ETHICS, EPISTEMOLOGY AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS
CONVENORS: ADAM DYRDA, MACIEJ JUZASZEK
Social institutions are social artefacts, which means they exist mainly because people bring them to life by acting and judging collectively. Realistic theories of institutions assume that social (legal) institutions are mind-independent only in a weak sense. Although the institutions exist independently of individuals' beliefs, their existence depends on the collective beliefs concerning their content, structure, and way of functioning. Moreover, these beliefs fulfil a performative role only under certain conditions: without them, social institutions would not begin to exist in the first place.
The existence of commonly shared beliefs of a specific type (so-called mutual knowledge, common beliefs, shared beliefs, reflexive beliefs) has been recognized by social ontologists (such as J. Searle, R. Tuomela, and M. Gilbert) as one of the necessary conditions for the existence of social institutions. However, rarely (if never) they have asked the questions about epistemic (cognitive) and ethical criteria that such beliefs ought to fulfil. It is particularly interesting considering that epistemological evidentialists assume that holding unjustified beliefs is a cognitive and moral error (e.g. it leads to excessive credulity of others). Hence, the question arises of what the cognitive status and justification of beliefs focused on the constitution of social institutions really are.
Possible questions related to this central theme include but are not limited to:
- What are the relations between social ontology, epistemology, and ethics?
- What are the ontological assumptions behind the ethics of institutional beliefs?
- What are the epistemological and ethical assumptions behind social ontology?
- What are the applications of ethics of belief in legal philosophy?
- How does epistemic appraisal relate to ethical appraisal?
- Can we be doxastically/epistemically/morally responsible for our institutional beliefs?
- Do we have control over our institutional beliefs?
- Is there moral or epistemic luck concerning institutional beliefs?
- What are the differences (if any) between moral and epistemic responsibility for institutional beliefs?
- Are there any moral duties concerning institutional beliefs?
- Are there any non-moral epistemic duties concerning institutional beliefs?
- What are the epistemic and moral virtues concerning institutional beliefs?
- Is epistemic/moral paternalism permissible in the context of institutional beliefs?
- Should every type of institutional belief be assessed from the epistemological and ethical point of view in the same manner?
- What kind of theory of ethics of belief should be used to evaluate institutional beliefs? Fideism, evidentialism, or maybe others?
- Can holding false institutional beliefs be practically or ethically justified just because holding them leads to beneficial consequences?
- What is the status of traditional beliefs? How are past folk beliefs relevant to both the creation and justification of social and legal institutions?
- Can a belief-reflecting utterance such as "The institution X exists, but I do not believe it" be meaningful? Can people commit themselves to belief into something they take to be non-existent (fictional – given the fictionalist account of social/legal institutions)?
- Do the same ethical and epistemological standards apply to institutional beliefs concerning law and legal institutions shared by laypeople and to beliefs shared by legal experts?
- Do the functions of institutions influence the ethical and epistemological justification of beliefs underlying the existence and content of institutions?
- Does the practice of existing institutions influence the beliefs underlying the existence and content of institutions?
- What are folk theories of ethics of institutional beliefs?
Adam Dyrda (Jagiellonian University), Maciej Juzaszek (University of Wrocław)