Institut Jean Nicod

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Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern University)

Jennifer Lackey (Northwestern University)

What Is Justified Group Belief ?

Vendredi 23 mars 2018 de 11h30 à 13h

Institut Jean-Nicod, Pavillon Jardin, ENS, 29, rue d’Ulm 75005. Salle de réunion, RDC

How should we understand a group’s justifiedly believing that p ? The importance of this question is clear, both theoretically and practically. If we do not understand the justification of group beliefs, then we cannot make sense of our widespread epistemic attributions to groups of evidence that they have, or should have, and of propositions that they know, or should have known. Moreover, the justificatory status of such beliefs matters a great deal to whether groups are morally and legally responsible for certain actions and, accordingly, the extent to which they ought to be held accountable.
Despite this, the topic of group justification has received surprisingly little attention in the literature, with those who have addressed it falling into one of two camps. On the one hand, there are those who favor an inflationary approach, where groups are treated as entities with epistemic “minds of their own.” For these theorists, the justificatory status of group belief involves only actions that take place at the group level, such as the joint acceptance of reasons. On the other hand, there are those who favor a deflationary approach, where group justified belief is understood as nothing more than the aggregation of the justified beliefs of the group’s members
In this paper, I raise new objections to both of these approaches. If I am right, we need to look in an altogether different place for an adequate account of justified group belief. From these objections emerges the skeleton of the positive view that I go on to defend, which I call the group epistemic agent account of group justified belief : groups are epistemic agents in their own right, with justified beliefs that respond to evidence and normative requirements that arise only at the group level, but which are nonetheless importantly constrained by the epistemic status of the beliefs of their individual members.