The Possibility of Epistemic Nudging: Reply to My Critics

Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 10 (12):28-35 (2021)
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In “The Possibility of Epistemic Nudging” (2021), I address a phenomenon that is widely neglected in the current literature on nudges: intentional doxastic nudging, i.e. people’s intentional influence over other people’s beliefs, rather than over their choices. I argue that, at least in brute cases, nudging is not giving reasons, but rather bypasses reasoning altogether. More specifically, nudging utilizes psychological heuristics and the nudged person’s biases in smart ways. The goal of my paper is to defend the claim that nudging, even when it bypasses reasoning, can result in justified beliefs and knowledge. As I argue, it takes two things to accomplish this goal: suitable meta-epistemological views and appropriate circumstances. If a broadly reliabilist account of justified beliefs and knowledge is correct, and if the relevant belief-forming methods are externally individuated in the right way, then nudging to knowledge is possible. If, in addition, the nudger is knowledgeable, epistemically benevolent and systematically effective, then nudging to knowledge will become reality. In their replies Neil Levy (2021) and Jonathan Matheson and Valerie Joly Chock (2021), put pressure on my argument from different angles. Levy thinks that a better case can be made for his view that nudging is giving testimonial reasons, and finds my objections to this view unconvincing. Matheson and Joly Chock, on the other hand, point out that acquiring knowledge through nudging (i.e. epistemic nudging) is compatible with evidentialism, even if nudging is not giving reasons. On their view, evidentialism provides an explanation of epistemic nudging that is superior to my own account, which, according to them, also suffers from a number of counterintuitive consequences. I am grateful to my critics for raising these concerns, because considering them deepens our perspective on the target phenomenon, and has made me think harder about the relevant epistemological issues. Nevertheless, I am convinced that my core claims can be defended against these criticisms.

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Thomas Grundmann
University of Cologne


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