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EPISTEMIC AUTHORITY, PREEMPTIVE REASONS, AND UNDERSTANDING

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 September 2015

Abstract

One of the key tenets of Linda Zagzebski's book Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief (2012) is the “Preemption Thesis for epistemic authority.” It says that, when an agent realizes that an epistemic authority believes that p, the epistemically rational response for her is to adopt the authority's belief and to replace all of her previous reasons relevant to whether p by the reason that the authority believes that p. I argue that such a “Hobbesian approach” to epistemic authority yields problematic results. This becomes especially virulent when we apply Preemption to cases in which the agent and the authority share their belief (same-belief cases), or in which both have either a positive or a negative graded doxastic attitude toward a given proposition. As an alternative I propose what I call a “Socratic approach,” according to which epistemic authorities will not only motivate us to adopt their beliefs, but also provide us with higher-order reasons for re-assigning our own considerations their proper place in the web of reasons for and against the view in question, thereby fostering our overall understanding of the topic.

Type
Symposium: Zagzebski's Epistemic Authority: A Theory of Trust, Authority, and Autonomy in Belief
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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