lockean evidentialism, and some of the alleged connections between agency and justification. (shrink)
I distinguish between two senses in which feminists have argued that the knower is social: 1. situated or socially positioned and 2. interdependent. I argue that these two aspects of the knower work in cooperation with each other in a way that can produce willful hermeneutical ignorance, a type of epistemic injustice absent from Miranda Fricker's Epistemic Injustice. Analyzing the limitations of Fricker's analysis of the trial of Tom Robinson in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird with attention (...) to the way in which situatedness and interdependence work in tandem, I develop an understanding of willful hermeneutical ignorance, which occurs when dominantly situated knowers refuse to acknowledge epistemic tools developed from the experienced world of those situated marginally. Such refusals allow dominantly situated knowers to misunderstand, misinterpret, and/or ignore whole parts of the world. (shrink)
This metatheoretical paper investigates mind wandering from the perspective of philosophy of mind. It has two central claims. The first is that, on a conceptual level, mind wandering can be fruitfully described as a specific form of mental autonomy loss. The second is that, given empirical constraints, most of what we call “conscious thought” is better analyzed as a subpersonal process that more often than not lacks crucial properties traditionally taken to be the hallmark of personal-level cognition - such as (...) mental agency, explicit, consciously experienced goal-directedness, or availability for veto control. I claim that for roughly two thirds of our conscious life-time we do not possess mental autonomy (M-autonomy) in this sense. Empirical data from research on mind wandering and nocturnal dreaming clearly show that phenomenally represented cognitive processing is mostly an automatic, non-agentive process and that personal-level cognition is an exception rather than the rule. This raises an interesting new version of the mind-body problem: How is subpersonal cognition causally related to personal-level thought? More fine-grained phenomenological descriptions for what we called “conscious thought” in the past are needed, as well as a functional decomposition of umbrella terms like “mind wandering” into different target phenomena and a better understanding of the frequent dynamic transitions between spontaneous, task-unrelated thought and meta-awareness. In an attempt to lay some very first conceptual foundations for the now burgeoning field of research on mind wandering, the third section proposes two new criteria for individuating single episodes of mind-wandering, namely, the “self-representational blink” (SRB) and a sudden shift in the phenomenological “unit of identification” (UI). I close by specifying a list of potentially innovative research goals that could serve to establish a stronger connection between mind wandering research and philosophy of mind. (shrink)
Though it seems rather surprising in retrospect, until about twenty-ﬁve years ago no philosopher in the Western tradition had explicitly formulated the question whether there could be an epistemic analogue to practical akrasia. Also surprisingly, despite the prima facie analogue with practical akrasia (the possibility of which is not much disputed), much of the recent work on this question has defended the rather bold view that epistemic akrasia is impossible. While the arguments purporting to show the impossibility of (...)epistemic akrasia have been criticized by some, I propose instead to make a head-on attack and defend the substantive view that epistemic akrasia is possible — indeed, actual. This leaves for another day the project of diagnosing exactly where the arguments for the impossibility of epistemic akrasia go wrong. Here, I content myself with trying to show that they must go wrong, since — as I will argue — epistemic akrasia is possible. (shrink)