Philosophy at St Andrews

“Bias and Interpersonal Skepticism”

Wed 10th June 2020 15:00 to 17:00

A virtual seminar by Zoom

Bob Pasnau (Colorado)


Recent philosophy has paid considerable attention to the way our biases are liable to encroach upon our cognitive lives, diminishing our capacity to know and unjustly denigrating the knowledge of others (e.g., Fricker 2007). The extent of the bias, and the range of domains to which it applies, has struck some as so great as to license talk of a new form of skepticism (Saul 2013). I argue that these depressing consequences are real and, in some ways, even more intractable than has previously been recognized. For the difficulties we face in this domain are fueled not only by illicit biases but by various other sorts of entrenched cognitive attitudes we bear toward others, whether or not we judge them to be our peers. Inasmuch as the epistemic standing of this broader set of attitudes is itself quite dubious, the problem of epistemic injustice turns out to be just one special case – albeit of a particularly nasty kind – from a broader domain of cases where the collaborative character of knowledge clashes with tendencies that make collaboration difficult. This makes the threat of skepticism all the greater, and at the same time makes it harder to see what path of escape there might be.


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