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Nagel, Jennifer, , . Epistemic Anxiety and Adaptive Invariantism
2010, Philosophical Perspectives 24: 407-435.
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Abstract: Do we apply higher epistemic standards to subjects with high stakes? This paper argues that we expect different outward behavior from high-stakes subjects – for example, we expect them to collect more evidence than their low-stakes counterparts – but not because of any change in epistemic standards. Rather, we naturally expect subjects in any condition to think in a roughly adaptive manner, balancing the expected costs of additional evidence collection against the expected value of gains in accuracy. The paper reviews a body of empirical work on the automatic regulation of cognitive effort in response to stakes, and argues that we naturally see high- and low-stakes subjects as experiencing different levels of ‘epistemic anxiety’, and anticipate different levels of cognitive effort from them for this reason. If unresolved epistemic anxiety always bars an ascription of knowledge, then we can explain our responses to cases involving shifting stakes without positing any variation in the standards of intuitive knowledge ascription.

Comment: Nagel is one of the prominent epistemologists who bring relevant psychological researches to philosophical debates. In this paper, Nagel proposes a psychological account of intuitive judgments of pair of cases that are used to motivate subject sensitive invariantism. And she defends a view called “adaptive invariantism”, a kind of moderate invariantism. The paper is very useful for courses on methodology of philosophy and teachings on pragmatic encroachement for courses on epistemology.

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Nagel, Jennifer, , . Knowledge Ascription and the Psychological Consequences of Changing Stakes
2008, Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86: 279-294.
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Abstract: Why do our intuitive knowledge ascriptions shift when a subject’s practical interests are mentioned? Many efforts to answer this question have focused on empirical linguistic evidence for context sensitivity in knowledge claims, but the empirical psychology of belief formation and attribution also merits attention. The present paper examines a major psychological factor (called “need-for-closure”) relevant to ascriptions involving practical interests. Need-for-closure plays an important role in determining whether one has a settled belief; it also influences the accuracy of one’s cognition. Given these effects, it is a mistake to assume that high- and low-stakes subjects provided with the same initial evidence are perceived to enjoy belief formation that is the same as far as truth-conducive factors are concerned. This mistaken assumption has underpinned contextualist and interest-relative invariantist treatments of cases in which contrasting knowledge ascriptions are elicited by descriptions of subjects with the same initial information and different stakes. The paper argues that intellectualist invariantism in fact yields the best treatment of such cases.

Comment: Nagel is one of the prominent epistemologists who bring relevant psychological researches to philosophical debates. In this paper, Nagel proposes a psychological account of intuitive judgments of pair of cases that are used to motivate subject sensitive invariantism. The paper is very useful for courses on methodology of philosophy and teachings on pragmatic encroachment in courses on epistemology.

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View this text on PhilPapers
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