At this mini-conference, seven internationally known philosophers will discuss the nature and function of social and epistemic norms, especially in relation to issues in social epistemology and the epistemology of testimony. For example, to what extent can epistemic norms be understood as social norms? Can a better understanding of social norms help us to understand the social dimensions of knowledge, including the ways in which our knowledge depends on aspects of the social environment? Speakers for the conference are Julia Driver (Washington University), Elizabeth Fricker (Oxford), Sanford Goldberg (Northwestern), Peter Graham (UC, Riverside), David Henderson (Nebraska), Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern), and Deborah Tollefsen (Memphis). This mini-conference is free and open to the public. It will be held March 18-19, 2015 at Saint Louis University. For further information, please contact Jonathan Reibsamen (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Timothy Williamson (Knowledge and its Limits, OUP 2000) maintains that assertion is governed by the norm: Assert that P only if you know that P. I argue that an interesting thesis about a norm governing assertion will concern a social norm governing the practice of making and responding to speech acts of assertion in a community. Thus understood, it becomes an empirical question what norm governs assertion. The matter turns on what attitudes on the part of speakers and recipients in fact control the practice of making and receiving assertions. I review some of the arguments for and against Williamson’s thesis, understood as concerning such a social norm.
As tradition has it, emotion and epistemology don’t mix. Emotion leads us away from truth, clouds our judgments, undermines our rationality, and subverts our objectivity. My feelings of jealousy might lead me to uncover evidence of my spouses’ affair and so uncover truths previously unknown, but more likely it will lead to unjustified suspicion. As Peter Goldie put it, emotions can “skew the epistemic landscape” (2008, 159). But the relationship between our emotions and our epistemic lives is by no means settled and recent debates about the epistemological relevance of emotions suggests that emotions can play a positive role in knowledge acquisition. In this paper I focus on a particular set of emotions, the reactive attitudes. As Strawson and others have argued, our reactive attitudes reveal something deep about our moral commitments. I will be arguing similarly. What I shall call “epistemic reactive attitudes” reveal our epistemic commitments and reflection on the role they play in our practice of epistemic appraisal may contribute to debates regarding epistemic norms and doxastic responsibility.
I begin in section I, by situating my discussion within the current debates about the role of emotion in epistemology. Although there has been a great deal of discussion about the emotions that we bring with us to our epistemic endeavors—curiosity, for instance—there has been little, if any, discussion of the emotions we bring with us to the context of epistemic appraisal. In section II, I turn to the literature on reactive attitudes—in particular, the work of R. Jay Wallace. Wallace’s work will provide us with an account of what the reactive attitudes are and will put us in a position to consider my suggestion that there are epistemic reactive attitudes. In section III, I argue for the existence of what I shall call epistemic reactive attitudes. In section IV, I consider how epistemic reactive attitudes might shed light on certain debates in epistemology including doxastic voluntarism/involuntarism and the nature of epistemic norms.
It is widely considered a truism that the only evidence that can provide justification for your belief that p is evidence in your possession. At the same time, a good many epistemologists accept another claim seemingly in tension with this ‘truism,’ to the effect that evidence not in your possession can defeat or undermine the justification for your belief that p. Anyone who accepts both of these claims accepts what I will call the asymmetry thesis: while evidence in one’s possession can either enhance or detract from justification, evidence not in one’s possession can only detract from it. The asymmetry thesis is not uncontroversial; but any epistemologist who endorses the doctrine of normative defeat will be under tremendous pressure to accept it. In this paper I ask what might motivate the asymmetry thesis. The motivation I seek does not aim to convince those who think the asymmetry thesis is false; it is rather aimed at reassuring those who find themselves committed to it, who wonder how it can be true and what its truth might tell us about evidence and justification. (If it succeeds in convincing the antecedently skeptical, so much the better.)