I notice that EUP are still offfering issue 7:3 as a free download. How long this will last I don’t know but one might as well take advantage of this offer. Of course, check out our new home with CUP who are also making freely available six choice papers from other issues. Also check out the EPISTEME website.
Six Choice Papers
Bets on Hats: On Dutch Books Against Groups, Degrees of Belief as Betting Rates, and Group-Reflection
Luc Bovens and Wlodek Rabinowicz
The Story of the Hats is a puzzle in social epistemology. It describes a situation in which a group of rational agents with common priors and common goals seems vulnerable to a Dutch book if they are exposed to different information and make decisions independently. Situations in which this happens involve violations of what might be called the Group-Reflection Principle. As it turns out, the Dutch book is flawed. It is based on the betting interpretation of the subjective probabilities, but ignores the fact that this interpretation disregards strategic considerations that might influence betting behavior. A lesson to be learned concerns the interpretation of probabilities in terms of fair bets and, more generally, the role of strategic considerations in epistemic contexts. Another lesson concerns Group-Reflection, which in its unrestricted form is highly counter-intuitive. We consider how this principle of social epistemology should be re-formulated so as to make it tenable.
Why Should We Care About the Concept of Knowledge?
Can we learn something interesting about knowledge by examining our concept of knowledge? Quite a bit, many argue. My own view, however, is that the concept of knowledge is of little epistemological interest. In this paper, I critically examine one particularly interesting defense of the view that the concept of knowledge is of great epistemological interest: Edward Craig’s Knowledge and the State of Nature. A minimalist view about the value of examining our concept of knowledge is defended.
Evidentialism, Higher-Order Evidence, and Disagreement
Evidentialism is the thesis that a person is justified in believing a proposition iff the person’s evidence on balance supports that proposition. In discussing epistemological issues associated with disagreements among epistemic peers, some philosophers have endorsed principles that seem to run contrary to evidentialism, specifying how one should revise one’s beliefs in light of disagreement. In this paper, I examine the connection between evidentialism and these principles. I argue that the puzzles about disagreement provide no reason to abandon evidentialism and that there are no true general principles about justified responses to disagreement other than the general evidentialist principle. I then argue that the puzzles about disagreement are primarily puzzles about the evidential impact of higher-order evidence–evidence about the significance or existence of ordinary, or first-order, evidence. I conclude by arguing that such higher-order evidence can often have a profound effect on the justification of first-order beliefs.
Science, Religion, and Democracy
Debates sometimes arise within democratic societies because of the fact that findings accepted in accordance with the standards of scientific research conflict with the beliefs of citizens. I use the example of the dispute about Darwinian evolutionary theory to explore what a commitment to democracy might require of us in circumstances of this kind. I argue that the existence of hybrid epistemologies – tendencies to acquiesce in scientific recommendations on some occasions and to defer to non-scientific authorities on others – poses a serious problem for democratic decision-making. We need a shared conception of public reason, and it can only be secular.
The Case against Epistemic Relativism: Reflections on Chapter 6 of Fear of Knowledge
According to one sort of epistemic relativist, normative epistemic claims (e.g., evidence E justifies hypothesis H) are never true or false simpliciter, but only relative to one or another epistemic system. In chapter 6 of Fear of Knowledge, Paul Boghossian objects to this view on the ground that its central notions cannot be explained, and that it cannot account for the normativity of epistemic discourse. This paper explores how the dogged relativist might respond.
Powerlessness and Social Interpretation
Our understanding of social experiences is central to our social understanding more generally. But this sphere of epistemic practice can be structurally prejudiced by unequal relations of power, so that some groups suffer a distinctive kind of epistemic injustice—hermeneutical injustice. I aim to achieve a clear conception of this epistemicethical phenomenon, so that we have a workable definition and a proper understanding of the wrong that it inflicts.