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Carolina Flores (UC Irvine) & Elise Woodard (MIT), "Epistemic Norms on Evidence-Gathering"
Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies
You should always gather more evidence, say women who love gossip
Carolina Flores and Elise Woodard recently published a paper, forthcoming in Philosophical Studies, arguing that there are epistemic norms on evidence-gathering.
You might be wondering why anyone needed to argue for this obvious claim. When we asked Elise Woodard about it, she said “Well, it seems obvious, but everyone disagrees with us. Epistemologists tend to think that all that matters is what you do with the evidence you have. But why make epistemology so boring? Why shouldn’t we get to say there are epistemic norms justifying doing things we like (or are psychologically incapable of avoiding)? Like, people are always telling us that we should gossip less. We wrote this paper to show them they’re wrong. Gossipers are epistemically ideal, actually.”
Carolina Flores added, while guzzling down another oat milk latte, “And it’s not just gossipers that are good. Always second-guessing yourself also makes you better. Like, your girlfriend says she’s just friends with her ex, but how do you know they don’t want to get back together? Maybe you should go look at her ex’s Instagram story for clues another time. It might make you miserable, but at least you get epistemic gold stars.”
“There’s this whole trend of saying we should, like, be less harsh on ourselves,” said Elise, the 29-year-old exercise-maniac after another therapy session. “But I have no plans to do that. So after a SoulCycle class and a few glasses of wine, Carolina and I started talking and thought, why not just be critical of everyone else? Our criticism is getting at the real epistemic norms, and we want everyone to see the truth.”
When we asked Carolina who she wants to criticize, she had a long list ready. “I mean, lazy people, people who don’t read enough books, closed-minded people who don’t like my Bushwick aesthetic, grown-up Disney fans who believe everything they are told like 6-year-olds, suburbanites who are too easily satisfied with basic information, Keto dieters and Cross Fitters who will only read their little websites, and especially old men who have been sitting on their laurels since the 80s. Our paper lets us criticize them all, and be justified in doing so,” she said, a glimmer in her eyes.
When we asked them whether this is just a post-hoc rationalization for their high-functioning anxiety and perfectionism, they said, “Hm, probably not, but we’ll have to gather more evidence about it… just to be sure.”
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