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In the history of western philosophy, people were often encouraged to seek knowledge by starting from their own minds and proceeding in a highly individualistic spirit. In recent contemporary philosophy, by contrast, there is a movement toward Social Epistemology, which urges people to seek knowledge from what others know. However, in selected fields some people are experts while others are laypersons. It is natural for self-acknowledged laypersons to seek help from the experts. But who, exactly, are the experts? Many people claiming to be experts are not the real thing. How can laypersons identify genuine experts? This essay explores the problems that arise, pointing out some of the mistakes that can be made and how to avoid them.
This article aims to say what democracy is or what the predicate ‘democratic’ means, as opposed to saying what is good, right, or desirable about it. The basic idea—by no means a novel one—is that a democratic system is one that features substantial equality of political power. More distinctively it is argued that ‘democratic’ is a relative gradable adjective, the use of which permits different, contextually determined thresholds of democraticness. Thus, a system can be correctly called ‘democratic’ even if it does not feature perfect equality of power. The article's central undertaking is to give greater precision to the operative notion(s) of power. No complete or fully unified measure of power is offered, but several conceptual tools are introduced that help give suitable content to power measurement. These tools include distinctions between conditional versus unconditional power and direct versus indirect power. Using such tools, a variety of prima facie problems for the power equality approach are addressed and defused. Finally, the theory is compared to epistemic and deliberative approaches to democracy; and reasons are offered for the attractiveness of democracy that flows from the power equality theme.
According to Selim Berker the prevalence of consequentialism in contemporary epistemology rivals its prevalence in contemporary ethics. Similarly, and more to the point, Berker finds epistemic consequentialism, epitomized by process reliabilism, to be as misguided and problematic as ethical consequentialism. This paper shows how Berker misconstrues process reliabilism and fails to pinpoint any new or substantial defects in it.
Social epistemology is a many-splendored subject. Different theorists adopt different approaches and the options are quite diverse, often orthogonal to one another. The approach I favor is to examine social practices in terms of their impact on knowledge acquisition (Goldman 1999). This has at least two virtues: it displays continuity with traditional epistemology, which historically focuses on knowledge, and it intersects with the concerns of practical life, which are pervasively affected by what people know or don't know. In making this choice, I am not blind to the allure of alternative approaches. In this paper I explain and motivate the knowledge-centered approach by contrasting it with a newly emerging alternative that has a definite appeal of its own. According to this alternative, the chief dimension of social epistemological interest would be rationality rather than knowledge.
Folk psychology, the naive understanding of mental state concepts, requires a model of how people ascribe mental states to themselves. Competent speakers associate a distinctive memory representation (a category representation, CR) with each mentalistic word in their lexicon. A decision to ascribe such a word to oneself depends on matching to the CR an instance representation (IR) of one's current state. As in visual object recognition, evidence about a CR's content includes the IRs that are or are not available to trigger a match. This poses serious problems for functionalism, the theory-of-mind approach to the meaning of mental terms. A simple functionalist model is inadequate because (1) the relational and subjunctive (what would have happened) information it requires concerning target states is not generally available and (2) it could lead to combinatorial explosion. A modified functionalist model can appeal to qualitative (phenomenological) properties, but the earlier problems still reappear. Qualitative properties are important for sensations, propositional attitudes, and their contents, providing a model that need not refer to functional (causal-relational) properties at all. The introspectionist character of the proposed model does not imply that ascribing mental states to oneself is infallible or complete; nor is the model refuted by empirical research on introspective reports. Empirical research on “theory of mind” does not support any strict version of functionalism but only an understanding of mentalistic words that may depend on phenomenological or experiential qualities.
My target article did not attribute a pervasive ontological significance to phenomenology, so it escapes Bogdan's “epistemological illusion.” Pust correctly pinpoints an ambiguity between contentinclusive and content-exclusive forms of folk functionalism. Contrary to Fodor, however, only the former is plausible, and hence my third argument against functionalism remains a threat. Van Brakel's charity approach to first-person authority cannot deal with authority vis-a-vis sensations, and it has some extremely odd consequences.
In 1966 the U.S. Supreme Court wrote, “The basic purpose of a trial is the determination of truth.” This is Larry Laudan's guiding premise in his “essay on legal epistemology.” Without ascertaining the facts about a crime, he writes, it is impossible to achieve justice, since a just resolution crucially depends on correctly figuring out who did what to whom. Thus, he continues, “it is entirely fitting to ask whether the procedures and rules that govern a trial are genuinely truth-conducive.” In chapter 1 of the book, Laudan identifies one of the most important and legitimate methods for finding truth, namely, ensuring that the jury hears all and only relevant evidence. Laudan bemoans the fact, however, that “legal texts and the practices of courts routinely flout” this principle. Much of the rest of the book is devoted to the other tests for admissibility that the system imposes, tests that Laudan often regards as misguided.
Hurley's high level of generality suggests that a control-theoretic framework underpins all of the phenomena in question, but this is problematic. In contrast to the action-perception domain, where the control-theoretic framework certainly applies, there is no evidence that this framework equally applies to feelings and emotions, such as pain, touch, and disgust, where mirroring and simulational mindreading are also found.
DEMOCRACY AND THE EPISTEMIC PROPERTIES OF INTERNET-BASED COMMUNICATION
The impact of the Internet on democracy is a widely discussed subject. Many writers view the Internet, potentially at least, as a boon to democracy and democratic practices. According to one popular theme, both e-mail and Web pages give ordinary people powers of communication that have hitherto been the preserve of the relatively wealthy (Graham 1999, p. 79). So the Internet can be expected to close the influence gap between wealthy citizens and ordinary citizens, a weakness of many procedural democracies.
I want to focus here on another factor important to democracy, a factor that is emphasized by so-called epistemic approaches to democracy. According to epistemic democrats, democracy exceeds other systems in its ability to ‘track the truth’. According to Rousseau, for example, the people under a democracy can track truths about the ‘general will’ and the ‘common good’ (Rousseau 1762, book 4). Recent proponents of epistemic democracy include Estlund (1990, 1993), Grofman and Feld (1988), and List and Goodin (2001). Their idea is that, assuming certain political outcomes are ‘right’ or ‘correct’, democracy is better than competing systems at choosing these outcomes.
Elsewhere, I have proposed a variant on the epistemic approach to democracy (Goldman 1999, chapter 10). Epistemic theorists of democracy usually assume that, on a given issue or option, the same option or candidate is right, or correct, for all voters. A system's competence with respect to that issue is its probability of selecting the correct option.
When a distinction is drawn between “total” knowledge and “problem-specific” knowledge, it is seen that successful users of the recognition heuristic have more problem-specific knowledge than people unable to exploit this heuristic. So it is not ignorance that makes them smart, but knowledge.
Why should a citizen vote? There are two ways to interpret this question: in a prudential sense, and in a moral (or quasi-moral) sense. Under the first interpretation, the question asks why—or under what circumstances—it is in a citizen's self-interest to vote. Under the second interpretation, it asks what moral (or quasi-moral) reasons citizens have for voting. I shall mainly try to answer the moral version of the question, but my answer may also, in some circumstances, bear on the prudential question. Before proceeding to my own approach, let me briefly survey alternatives in the field.
Why should a citizen vote? There are two ways to interpret this question: in a prudential sense, and in a moral (or quasi-moral) sense. Under the first interpretation, the question asks why–or under what circumstances–it is in a citizen's self-interest to vote. Under the second interpretation, it asks what moral (or quasi-moral) reasons citizens have for voting. I shall mainly try to answer the moral version of the question, but my answer may also, in some circumstances, bear on the prudential question. Before proceeding to my own approach, let me briefly survey alternatives in the field.
Many theorists approach the issue from an economic or rational-choice perspective, and they usually have in mind the prudential question. On a standard version of this approach, it is considered rational for a citizen to vote if and only if the expected personal benefit of voting exceeds the expected cost. Confronted with a choice between two candidates, C and C', a prospective voter should ask how much he values getting his more preferred candidate as compared with his less preferred one. This difference in value should be multiplied by the probability that his ballot, if cast, would change what would otherwise happen. The resulting expected value should then be compared with the expected cost of voting, which might include the time lost from work, and the inconvenience of traveling to the polling site, standing in line, and so forth.
In the movie Regarding Henry, the main character, Henry Turner, is a lawyer who suffers brain damage as a result of being shot during a robbery. Before being wounded, the Old Henry Turner had been a successful lawyer, admired as a fierce competitor and well-known for his killer instinct. As a result of the injury to his brain, the New Henry Turner loses the personality traits that had made the Old Henry such a formidable adversary.