Dissertation, School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences (2020)

Michel Croce
Università degli Studi di Genova
Epistemic inequality is something we face in our everyday experience whenever we acknowledge our epistemic inferiority towards some and our epistemic superiority towards others. The negative side of this epistemic phenomenon has received due attention in the context of the debate on epistemic injustice: whenever an epistemic subject deflates the credibility of another or fails to recognize their authority qua knowers, unjust epistemic inequality is easily produced. However, this kind of inequality has an important positive side, as it can amount to a fundamental opportunity for the subject to achieve epistemic goods—such as knowledge, understanding, and intellectual virtues—from those who are epistemically superior to them. This thesis inquires into the key features of the interaction between non-peer agents to provide a compelling account of epistemic inequality as a positive phenomenon, that is, as an inescapable and reliable source of epistemic goods. To achieve this overarching aim, the proposed analysis shall address three main questions, one conceptual, one normative, and one practical. The conceptual question asks what it takes for an epistemic agent to be epistemically superior to someone else. The normative question investigates the rational boundaries of the interaction between non-peer agents. From the standpoint of the epistemically superior agent, I examine the permissibility of epistemic paternalism, namely whether it can be legitimate for one to interfere with another’s agency for the epistemic benefit of the subject interfered with without consulting them on the issue. From the standpoint of the epistemically inferior agent, I examine which attitudes it is rational to have towards individuals epistemically superior to us. The practical question is about the implications of this analysis for a paradigmatic instance of interaction between non-peer subjects, such as the educational relationship between teachers and students. As a response to the conceptual question, I shall offer a pluralistic virtue-based framework that allows individuating various ways in which an individual or a collective agent—such as groups, committees, and research teams—can be epistemically superior to another. In particular, I shall distinguish between experts, authorities of belief, and authorities of understanding. As a response to the normative question, I argue that epistemic paternalism is permissible only insofar as the interferers are epistemically better positioned than the subjects interfered with, and I outline an account of what I call a “virtuous paternalist interferer”. Furthermore, I argue that there are cases in which it is rational for an epistemically inferior subject to set aside whatever belief they might have and defer to the epistemically superior interlocutor—thereby endorsing a limited version of the so-called preemptionist view of epistemic authority. Finally, as a response to the practical question, I shall propose an exemplar-based account of education, explain how it can be employed to educate the young to intellectual virtues, and defend the view from several objections raised against virtue-based approaches to education.
Keywords expert  epistemic authority  epistemic paternalism  exemplarism
Categories (categorize this paper)
Reprint years 2020, 2021
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 65,740
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

What’s Epistemic About Epistemic Paternalism?Elizabeth Jackson - 2022 - In Jonathan Matheson & Kirk Lougheed (eds.), Epistemic Autonomy. New York: Routledge. pp. 132–150.
Expert Testimony, Law and Epistemic Authority.Tony Ward - 2017 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 34 (2):263-277.
Epistemic authority and autonomy of the epistemic subject.Igor Gasparov - 2017 - Epistemology and Philosophy of Science 53 (3):108-122.
Can the Aim of Belief Ground Epistemic Normativity?Charles Côté-Bouchard - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (12):3181-3198.
A Defense of Epistemic Authority.Linda Zagzebski - 2013 - Res Philosophica 90 (2):293-306.
Zagzebski on Authority and Preemption in the Domain of Belief.Arnon Keren - 2014 - European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 6 (4):61-76.


Added to PP index

Total views
6 ( #1,114,237 of 2,462,779 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
6 ( #119,641 of 2,462,779 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes