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  • Print publication year: 2001
  • Online publication date: July 2009

3 - Empirical Challenges to Self-Trust



In the context of an epistemological inquiry into our role as inquirers, worries about the reliability of our faculties and opinions arise naturally. We wonder whether our cognitive equipment and our ways of employing this equipment are sufficiently well suited for our environment as to be reliable. The most extreme version of these worries can be illustrated by skeptical thought experiments, which entertain the possibility that an evil demon is deceiving us perceptually, or that we are in fact dreaming when we take ourselves to be awake, or that we are brains-in-a-vat.

These thought experiments, which have been widely discussed by epistemologists, raise questions about the degree of trust it is appropriate to place in our faculties and opinions. It is less frequently noted but no less true that empirical studies also have the capacity to raise such questions. Data about the way we make judgments and inferences can reveal that we are less than ideally reliable in certain kinds of situations and, thus, may provide grounds for not placing much confidence in the opinions we form in those situations.

Consider an example. In a wide range of studies, short personal interviews, typically one hour, have been proven unhelpful in improving the accuracy of predictions about the future accomplishments or behavior of the interviewees.

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Intellectual Trust in Oneself and Others
  • Online ISBN: 9780511498923
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