Philosophical Topics

Volume 49, Issue 2, Fall 2021


Sanford C. Goldberg
Pages 83-104

Normative Expectations in Epistemology

There are all sorts of normative expectations in epistemology—expectations about the epistemic condition of other subjects—that would appear to be relevant to epistemic assessment in ways that do not conform to epistemic standards as traditionally understood. The expectations in question include expectations of inquiries pursued or completed, expectations of certain competences, professional expectations, expectations of having consulted with experts, institutional expectations, moral expectations, expectations of friends, and so forth. My goals in this paper are two. First, I aim to highlight the prevalence of such expectations, and the range of distinct types of circumstance in which they arise. Second, I assess several responses to the allegation that normative epistemic expectations are relevant to epistemic assessment. These range from “explaining away” the appearances to trying to offer one or another positive account of their significance. The former sort of reaction comes at a greater cost than many appear to appreciate, given the prevalence of these expectations and the range of circumstances in which they arise. The latter sort of reaction comes at the cost of having to revise our account of epistemic assessment itself. My own favored view does so in terms of the doctrine of normative defeat; I present my reasons for preferring this view, though I cannot claim in this paper to vindicate it.