The Commonwealth of Epistemic Ends

Catherine Z. Elgin

in The Ethics of Belief

Published in print August 2014 | ISBN: 9780199686520
Published online September 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191766343 | DOI:
The Commonwealth of Epistemic Ends

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This chapter develops a critique of a pair of widely accepted epistemic principles: epistemic individualism, the states of an individual epistemic agent are that which constitute the agent’s ’epistemic core’, and attunement, the core deliverances that justify an agent’s beliefs do so because they properly attune the agent to their objects. It develops a critique using Orwell’s 1984. It argues that the plight of the novel’s protagonist, Winston, reveals problems for each of the theses and that the support of a non-coercive community is necessary for having beliefs at all, let alone having the kind of beliefs that could amount to knowledge. It then (i) explains the relationship between the Orwellian thought experiment and concrete cases of epistemic injustice, and (ii) proposes a Kantian solution to the problems that the experiment raises-namely, that epistemic agents ought to regard themselves as legislators in a commonwealth of epistemic ends.

Keywords: epistemology; agent; society; injustice; Kant; disagreement; context; individualism

Chapter.  8645 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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