Fake News, Relevant Alternatives, and the Degradation of Our Epistemic Environment

Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1 (forthcoming)
  Copy   BIBTEX

Abstract

This paper contributes to the growing literature in social epistemology of diagnosing the epistemically problematic features of fake news. I identify two novel problems: the problem of relevant alternatives; and the problem of the degradation of the epistemic environment. The former arises among individual epistemic transactions. By making salient, and thereby relevant, alternatives to knowledge claims, fake news stories threaten knowledge. The problem of the degradation of the epistemic environment arises at the level of entire epistemic communities. I introduce the notion of an epistemic environment, roughly the totality of resources and circumstances relevant to assessing the epistemically interesting statuses, such as knowledge. Fake news degrades our epistemic environment by undermining confidence in epistemic institutions and altering epistemic habits, thereby making the environment less conducive to achieving positive epistemic statuses. This is problematic even if the decrease in confidence and the altering of habits are rational. I end by considering solutions to these problems, stressing the importance of reproaching each other for proliferating fake news. I argue that we should reproach even faultless purveyors of fake news. This is because fake news typically arises in abnormal epistemic contexts, where there is widespread ignorance of, and noncompliance with, correct epistemic norms.

Author's Profile

Christopher Blake-Turner
Oklahoma State University

Analytics

Added to PP
2020-12-08

Downloads
480 (#39,019)

6 months
208 (#14,253)

Historical graph of downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks on external links on PhilPapers.
How can I increase my downloads?