"I'm, Like, a Very Smart Person" On Self-Licensing and Perils of Reflection

Oxford Studies in Epistemology (forthcoming)
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Epistemic trespassing, science denial, refusal to guard against bias, mishandling higher-order evidence, and the development of vice are troubling intellectual behaviors. In this paper, I advance work done by psychologists on moral self-licensing to show how all of these behaviors can be explained in terms of a parallel phenomenon of epistemic self-licensing. The paper situates this discussion at the intersection of three major epistemological projects: epistemic explanation and intervention (the project of explaining troubling intellectual phenomena in the hopes of deriving ameliorative strategies), hostile epistemology (the study of how intellectual vulnerabilities might be exploited), and the promise of higher- order evidence (the hope that higher-order evidence leads to epistemic improvement). Analyzing epistemic licensing allows us to explain and offer modest interventions aimed at mitigating these behaviors, while illuminating exploitable vulnerabilities and tempering optimism about the promise of higher-order evidence.

Author's Profile

Joshua DiPaolo
California State University, Fullerton


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