Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Epistemic Responsibility 001: Introduction

I am beginning a new series in the discussion of testimony - one of the classes that I am taking this semester.

My interest in this case has to do with . . . I need it to complete my course requirements for my degree.

Actually, my interest goes a bit beyond this. I have written a bit about epistemic negligence and the view that people can be morally culpable for what they believe or fail to believe. In other words, if you do not believe the right things for the right reasons, you are a contemptible creature not fit for human civilization. No, you do not have a moral permission to believe what you want. Do I have a moral permission to believe that you ought to be chopped into little pieces with a machete? Do I have a right to believe that I can drive home safely after my four quick beers?

You might try to answer, "Sure, as long as you don't act on those beliefs?"

Barring the fact that having a belief that one does not act on is a violation of the laws of physics, what about if I believed that I may go ahead and act on these beliefs. Do I have a moral permission to do that? And if you answer that I have a moral permission but you have a moral permission to interfere violently with my acting on this belief, you know nothing about the meaning of the phrase "moral permission."

Reckless believing is as much a moral crime as reckless driving, or recklessly waving a gun around shooting it randomly. You're going to kill somebody if you keep that up and the people who you put at risk at being killed have every right to violently interfere with your reckless behavior - in self defense, at least.

Given this attitude towards reckless belief, this course, I hope, will give me reason to look in more detail at what I might want to call reckless belief.

This is a course on epistemology (theory of knowledge), not moral philosophy (theory of right and wrong). So, there may be a worry that my interest in this general subject will not fit the specific subject matter. However, I hold that there is a strong connection between the different types of justification. After all, justification has to do with "reasons for . . . " doing something. Reasons for performing an act, reasons for praise and condemnation, and reasons for assigning credence to a belief. So, you can look to this series on testimony to find my thoughts on reckless belief.

I am thinking that "reasons for" holding a person in contempt for reckless believing is going to fit in quite well with this subject matter.

I have not actually seen a syllabus yet. However, I know what readings will be assigned, and one of them is an anthology of essays that will cover various theories in epistemology. This seems to be a good place to start.

Those readings are found in:

Lackey, Jennifer, and Ernest Sosa (eds.), 2006, The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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