Humans massively depend on communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed. To ensure that, despite this risk, communication remains advantageous, humans have, we claim, a suite of cognitive mechanisms for epistemic vigilance. Here we outline this claim and consider some of the ways in which epistemic vigilance works in mental and social life by surveying issues, research and theories in different domains of philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology and the social sciences.
Language is both a biological and a cultural phenomenon. Our aim here is to discuss, in an evolutionary perspective, the articulation of these two aspects of language. For this, we draw on the general conceptual framework developed by Ruth Millikan (1984) while at the same time dissociating ourselves from her view of language.
Miranda Fricker has introduced the insightful notion of epistemic injustice in the philosophical debate, thus bridging concerns of social epistemology with questions that arise in the area of social and cultural studies. I concentrate my analysis of her treatment of testimonial injustice. According to Fricker, the central cases of testimonial injustice are cases of identity injustice in which hearers rely on stereotypes to assess the credibility of their interlocutors. I try here to broaden the analysis of that testimonial injustice by (...) indicating other mechanisms that bias our credibility assessments. In my perspective, the use of identity stereotypes is just one case among many biases in our credibility judgments. (shrink)
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the considerable challenge of sourcing expertise and determining which experts to trust. Dissonant information fostered controversy in public discourse and encouraged an appeal to a wide range of social indicators of trustworthiness in order to decide whom to trust. We analyze public discourse on expertise by examining how social indicators inform the reputation of Dr. Didier Raoult, the French microbiologist who rose to international prominence as an early advocate for using hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. To (...) comprehend how these indicators came to inform his reputation, we outline Dr. Raoult's rise to fame based on discourse about hydroxychloroquine. We then discuss why we trust in experts like scientist-practitioners. This is followed by an examination of how social indicators of trust like status, epistemic authority, influence and values have informed Dr. Raoult's reputation. We conclude with recommendations for how to improve the selection and evaluation social indicators of trust and reputations. Our aim here, instead of making a claim about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine or Dr. Raoult's reputation per se, is to outline through this case study how social indicators of trust inform reputation and the challenge they present to evaluating expertise. (shrink)
Although there is widespread agreement that our epistemic dependence on other people's knowledge is a key ingredient of our cognitive life, the role of trust in this dependence is much more open to debate. Is trust in epistemic authority—or “epistemic trust” for short—an epistemological notion in any sense, or is it simply a bridge-concept that connects our epistemological concerns to moral issues? Should we depict it in terms of the more familiar sociological notion of trust as a basis for cooperation?
A compelling exploration of how reputation affects every aspect of contemporary life Reputation touches almost everything, guiding our behavior and choices in countless ways. But it is also shrouded in mystery. Why is it so powerful when the criteria by which people and things are defined as good or bad often appear to be arbitrary? Why do we care so much about how others see us that we may even do irrational and harmful things to try to influence their opinion? (...) In this engaging book, Gloria Origgi draws on philosophy, social psychology, sociology, economics, literature, and history to offer an illuminating account of an important yet oddly neglected subject. Origgi examines the influence of the Internet and social media, as well as the countless ranking systems that characterize modern society and contribute to the creation of formal and informal reputations in our social relations, in business, in politics, in academia, and even in wine. She highlights the importance of reputation to the effective functioning of the economy and e-commerce. Origgi also discusses the existential significance of our obsession with reputation, concluding that an awareness of the relationship between our reputation and our actions empowers us to better understand who we are and why we do what we do. Compellingly written and filled with surprising insights, Reputation pins down an elusive subject that affects everyone. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the epistemology of trust and testimony should take into account the pragmatics of communication in order to gain insight about the responsibilities speakers and hearers share in the epistemic access they gain through communication. Communication is a rich process of information exchange in which epistemic standards are negotiated by interlocutors. I discuss examples which show the contextual adjustment of these standards as the conversation goes on. Our sensitivity to the contextual dimension of epistemic standards (...) make us more responsible communicators. (shrink)
Qu'est-ce que la confiance? Avons-nous de bonnes raisons de faire confiance aux autres? La confiance est-elle une croyance ou un sentiment? Faut-il se fier aux experts? Tenir ses promesses est-il un devoir? La confiance est-elle nécessaire à un gouvernement légitime?
How does propaganda differ from the legitimate persuasive practices that animate a healthy democracy? The question is especially salient as digital technologies facilitate new modes of political persuasion and the public square saturates with information factual and fabricated alike. In answer, we propose a typology based on the rhetorical strategies that propaganda and its legitimate counterpart each employ. We argue that the point of contrast between the phenomena turns on two key features: whether the rhetorical strategy sufficiently engages our deliberative (...) capacities, and whether it runs counter to our epistemic interests. While in practice the boundary between the concepts is not always sharp, the account identifies a set of conceptual tools that help better frame and come to grips with propaganda and legitimate political persuasion in an information-dense and increasingly complex media landscape. (shrink)
In this paper I try to challenge some received views about the role and the function of the traditional academic practice of publishing papers in peer?reviewed journals. I argue that our publishing practices today are rather based on passively accepted social norms and humdrum work habits than on actual needs for communicating the advancements of our research. By analysing some examples of devices and practices that are based on tacitly accepted norms, such as the Citation Index and the new role (...) of DOI attributions in digital publishing, I advocate an epistemically vigilant stance not only towards our ways of acquiring knowledge, but also towards the implicit norms we accept when we produce research. (shrink)
We investigate a phenomenon which we have experienced as common when dealing with an assortment of Italian public and private institutions: people promise to exchange high-quality goods and services, but then something goes wrong and the quality delivered is lower than had been promised. While this is perceived as ‘cheating’ by outsiders, insiders seem not only to adapt to, but to rely on this outcome. They do not resent low-quality exchanges; in fact, they seem to resent high-quality ones, and are (...) inclined to put pressure on or avoid dealing with agents who deliver high quality. The equilibrium among low-quality producers relies on an unusual preference ranking which differs from that associated with the Prisoners’ Dilemma and similar games, whereby self-interested rational agents prefer to dish out low quality in exchange for high quality. While equally ‘lazy’, agents in our low-quality worlds are oddly ‘pro-social’: for the advantage of maximizing their raw self-interest, they prefer to receive low-quality goods and services, provided that they too can in exchange deliver low quality without embarrassment. They develop a set of oblique social norms to sustain their preferred equilibrium when threatened by the intrusion of high quality. We argue that high-quality collective outcomes are endangered not only by self-interested individual defectors, but by ‘cartels’ of mutually satisfied mediocrities. (shrink)
Expert knowledge regularly informs personal and civic-decision making. To decide which experts to trust, lay publics —including policymakers and experts from other domains—use different epistemic and non-epistemic cues. Epistemic cues such as honesty, like when experts are forthcoming about conflicts of interest, are a popular way of understanding how people evaluate and decide which experts to trust. However, many other epistemic cues, like the evidence supporting information from experts, are inaccessible to lay publics. Therefore, lay publics simultaneously use second-order social (...) cues in their environment to inform decisions to trust. These second-order social cues, or ‘social indicators of trust’, prevent lay publics from having to trust blindly. Social indicators of trust therefore inform lay publics’ epistemic vigilance, or constant low level-monitoring of testimony from experts. This special issue examines the nature, acquisition and application of social indicators of trust for scientific experts and institutions. It also raises questions about the types of trust asked of lay publics and challenges traditional normative assumptions about the relationship between science and lay publics through study of attitudes, values, and experiences. The issue descriptively re-examines the structure of institutions, their role and methods for ferrying information, as well as how social indicators operate in times of crisis. In this collection of works, we bridge history, science, philosophy of science, science and technology studies, science communication and social epistemology, to broaden the discourse on trust in experts and more accurately reflect the imperfect yet indispensable endeavour that trusting is. (shrink)
We monitor the informational environment and catch reputational cues, gather signals from our informants and develop our trustful attitudes in context. I present an epistemology of reputation as a way of using social configurations to acquire information. I review the definitions of reputation that exist in the social sciences, stress the importance of the relational/social dimension of reputation as a property of entities, and put forward a definition of reputation suitable for epistemology. I then sketch social configurations that allow us (...) to extract reputational information and some typical heuristics we use to navigate the social information around us. (shrink)
A notion that comes from the toolbox of social sciences, trust has become a mainstream epistemological concept in the last 15 years. The notion of epistemic trust has been distinguished from the notion of moral and social trust, the former involves kinds of inferences about the others that are rationally justifiable. If I trust a scientist about the efficacy of a vaccine against COVID-19, I must have an epistemic justification. I am therefore rationally justified in trusting her because I have (...) an epistemic reason to justify my belief. I will challenge the distinction between epistemic and moral and social trust by pointing to several social indicators that contribute to our trustful attitudes in a reasonable way. Social indicators of reputation, values and moral commitments to values are indispensable strategies to come to trust in a rational way, an attitude that is different from merely believing the truth. I also point out the fragility of trusting experts’ reputations and stress the importance of avoiding biases in trusting other people’s reputations to make our deference to experts more robust. (shrink)
Should fear guide our actions and governments’ political decisions? A leitmotiv of common sense is that emotions are tricky, they blur our rational capacity of estimating utilities in order to plan action and thus they should be banned from any account of our rational expectations. In this paper I argue that an “heuristic of fear” is the appropriate attitude to adopt in order to cope with extreme risks. I thus defend the Precautionary Principle against the criticism put forward by Cass (...) Sunstein and other authors on the basis of a new analysis of extreme risks or “ruin-problems”. (shrink)
I present a definition of expertise that involves both epistemic and political authority. I argue that these two forms of authority require different treatments and defend a political epistemology that articulates a division of cognitive labor between political and epistemic authority.
This chapter analyzes the philosophical import of the notion of reputation along two main axes: (1) reputation as a motivation for action, and (2) reputation as a special kind of social information. Is reputation a rational motive of action? Can it be an ultimate aim or is it always reducible to some kind of self-interest? Is reputation a rational means to extract information from the social world? Should we rely on other’s evaluations? By reconstructing the philosophy of reputation in the (...) history of thought and analyzing the contemporary approaches to reputation in philosophy, the chapter also provides also some rudiments of an “epistemology of reputation.”. (shrink)
Trust is a complex attitude that has emotional, cognitive and moral dimensions. A difficulty to reduce trust to a simple emotional attitude is that trust raises normative pressures: if someone asks you to be trusted you feel the normative pressure of not letting him or her down, and if someone trusts you, you feel the normative pressure of honoring his or her trust. These normative pressures seem to have an irreducibly social character: pressures are effective insofar as they may raise (...) emotions of shame in those who violate the norm of trust and resentment and contempt in those who are victim of the violation. In this paper I will investigate the relation between the affective dimension of these normative pressures and their moral dimension by arguing that an important moral asymmetry exists between the duty to trust and the duty to be trustful. (shrink)