Epistemic Autonomy

Conference Announcement: Epistemic Autonomy

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Aug. 8-10 2011

Philosophical reflection on autonomy typically proceeds on the tacit assumption that personal autonomy is exhausted by autonomous choice or action. Yet, epistemologists sometimes talk of epistemic, cognitive, or intellectual autonomy. Some people, they suggest, display a measure of autonomy in their beliefs that other people lack. Compare, for example, someone who, despite having strong evidence to the contrary, comes to believe that p simply because others assert that p (e.g. the subjects in the famous Asch-experiments), with someone who, despite p being the orthodoxy of her times, believes that not-p because this is the conclusion that she reaches upon careful consideration of all the evidence (e.g. Copernicus). The latter person seems to display a measure of epistemic autonomy that the former lacks.

This conference aims to illuminate the nature and value of epistemic autonomy. Questions to be addressed include:

  • What does being autonomous in one’s beliefs consist in? Does it, for example, require forming one’s beliefs without relying on the testimony of others or is it perhaps enough that one does not accept testimony on blind trust?
  • How does autonomous belief relate to autonomous choice and action? Is it, for example, the case that autonomous belief is somehow reducible to autonomous choice and action? If not, what, if anything, unifies practical and epistemic autonomy?
  • What is the value of epistemic autonomy? Is the value of epistemic autonomy consequent upon the value of truth or is there an intrinsic value to epistemic autonomy?
  • How does autonomous belief relate to akratic, delusional or self-deceptive belief, to trust or courage, and to our intellectual proficiency and our cognitive biases?
  • What role has the concept of epistemic autonomy played in the history of philosophy?

The conference brought together philosophers with an expertise in personal autonomy, epistemology, and the history of philosophy to produce a stimulating environment for a discussion on epistemic autonomy. It was held in the ballroom (Festsaal) of the Humboldt Graduate School, Louisenstr. 56, 10115 Berlin.



Conference Programme "Epistemic Autonomy", August 8-10 2011

Monday, 08.08.2011

Historical Perspectives on Epistemic Autonomy

10:00-11:30 Joseph Shieber: Believing Others: Kant, the Duty of Respect, and the Obligation to Believe

11:45-13:15 Patrick Rysiew: Enlightenment, Darkness, Trust: Thomas Reid and Intellectual Autonomy

13:15-14:45 Lunch Break


Psychology of Epistemic Autonomy

14:45-16:15 Klaus Fiedler: TBA


Epistemic Autonomy in Epistemology

16:30-18:00 John Hardwig: Delight in Variegation; Individual Differences, Autonomy and the Pursuit of Knowledge


Tuesday, 09.08.2011

Epistemic Autonomy in Epistemology

09:30-11:00 David Owens: On being Told What To Do

11:15-12:45 Elizabeth Fricker: Self-Trust and Trust in Others

12:45-14:15 Lunch Break

14:15-15:45 Paul Faulkner: Trust and Epistemic Autonomy


From Practical Autonomy to Epistemic Autonomy

16:00-17:30 John Christman: Epistemic Autonomy: Notes from the Practical Side


Special Event:

19:00-21:00 Keith Lehrer & Karen Ivy: "Philosophy & Dance: Freedom, Self and Infinity"


Wednesday, 10.08.2011

From Practical Autonomy to Epistemic Autonomy

10:00-11:30 Keith Lehrer: Knowledge, Autonomy and Exemplars

11:45-13:15 Holger Baumann: The Value of Autonomy in Thinking and Acting