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The Epistemology and Ethics of Epistemic Partiality in Friendship

Warman, Jack Robert (2019) The Epistemology and Ethics of Epistemic Partiality in Friendship. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

You should give your friend the benefit of the doubt if you hear nasty rumours about them. And you should look on the bright side when you think about their good qualities. At least, that’s what popular wisdom teaches us about friendship. These practices are just two examples of the phenomenon of ‘epistemic partiality’. We seek evidence that supports a favourable view of our friends, and we avoid evidence that challenges that view. We require more evidence to form unfavourable beliefs about them, and we require less to form favourable beliefs about them. In this thesis, I argue that we should treat our friends with limited epistemic partiality. Unless the moral or prudential stakes are too high, or your evidence is incontrovertible, you should show your friend epistemic partiality. Plausibly, close friendship is a caring relationship. A person’s beliefs can harm and benefit other people, I argue, and our friends are especially vulnerable. Epistemic partiality protects our friends from such harm. Therefore, I conclude, we should treat our friends with epistemic partiality. But there are limits. Is epistemic partiality epistemically irrational, so that we shouldn’t treat our friends with epistemic partiality? I argue that even if it’s epistemically irrational to treat someone with epistemic partiality, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do so. Is epistemic partiality immoral? I’ll consider to what extent moral considerations place limits on the epistemic partiality with which we should treat our friends. Finally, is the argument from care based on a mistaken conception of friendship? In responding to these objections, our understanding of friendship and epistemic partiality is further refined. I conclude by reflecting on some possible lines of inquiry for the future. In particular, I suggest that it’s possible we should treat the victims of sexual or racial discrimination or violence with epistemic partiality.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Philosophy (York)
Depositing User: Mr Jack Robert Warman
Date Deposited: 12 Aug 2019 09:03
Last Modified: 12 Aug 2019 09:03
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24617

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