Evidential Preemption

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (3):515-530 (2021)
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As a general rule, whenever a hearer is justified in forming the belief that p on the basis of a speaker’s testimony, she will also be justified in assuming that the speaker has formed her belief appropriately in light of a relevantly large and representative sample of the evidence that bears on p. In simpler terms, a justification for taking someone’s testimony entails a justification for trusting her assessment of the evidence. This introduces the possibility of what I will call “evidential preemption.” Evidential preemption occurs when a speaker, in addition to offering testimony that p, also warns the hearer of the likelihood that she will subsequently be confronted with apparently contrary evidence: this is done, however, not so as to encourage the hearer to temper her confidence in p in anticipation of that evidence, but rather to suggest that the (apparently) contrary evidence is in fact misleading evidence or evidence that has already been taken into account. Either way, the speaker is signalling to the hearer that the subsequent disclosure of this evidence will not require her to significantly revise her belief that p. Such preemption can effectively inoculate an audience against future contrary evidence, and thereby creates an opening for a form of exploitative manipulation that I will call “epistemic grooming.” Nonetheless, I argue, not all uses of evidential preemption are nefarious; it can also serve as an important tool for guiding epistemically limited agents though complex evidential scenarios.



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Endre Begby
Simon Fraser University

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Reflection and disagreement.Adam Elga - 2007 - Noûs 41 (3):478–502.
Higher‐Order Evidence and the Limits of Defeat.Maria Lasonen-Aarnio - 2014 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88 (2):314-345.
Warrant for nothing (and foundations for free)?Crispin Wright - 2004 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 78 (1):167–212.

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