Defending a contextual account of objectivity

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Pinni B building, room 4141, address: Kanslerinrinne 1

Guest lecture by Research Doctor Inkeri Koskinen (University of Helsinki).


In this article I defend a specific, contextual account of objectivity. Following Heather Douglas I suggest that when we call X objective, we endorse it: we say that we trust X or rely on X, and that others should do so, too. But the word "objective" is reserved to a specific type of confidence: it is based on the belief that some important epistemic threat arising from our imperfections as epistemic agents has been effectively averted.

I call this account of objectivity contextual for two reasons. First, we are imperfect as epistemic agents in many ways: we are prone to wishful thinking, we can be fooled by illusions, we easily adopt ideas and values shared in our communities and do not question them, etc. Our failings as epistemic agents lead to many different kinds of epistemic threats. It is plausible that some of them are particularly pressing in some contexts, other ones in others. So what is an important threat may depend on the context. Secondly, this account separates strategies developed for averting some threat from the threat itself. There is no need to think that a specific threat could not be averted in several different ways. Some are more appropriate in some contexts, others in others.

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Professor Arto Laitinen,