Epistemic Justification and The Folk Conceptual Gap

Episteme (forthcoming)
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Recent experimental epistemology has devoted increasing attention to folk attributions of epistemic justification. Empirical studies have tested whether lay people ascribe epistemic justification in specific lottery-style vignettes (Friedman and Turri 2014, Turri and Friedman 2015, Ebert et al. 2018) and also to more ordinary beliefs (Nolte et al. 2021). In this paper, I highlight three crucial but hitherto uncritically accepted assumptions of these studies, and I argue that they are untenable. Central to my criticism is the observation that epistemic justification is a philosophical term of art mostly foreign to lay people: as such, it is not suitable for direct empirical testing without being previously introduced. This point reveals a folk conceptual gap between the subject matter of these experimental studies and the conceptual repertoire we can reasonably expect lay people to possess. I elaborate on this worry, and I end on a cautiously optimistic note: after suggesting better strategies to survey folk attributions of epistemic justification, I conclude that the challenge raised by the folk conceptual gap remains difficult but can in principle be addressed.

Author's Profile

Dario Mortini
Universitat de Barcelona


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