Epistemic Norms and Epistemic Accountability

Philosophers' Imprint 18 (2018)
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Everyone agrees that not all norms that govern belief and assertion are epistemic. But not enough attention has been paid to distinguishing epistemic norms from others. Norms in general differ from merely evaluative standards in virtue of the fact that it is fitting to hold subjects accountable for violating them, provided they lack an excuse. Different kinds of norm are most readily distinguished by their distinctive mode of accountability. My thesis is roughly that a norm is epistemic if and only if its violation makes it fitting to reduce epistemic trust in the subject, even if there is no doubt about their sincerity, honesty, or other moral virtues. That is, violations of epistemic norms don’t merit resentment or other forms of blame, but rather deduction of credibility points in internal scorekeeping and related attitudinal and behavioral changes. As Fricker’s work on epistemic injustice shows, such distrust is undesirable from the point of view of an epistemic agent. Consequently, when one manifests epistemic distrust towards a subject in suitable circumstances, it amounts a way of holding her accountable. Since this form of accountability involves no opprobrium, there is good reason to think it is not linked to voluntary control in the same way as moral accountability. Finally, I make use of this account of what makes epistemic norms distinctive to point out some faulty diagnostics in debates about norms of assertion. My aim is not to defend any substantive view, however, but only to offer tools for identifying the right kind of evidence for epistemic norms.

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Antti Kauppinen
University of Helsinki


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