Workshop on Intellectual Autonomy, Epistemic Authority, and Epistemic Paternalism

February 5, 2019 - February 6, 2019
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

Campus Cantoblanco

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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Macquarie University
Universitat de Barcelona
University of Leeds
Radboud University Nijmegen
Harvard University
Eindhoven University of Technology
Cardiff University
University of Ghent
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
University of Edinburgh


Universitat de Barcelona
Universidad Autónoma de Madrid

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Workshop on Intellectual Autonomy, Epistemic Authority, and Epistemic Paternalism

February 5-6, 2019

Autonomous University of Madrid

Invited speakers: 

Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij (Birkbeck College, University of London)

Alessandra Tanesini (Cardiff University)

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?

There a few presentation slots available. If you are interested in giving a talk, please send an abstract of approx. 500 words to Jesús Vega ([email protected]).

DeadlineDecember 15
Notification of acceptanceDecember 22

Unfortunately, we cannot cover travel or accommodation expenses.

This workshop is organized by the Research Group in Applied Epistemology of the Autonomous University of Madrid and funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness through the research grant “Intellectual Autonomy in Environments of Epistemic Dependence”.

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