Epistemic Autonomy and the Shaping of Our Epistemic Lives

Social Epistemology (forthcoming)
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I present an account of epistemic autonomy as a distinctively wide-ranging epistemic virtue, one that helps us to understand a range of phenomena that might otherwise seem quite disparate – from the appropriate selection of epistemic methods, stances and topics of inquiry, to the harms of epistemic oppression, gaslighting and related phenomena. The account draws on four elements commonly incorporated into accounts of personal autonomy: (i) self-governance, (ii) authenticity, (iii) self-creation and (iv) independence. I further argue that for a distinctively epistemic virtue of autonomy; the above elements must ultimately reliably lead to valuable epistemic goods (for the agent herself and others). I then turn to the domains or ways in which epistemic autonomy so understood, can be made manifest. I suggest that epistemic autonomy is a virtue that allows us to appropriately choose (i) subject matters and areas of inquiry, (ii) methods, sources, and processes of belief formation, (iii) epistemic goals and (iv) epistemic stances or frameworks. So understood, epistemic autonomy has a role to play in shaping most every aspect of our epistemic lives.

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Jason Kawall
Colgate University

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References found in this work

Freedom of the will and the concept of a person.Harry G. Frankfurt - 1971 - Journal of Philosophy 68 (1):5-20.
Epistemic norms on evidence-gathering.Carolina Flores & Elise Woodard - 2023 - Philosophical Studies 180 (9):2547-2571.
The Epistemic and the Zetetic.Jane Friedman - 2020 - Philosophical Review 129 (4):501-536.
Conceptualizing Epistemic Oppression.Kristie Dotson - 2014 - Social Epistemology 28 (2):115-138.

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