Talk this week: Nadja El Kassar

Nadja El Kassar (University of Zurich/ ETH Zurich) will be visiting the Geneva Centre for Philosophy of Science this week. We are happy to present her talk this Wednesday (abstract below):

Wednesday, 23 October 2019, at 18:15 in Room L208 (Landolt):

Nadja El Kassar (Universität Zürich/ETH Zürich): Epistemic autonomy and epistemology in the digital world

Anyone who wishes to attend is welcome.


Nadja El Kassar (Universität Zürich/ETH Zürich): Epistemic autonomy and epistemology in the digital world

Abstract: My talk is a contribution to the new field of epistemology in the digital world. By discussing the issue of ignorance in digital societies I show that epistemic autonomy is a key concept for agents in the digital world since it enables agents to deal with ignorance in the digital world. Unlike practical autonomy, epistemic autonomy is a largely neglected term in philosophy. Therefore, I proceed to develop a new conception of epistemic autonomy as an adequate or inadequate disposition towards one’s own beliefs and epistemic capacities and practices.

Today’s epistemic lives in the digital age are different from most lives in the past but there are some issues that have bothered our ancestors and still bother us today. Ignorance has always presented epistemic and practical problems for human beings. What are we to do about ignorance? Because of their limited cognitive capacities – in addition to lack of time, conflicting interests, laziness, etc. – all human beings are bound to be ignorant about contingent facts, but also about what is necessarily unknowable. In today’s digital age we still seem to ask the same questions about ignorance, but the developments in digital societies affect fundamental assumptions of epistemology and epistemic practices. One of the aims of my talk is to uncover these changes in our questions about ignorance. I discuss the effects of technological developments on epistemology, such as deep fakes making us suspicious about whether we can rely on a visual or auditory input or whether it has been manipulated. On the basis of these observations I show that epistemic autonomy is key to dealing with ignorance and other epistemic issues in the changed landscape of the digital age. By discussing objections against my proposed account I show that the new theory of epistemic autonomy explains how adequate epistemic autonomy enables the agent to examine her beliefs, belief acquisition etc. in a digital society, thus, meeting the demands of an epistemic life in the digital world, while inadequate epistemic autonomy distorts epistemic processes.

About wuthrich

I am a philosopher of physics at the University of Geneva.
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