Abstract

Epistemic trust is crucial for science. This article aims to identify the kinds of assumptions that are involved in epistemic trust as it is required for the successful operation of science as a collective epistemic enterprise. The relevant kind of reliance should involve working from the assumption that the epistemic endeavors of others are appropriately geared towards the truth, but the exact content of this assumption is more difficult to analyze than it might appear. The root of the problem is that methodological decisions in science typically involve a complex trade-off between the reliability of positive results, the reliability of negative results, and the investigation's power (the rate at which it delivers definitive results). Which balance between these is the ‘correct’ one can only be determined in light of an evaluation of the consequences of all the different possible outcomes of the inquiry. What it means for the investigation to be ‘appropriately geared towards the truth’ thus depends on certain value judgments. I conclude that in the optimal case, trusting someone in her capacity as an information provider also involves a reliance on her having the right attitude towards the possible consequences of her epistemic work.

  • 1Introduction

  • 2Epistemic Reliance within the Sciences

  • 3Methodological Conventionalism

  • 4Trust in Science

  • 5Conclusions

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