Three essays on applied epistemology

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2019-05-08

Authors

Krauss, Samuel Fox

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Abstract

This dissertation contains three essays, each of which discusses a distinct way in which the particular status our beliefs have should affect the way we treat others. In the first essay, I begin with an account of epistemic damage—a proposal about how to measure epistemic harm. Second, I give an account of expected epistemic damage, which allows us to draw a principled line from epistemic harm to moral blameworthiness. Third, I use the notion of expected epistemic damage to solve a dilemma I pose for the dominant account of lying. I critique, and offer a replacement for, a widely-accepted necessary condition on lying—that the speaker believes the negation of what they assert. In the second essay, I argue that when people behave in a way that we believe is morally impermissible but toward which they are morally indifferent, we ought to pay them to forgo that behavior. People have legal entitlements to act in some ways that others regard as morally impermissible. But people exercise these entitlements, nevertheless. When they do, others have a defeasible reason to stop them. The circumstances will dictate whether they should, and, if so, the best method: one might convince them that what they are doing is wrong; one might explain that people will dislike them if they persist; one might ask them nicely, or threaten them. Or, one could pay them. In the third essay, I address arguments in both the philosophical and legal literature according to which statistical evidence cannot alone be sufficient evidence for a judgment in a civil trial or a conviction in a criminal trial. I argue that this dominant view is mistaken. Broadly, the argument relies on the presumption that any probative evidence ought to be given its due. I argue that the very many arguments presented against the sufficiency of statistical evidence are not strong enough to overcome this presumption.

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