We Owe It to Others to Think for Ourselves

In Jonathan Matheson & Kirk Lougheed (eds.), Epistemic Autonomy. Routledge (2021)
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We are often urged to figure things out for ourselves rather than to rely on other people’s say-so, and thus be ‘epistemically autonomous’ in one sense of the term. But why? For almost any important question, there will be someone around you who is at least as well placed to answer it correctly. So why bother making up your own mind at all? I consider, and then reject, two ‘egoistic’ answers to this question according to which thinking for oneself is beneficial for the autonomous agent herself. I go on to suggest that the reason we should (sometimes) think for ourselves is that doing so (sometimes) increases the collective reliability of the epistemic community to which we belong. In many cases, this will do nothing at all to increase our own chances of forming correct beliefs. So, at least in this respect, the rationale for being epistemically autonomous is entirely ‘altruistic’.
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