Belief and Ameliorative Epistemology

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Belief and Ameliorative Epistemology

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Title: Belief and Ameliorative Epistemology
Author: McWilliams, Emily ORCID  0000-0002-8609-070X
Citation: McWilliams, Emily. 2016. Belief and Ameliorative Epistemology. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
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Abstract: My dissertation is in three parts. In “Evidentialism and Belief Polarization,” I consider the epistemic import of a belief revision process known as belief polarization, in which exposure to a mixed batch of evidence reliably causes people to increase confidence in whatever their antecedent belief was. I argue against Tom Kelly's claim that the beliefs that result from this process are justified on evidentialist grounds, and I take stock of what the phenomenon can teach us about evidentialism as a theory of justification. In “Access Is Not Necessary for Justification,” I focus on a debate between mentalism and accessibilism, as internalist theories of epistemic justification. I argue against the received view that mentalism, as distinct from accessibilism, is not worth defending. In “Epistemic Oppression and Ameliorative Epistemology,” I offer an account of a phenomenon that I call epistemic oppression. It occurs when members of a social group are subject to a systematic and unfair disadvantage within a social epistemic structure, resulting from the operation of a capacity to control exercises of their epistemic agency, thus systematically and unfairly limiting their epistemic flourishing. I argue that the concept of epistemic oppression helps us to identify and understand the kind of wrong that happens in these cases where an agent's capacity for epistemic flourishing is unfairly impeded.
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