Epistemic trespassers judge matters outside their field of expertise. Trespassing is ubiquitous in this age of interdisciplinary research and recognizing this will require us to be more intellectually modest.
Changing our minds isn't easy. Even when we recognize our views are disputed by intelligent and informed people, we rarely doubt our rightness. Why is this so? How can we become more open-minded, putting ourselves in a better position to tolerate conflict, advance collective inquiry, and learn from differing perspectives in a complex world? -/- Nathan Ballantyne defends the indispensable role of epistemology in tackling these issues. For early modern philosophers, the point of reflecting on inquiry was to understand how (...) our beliefs are often distorted by prejudice and self-interest, and to improve the foundations of human knowledge. Ballantyne seeks to recover and modernize this classical tradition by vigorously defending an interdisciplinary approach to epistemology, blending philosophical theorizing with insights from the social and cognitive sciences. -/- Many of us need tools to help us think more circumspectly about our controversial views. Ballantyne develops a method for distinguishing between our reasonable and unreasonable opinions, in light of evidence about bias, information overload, and rival experts. This method guides us to greater intellectual openness--in the spirit of skeptics from Socrates to Montaigne to Bertrand Russell--making us more inclined to admit that sometimes we don't have the right answers. With vibrant prose and fascinating examples from science and history, Ballantyne shows how epistemology can help us know our limits. (shrink)
Two theses are central to recent work on the epistemology of disagreement: Conciliationism:?In a revealed peer disagreement over P, each thinker should give at least some weight to her peer's attitude. Uniqueness:?For any given proposition and total body of evidence, the evidence fully justifies exactly one level of confidence in the proposition. 1This paper is the product of full and equal collaboration between its authors. Does Conciliationism commit one to Uniqueness? Thomas Kelly 2010 has argued that it does. After some (...) scene-setting (?1), in ?2 we explain and criticize Kelly's argument, thereby defeating his larger argument that Conciliationism deserves no dialectical special treatment. But we argue further that Conciliationists are committed to a disjunction, one of whose disjuncts is Uniqueness, that amounts to an ?extremely strong and unobvious position? (??3?4). If we are correct, theorists should not treat Conciliationism as a default position in debates about the epistemic significance of disagreement. (shrink)
Two theses figure centrally in work on the epistemology of disagreement: Equal Weight (‘EW’) and Uniqueness (‘U’). According to EW, you should give precisely as much weight to the attitude of a disagreeing epistemic peer as you give to your own attitude. U has it that, for any given proposition and total body of evidence, some doxastic attitude is the one the evidence makes rational (justifies) toward that proposition. Although EW has received considerable discussion, the case for U has not (...) been critically evaluated. Endorsing U, we argue, commits one to the highly controversial thesis that whatever fixes your rational attitudes can do so only by fixing what evidence you have. This commitment imposes a relatively demanding requirement on justified belief in U, one that we argue is not satisfied by what is currently the strongest available case for U, due to Roger White . Our challenge to U makes more trouble for its proponents than do the worries about U expressed by Gideon Rosen  and Thomas Kelly . Moreover, if Kelly  is correct in thinking that EW “carries with it a commitment to” U—a claim which we accept for reasons similar to Kelly’s but is beyond this paper’s scope (but see Ballantyne and Coffman [forthcoming])—then our challenge to U bears importantly on EW: to the extent that our challenge to U succeeds, EW also suffers. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Most of what we believe comes to us from the word of others, but we do not always believe what we are told. We often reject thinkers' reports by attributing biases to them. We may call this debunking. In this essay, I consider how debunking might work and then examine whether, and how often, it can help to preserve rational belief in the face of disagreement.
Recent work on the nature of luck widely endorses the thesis that an event is good or bad luck for an individual only if it is significant for that individual. In this paper, I explore this thesis, showing that it raises questions about interests, well-being, and the philosophical uses of luck. In Sect. 1, I examine several accounts of significance, due to Pritchard (2005), Coffman (2007), and Rescher (1995). Then in Sect. 2 I consider what some theorists want to ‘do’ (...) with luck, taking important examples from epistemology (explaining Gettier-style examples) and political philosophy (offering a rationale for the just distribution of resources in society), while suggesting implications for significance. Drawing together lessons from Sects. 1 and 2, I develop a new account of significance in Sect. 3 before concluding with reflections on the debate in Sect. 4. (shrink)
David Lewis and Peter van Inwagen have claimed that there are no “knockdown” arguments in philosophy. Their claim appears to be at odds with common philosophical practice: philosophers often write as though their conclusions are established or proven and that the considerations offered for these conclusions are decisive. In this paper, I examine some questions raised by Lewis’s and van Inwagen’s contention. What are knockdown arguments? Are there any in philosophy? If not, why not? These questions concern the nature of (...) the philosophical enterprise and our answers have implications for the limits on the attitudes of informed, rational thinkers. (shrink)
In many tragic plays, the protagonist is brought down by a disaster that is a consequence of the protagonist's own error, his or her hamartia, the tragic flaw. Tragic flaws are disconcerting to the audience because they are not known or fully recognized by the protagonist—at least not until it is too late. In this essay, I take tragic flaws to be unreliable belief-forming dispositions that are unrecognized by us in some sense. I describe some different types of flaws and (...) consider what we might do about them. Then I examine three types of policies for managing our tragic flaws: doxastic, dispositional, and methodological. (shrink)
ABSTRACTMany philosophers have suggested that disagreement is good grounds for scepticism. One response says that disagreement-motivated scepticism can be mitigated to some extent by the thesis that philosophical disputes are often verbal, not genuine. I consider the implications of this anti-sceptical strategy, arguing that it trades one kind of scepticism for others. I conclude with suggestions for further investigation of the epistemic significance of the nature of philosophical disagreement.
Intellectual humility is commonly thought to be a mindset, disposition, or personality trait that guides our reactions to evidence as we seek to pursue the truth and avoid error. Over the last decade, psychologists, philosophers, and other researchers have begun to explore intellectual humility, using analytical and empirical tools to understand its nature, implications, and value. This review describes central questions explored by researchers and highlights opportunities for multidisciplinary investigation.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has developed and progressively refined an argument against moral intuitionism—the view on which some moral beliefs enjoy non-inferential justification. He has stated his argument in a few different forms, but the basic idea is straightforward. To start with, Sinnott-Armstrong highlights facts relevant to the truth of moral beliefs: such beliefs are sometimes biased, influenced by various irrelevant factors, and often subject to disagreement. Given these facts, Sinnott-Armstrong infers that many moral beliefs are false. What then shall we think (...) of our own moral beliefs? Either we have reason to think some of our moral beliefs are reliably formed or we have no such reason. If the latter, our moral beliefs are unjustified. If we have reason to think some moral beliefs are reliably formed, then those beliefs are not non-inferentially justified, because then we’ll have reason to accept something—namely, that they are reliably formed—that entails or supports those beliefs. But then, either way, our moral beliefs are not non-inferentially justified, and so moral intuitionism is false. This paper takes issue with Sinnott-Armstrong’s interesting and widely discussed argument, which we here call the Empirical Defeat Argument (EDA). According to us, the EDA does not defeat moral intuitionism. In section 1, we will set out the argument, briefly reviewing the rationale Sinnott-Armstrong offers for the premises. Then, in section 2, we identify a critical but dubious epistemological assumption concerning the nature of defeat that undergirds the argument. Finally, in section 3, we will defend our challenge to the EDA by answering two objections. (shrink)
Two common theses in contemporary epistemology are that ‘knowledge excludes luck’ and that knowledge depends on ‘purely epistemic’ factors. In this essay, I shall argue as follows: given some plausible assumptions, ‘anti-luck epistemology,’ which is committed to the fi rst thesis, implies the falsity of the second thesis. That is, I will argue that anti-luck epistemology leads to what has been called ‘pragmatic encroachment’ on knowledge. Anti-luck epistemologists hoping to resist encroachment must accept a controversial thesis about true belief or (...) a dubious claim about luck and value and interests. (shrink)
This article evaluates an emerging element in popular debate and inquiry: DYOR. (Haven’t heard of the acronym? Then Do Your Own Research.) The slogan is flexible and versatile. It is used frequently on social media platforms about topics from medical science to financial investing to conspiracy theories. Using conceptual and empirical resources drawn from philosophy and psychology, we examine key questions about the slogan’s operation in human cognition and epistemic culture.
In recent debates over permissivism and uniqueness—two theses concerning the relationship between evidence and epistemic rationality—some philosophers have claimed that permissivism has an intuitive advantage over uniqueness. I examine the cases alleged to intuitively motivate permissivism and suggest they do not provide prima facie support for permissivism. I conclude by explaining how my discussion bears on whether permissivism can defeat skeptical arguments based on recognized peer disagreement and the historical contingency of our beliefs.
Implicit bias results from living in a society structured by race. Tamar Gendler has drawn attention to several epistemic costs of implicit bias and concludes that paying some costs is unavoidable. In this paper, we reconstruct Gendler’s argument and argue that the epistemic costs she highlights can be avoided. Though epistemic agents encode discriminatory information from the environment, not all encoded information is activated. Agents can construct local epistemic environments that do not activate biasing representations, effectively avoiding the consequences of (...) activation. We conclude that changing our local environments provides a way to avoid paying implicit bias’s epistemic costs. (shrink)
Jonathan Schaffer (2010) has summoned a new sort of demon – which he calls the debasing demon – that apparently threatens all of our purported knowledge. We show that any debasing skeptical argument must attack the justification condition and can do so only if a plausible thesis about justification is false.
Philosophical work on testimony has flourished in recent years. Testimony roughly involves a source affirming or stating something in an attempt to transfer information to one or more persons. It is often said that the topic of testimony has been neglected throughout most of the history of philosophy, aside from contributions by David Hume (1711–1776) and Thomas Reid (1710–1796).1 True as this may be, Hume and Reid aren’t the only ones who deserve a tip of the hat for recognizing the (...) importance of testimony: St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430) affirms the place of testimony in human cognition, at least in his later writings. (shrink)
This chapter presents David Foster Wallace's views about three positions regarding the good life—ironism, hedonism, and narrative theories. Ironism involves distancing oneself from everything one says or does, and putting on Wallace's so-called “mask of ennui.” Wallace said that the notion appeals to ironists because it insulates them from criticism. However, he reiterated that ironists can be criticized for failing to value anything. Hedonism states that a good life consists in pleasure. Wallace rejected such a notion, doubting that pleasure could (...) play a fundamental role in the good life. Lastly, narrative theories characterize the good life by fidelity to a unified narrative -- a systematic story about one's life, composed of a set of ends or principles according to which one lives. Wallace believed that these theories turn people into spectators, rather than the participants in their own lives. (shrink)
“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”—so says Hanlon’s Razor. This principle is designed to curb the human tendency toward explaining other people’s behavior by moralizing it. We ask whether Hanlon’s Razor is good or bad advice. After offering a nuanced interpretation of the principle, we critically evaluate two strategies purporting to show it is good advice. Our discussion highlights important, unsettled questions about an idea that has the potential to infuse greater humility and civility into (...) discourse and debate. (shrink)
The fog of war—poor intelligence about the enemy—can frustrate even a well-prepared military force. Something similar can happen in intellectual debate. What I call the *fog of debate* is a useful metaphor for grappling with failures and dysfunctions of argumentative persuasion that stem from poor information about our opponents. It is distressingly easy to make mistakes about our opponents’ thinking, as well as to fail to comprehend their understanding of and reactions to our arguments. After describing the fog of debate (...) and outlining its sources in cognition and communication, I consider a few policies we might adopt upon learning we are in this fog. (shrink)
Two philosophical questions arise about rationality in centipede games that are logically prior to attempts to apply the formal tools of game theory to this topic. First, given that the players have common knowledge of mutual rationality and common knowledge that they are each motivated solely to maximize their own profits, is there a backwards-induction argument that employs only familiar non-technical concepts about rationality, leads to the conclusion that the first player is rationally obligated to end the game at the (...) first step, is deductively valid, employs premises all of which are prima facie highly plausible, and is prima facie sound and )? Second, if there is such an argument, then is it actually sound, or is it instead defective somehow despite being prima facie sound? Addressing these two questions is our project. We present a backwards-induction argument that is prima facie sound; we argue that it is an instance of the notorious sorites paradox, and hence that the concepts of rational obligatoriness and rational permissibility are vague; and we briefly address the potential consequences of all this for the foundations of game theory and decision theory. (shrink)
Bayesians take “definite” or “single-case” probabilities to be basic. Definite probabilities attach to closed formulas or propositions. We write them here using small caps: PROB(P) and PROB(P/Q). Most objective probability theories begin instead with “indefinite” or “general” probabilities (sometimes called “statistical probabilities”). Indefinite probabilities attach to open formulas or propositions. We write indefinite probabilities using lower case “prob” and free variables: prob(Bx/Ax). The indefinite probability of an A being a B is not about any particular A, but rather about the (...) property of being an A. In this respect, its logical form is the same as that of relative frequencies. For instance, we might talk about the probability of a human baby being female. That probability is about human babies in general — not about individuals. If we examine a baby and determine conclusively that she is female, then the definite probability of her being female is 1, but that does not alter the indefinite probability of human babies in general being female. Most objective approaches to probability tie probabilities to relative frequencies in some way, and the resulting probabilities have the same logical form as the relative frequencies. That is, they are indefinite probabilities. The simplest theories identify indefinite probabilities with relative frequencies.3 It is often objected that such “finite frequency theories” are inadequate because our probability judgments often diverge from relative frequencies. For example, we can talk about a coin being fair (and so the indefinite probability of a flip landing heads is 0.5) even when it is flipped only once and then destroyed (in which case the relative frequency is either 1 or 0). For understanding such indefinite probabilities, it has been suggested that we need a notion of probability that talks about possible instances of properties as well as actual instances.. (shrink)
Philosophers and psychologists routinely explore questions surrounding reasoning, inquiry, and bias, though typically in disciplinary isolation. What is the source of our intellectual errors? When can we trust information others tell us? This volume brings together researchers from across the two disciplines to present ideas and insights for addressing the challenges of knowing well in a complicated world in four parts: how to best describe the conceptual and empirical terrain of reason and bias; how reasoning and bias influence basic perception (...) of the physical world; how to assess knowledge and expertise in ourselves and others; and how people approach reasoning and knowledge among and about groups. Together, the chapters show what philosophers and psychologists can do together when they shine light on the challenges of reaching the truth and avoiding errors. Reason, Bias, and Inquiry is a multidisciplinary meditation for readers who are awash in information but are uncertain how to manage it to make informed decisions. (shrink)