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On the Epistemic Costs of Friendship: Against the Encroachment View

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 July 2021

Catherine Rioux*
Université Laval, Quebec City, Canada


I defend the thesis that friendship can constitutively require epistemic irrationality against a recent, forceful challenge, raised by proponents of moral and pragmatic encroachment. Defenders of the “encroachment strategy” argue that exemplary friends who are especially slow to believe that their friends have acted wrongly are simply sensitive to the high prudential or moral costs of falsely believing in their friends’ guilt. Drawing on psychological work on epistemic motivation (and in particular on the notion of “need for closure”), I propose a different picture of what friendship requires in the doxastic realm. I argue that contrary to what the encroachment strategy suggests, exemplary friends’ belief formation ought not be guided by a concern with accuracy or error avoidance, but instead by a need to avoid a “specific closure” – namely, a need to avoid concluding in their friends’ guilt. I propose that exemplary friendship often generates a defeasible, doxastic obligation to exemplify such a need, despite its inherent corrupting effects on exemplary friends’ epistemic faculties.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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