How I Know What You Know

In Jennifer Lackey & Aidan McGlynn (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Social Epistemology. Oxford University Press (forthcoming)
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Mentalizing is our ability to infer agents’ mental states. Attributing beliefs, knowledge, desires, and intentions are frequently discussed forms of mentalizing. Attributing mentalistically loaded stereotypes, personality traits, and evaluating others’ rationality are forms of mentalizing, as well. This broad conception of mentalizing has interesting and important implications for social epistemology. Several topics in social epistemology involve judgments about others’ knowledge, rationality, and competence, e.g., peer disagreement, epistemic injustice, and identifying experts. Mentalizing is at the core of each of these debates. In this chapter, I describe the broad conception of mentalizing and show how it is central to how we judge others’ knowledge, competence, and rationality. I will apply this perspective on mentalizing to two debates: the epistemology of peer disagreement and interventions on testimonial injustice. I argue that understanding how mentalizing works can help us see these debates in a different light. Such reframing can help us make progress on these challenging debates.
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