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©2019 by Madrid Philosophy Network

Workshop on Intellectual Autonomy, Epistemic Authority, and Epistemic Paternalism

February 5-6, 2019

The ideal of intellectual autonomy plays an important role in shaping our views on how to conduct inquiry and become responsible knowers. In pursuing their cognitive endeavors, intellectually autonomous agents are supposed to exhibit features such as independence of thought, self-reliance, or self-governance. In the individualistic framework of traditional epistemology, these features have been seen as desiderata of ideal knowers, i.e., of agents who are able to acquire knowledge on their own, by relying on nothing else but their own cognitive capacities and resources. However, as more recent work in social epistemology has shown, most of our beliefs derive from relying on others and their testimony. More generally, our epistemic life is built upon a massive network of social dependencies, which give rise to relations of trust, deference to expert authority, and even paternalistic interferences. This workshop will be devoted to discussing the nature, limitations, consequences and prospects of the ideal of intellectual autonomy.Possible discussion topics include (but are not limited to) the following:


What is the nature of intellectual autonomy? Is it a mere ideal? Is it a virtue? Is intellectual autonomy valuable? What kind of value do we attach to intellectual autonomy? Does it have genuine epistemic value? Or is its value moral value? Does it simply have personal value?- Do we relinquish our intellectual autonomy when we strongly rely on the testimony of others to meet our epistemic needs? Does the same happen when one defers to epistemic authorities to regulate one's doxastic life?- What about paternalistic interventions? To what extent does one lose intellectual autonomy when others interfere in one's epistemic life without one's consent, e.g., with the aim of improving one's epistemic position? Do the eventual epistemic benefits outweigh the loss of intellectual autonomy?- Is the massive use of technology (e.g., Google, social networks, navigation apps, Wikipedia) beneficial, neutral or detrimental to intellectual autonomy, in particular, and to epistemic agency, more generally?