Epistemology & Philosophy of Science

Volume 59, Issue 3, 2022

Denis K. MaslovOrcid-ID
Pages 134-148

Epistemic Autonomy, Authority and Trust: In Defense of Zagzebski’s Theory

Epistemic authority, according to L. Zagzebski’s theory, is essentially based on deliberative or first-personal reasons, which originate from epistemic admiration. In what follows, I shortly reconstruct her theory and try to defend it against two critical arguments. The first argument calls attention to circular relation of epistemic autonomy and authority. In order to determine the authoritative person for me, I always have to possess epistemic autonomy, which is understood as knowledge in the given domain. Thus I myself have to have authority in the given domain in order to invest authority. I try to show that the investment of trust is based upon autonomy interpreted as an ability to exercise epistemic actions, accompanied by normative foreknowledge, that allows us to assess epistemic abilities and invest our trust without having sufficient propositional knowledge. The second argument insists on theoretical control for authoritative evidence and testimony. That contradicts preemptive character and content-independence inherent to authoritative testimony. Hence, this argument entirely misses the point of epistemic authority. Instead, as I argue, one can control epistemic authority by future reflexion on its conscientiousness and epistemic exercise as well as on origins of my admiration for authority. As a consequence, the trust invested in authority can be withdrawn and redistributed.