Reducing Responsibility: An EvidentialistAccount of Epistemic Blame
This paper argues that instances of what are typicallycalled ‘epistemic irresponsibility’ are better understood as instancesof moral or prudenial failure. This hypothesis covers the data and issimpler than postulating a new sui generis form of normativitiy.The irresponsibility alleged is that embeded in charges of ‘Youshould have known better!’ However, I argue, either there is someinterest at stake in knowing or there is not. If there is not, then thereis no irresponsibility. If there is, it is either the inquirer’s interests—in which case it is a prudential shortcoming—or someone else’sinterests are at stake—in which case it is a moral shortcoming. In nocase, I argue, is there any need to postulate a form of normativity inepistemology other than the traditional epistemological norm thatone’s attitudes should fit the evidence one has.
It is not uncommon for epistemologists to seek greater unity between theirdiscipline and ethics. A common way to accomplish this goal is via analogy. Themost radical is via reduction. In this paper, I will be arguing for unification viareduction of a certain sort.
I aim to validate Feldman’s claim that anynormativity concerning belief that goes beyond fitting the evidence, and inparticular epistemic responsibility, is either moral or instrumental (Feldman 2004:189). The vast majority of those who have written on the subject of epistemicresponsibility have disagreed with this thesis. Theorists like Code (1987: 12) andMontmarquet (1993: 5–6) have argued at length that epistemic responsibility iscentral to epistemology, and their treatments imply that its nature goes beyondevidential, instrumental, or moral considerations to identify a unique, distinc-tively epistemic normativity. Kornblith (1980, 1983), DeRose (2000), and Baehr(2009) have also defended the thesis that epistemic normativity is not limited toevidential fit or practical considerations. More recently Nottelmann (2007) haschampioned this position, as has, most recently, Axtell (Axtell and Carter (2008),Axtell and Olson (MS), Axtell (forthcoming)). If my reductionist program issuccessful, this will require a serious redirection of much thinking on the subjectof epistemic responsibility. Also at stake is whether one very plausible traditionalview of epistemology is correct, namely evidentialism. For if the standard123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282930313233343536373839404142434445
European Journal of Philosophy
ISSN 0966-8373 pp. 1–15
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Journal: EJOP CE: Bindu
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Author Received: No. of pages: 15 PE: Nasreen/Jay
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