Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Alison M. Jaggar

Second Advisor

Adam Hosein

Third Advisor

Graham Oddie

Fourth Advisor

Alastair Norcross

Fifth Advisor

Celeste Montoya

Abstract

I seek to provide a partial answer to this question: what is epistemically required of us as socially situated moral agents? We are familiar with the idea that each of us, as moral agents, has a set of moral obligations--to be kind, to be fair, to do good, or whatever. We are also familiar with the idea that each of us, as epistemic agents, has a set of epistemic obligations--to believe truly, to follow our evidence, to engage in inquiry, or whatever. But moral agents also have epistemic obligations that arise specifically out of the challenge of figuring out what is morally required. I argue that several commonly­ held accounts of our epistemic obligations as moral agents are seriously flawed; they get the methodological question wrong, perhaps at the expense of the practical question. The commonly held epistemic obligations against which I argue hold that: we can reason about morality alone or in relatively closed groups, we should not accept as true the testimony of someone whose reasons we do not understand, and we should always believe in proportion to the evidence we have. Further, each of these accounts is flawed as a result of a similar pair of crucial missteps. First, each of these views about moral method is insufficiently attentive to the role and value of epistemic communities. Second, each of these views fails to take seriously empirical evidence about human cognition.

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