The Epistemic Basic Structure

Journal of Applied Philosophy 37 (5):818-835 (2020)
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The epistemic basic structure of a society consists of those institutions that have the greatest impact on individuals’ opportunity to obtain knowledge on questions they have an interest in as citizens, individuals, and public officials. It plays a central role in the production and dissemination of knowledge and in ensuring that people have the capability to assimilate this knowledge. It includes institutions of science and education, the media, search engines, libraries, museums, think tanks, and various government agencies. This article identifies two demands of justice that apply specifically to the institutions that belong to it. First, the epistemic basic structure should serve all citizens fairly and reliably. It should provide them with the opportunity to acquire knowledge they need for their deliberations about the common good, their individual good, and how to pursue them. Second, the epistemic basic structure should produce and disseminate the knowledge that various experts and public officials need to successfully pursue justice and citizens need to effectively exercise their rights. After arguing for these duties, I discuss what policies follow from them and respond to the worry that these duties have illiberal implications.
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