How I learned to stop worrying and ignore unwelcome epistemic company


The problem of unwelcome epistemic company refers to the problem of encountering agreement with your beliefs from an unwelcome source, such as someone who is known to form unreliable beliefs or have values you reject. Blanchard (2023) and Levy (2023) argue that when we encounter unwelcome agreement, we may have reason to reduce our confidence in our matching beliefs. I argue that unwelcome epistemic company rarely provides reasons to reduce our confidence, and apparent successes at improving our beliefs using unwelcome company are explained by extraneous factors. Seeing why unwelcome agents are rarely evidence our belief is false requires making a distinction between two kinds of agents who regularly form false beliefs: unreliable agents and anti-reliable agents. While unreliable agents are common, they are uninformative. While anti-reliable agents would be informative, they are incredibly rare. Unwelcome agents are also rarely evidence that we have formed our own beliefs via an unreliable process, unless we have independent evidence that we are relevantly similar to them. This is hard to obtain given that unwelcome agents, by definition, have values and methods of forming beliefs that we do not find appealing. Moreover, attempts to use unwelcome company to improve our beliefs are likely to make our beliefs worse off in a number of ways. I argue we should adopt a policy of ignoring unwelcome company, letting them have little impact on our confidence in our beliefs.


peer disagreement, unwelcome epistemic company, unreliable agents, anti-reliable, conciliationism

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