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Author ORCID Identifier
Open Access Dissertation
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Year Degree Awarded
Month Degree Awarded
Professor Hilary Kornblith
Epistemology | Philosophy
Our epistemic lives are ones of deep social dependence. Social epistemology is often understood as a subfield that stands apart from, but is compatible with, traditional individualistic approaches to epistemology. In my work I reject this view and argue instead that human epistemology is necessarily social epistemology. I argue for this as an epistemological naturalist. I understand epistemological naturalism as a commitment to the following: (a) the claim that empirical research from psychology, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology is relevant to epistemological inquiry and (b) the meta-epistemological thesis that knowledge and justification are reducible to natural phenomena. In Chapter 1 of my dissertation, I argue that a naturalistic epistemic lens can account for the phenomena and considerations that are foundational to non-naturalist arguments. This chapter not only defends epistemological naturalism from its opponent; it makes room for epistemic naturalists, reliabilists about justification in particular, to say that our social epistemic practices, like our ability to defend our beliefs to one another, are epistemically significant. Naturalistic reliabilists have historically just explained away non-naturalist intuitions about the importance of the human capacity for reasons-giving. This chapter gives naturalistic reliabilists the resources to claim that, while non-naturalists are mistaken when they characterize our reasons-giving capacity as the source of epistemic normativity, they are correct in thinking that it is of deep epistemic importance to creatures like us. In Chapter 2, I develop the naturalistic reliabilist theory of justification so that it can accommodate empirical analysis of our social epistemic lives. I argue that there can be extended interactive justification conferring processes. In short, whether our individual beliefs are doxastically justified can be a function of the reliability of our dialogical interactions with interlocutors. My argument not only serves as a development and defense of reliabilism; it also functions as an independent argument against evidentialist views of doxastic justification. In Chapter 3, I turn my attention to epistemic blameworthiness and blaming. I give an argument against the plausibility of positing an epistemic norm of blameworthiness that is distinct from doxastic justification. I argue that internalists can’t do so, because their notion of blameworthiness can’t be meaningfully different from their notion of justification. I argue that it is difficult for externalists to do so, and that they ought not because of the fundamental commitments of externalism. I argue that we can give an account of our practices of epistemic blaming that construes them as instrumentally epistemically important. Chapter 1 establishes and defends a naturalistic social epistemic framework. The following two chapters explore how we should think about epistemic norms governing epistemic justification and blameworthiness if we adopt this framework.
O'Rourke-Friel, Molly, "Naturalized Human Epistemology is Social Epistemology" (2022). Doctoral Dissertations. 2707.
Available for download on Friday, September 01, 2023