Tuesday 22 June 2021

Striving for Perfection

In this post, Rie Iizuka (Kansai University) reports on a held three-day workshop on epistemic paternalism and enhancement, entitled "Striving for perfection". This workshop was held online in February 2021, organised by Rie, as a part of her research on epistemic paternalism funded by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. 

Day 1-Epistemic Nudging

As an epistemic analogue of libertarian paternalism, Kengo Miyazono (Hokkaido University) introduced epistemic libertarian paternalism; epistemic nudges are placed in such a way people would judge in desirable ways, while no inquiries are blocked.  Epistemic nudging only changes our epistemic choice architectures but not our choice sets. This position may look modest initially. However, some believe epistemic nudging is an inherently contested concept (one of which claims nudging is irrational). He argues that such irrationality is contingent: some nudging can be rational, especially where nudges neutralize our biases.

Bart Engelen (Tilburg University) introduced the ways in which we can put exemplars to the fore in our moral education. He argues that nudging strategies could enhance effective exemplar narratives by increasing the perceived importance of exemplars through their vivid embodiment. In other words, reminding moral exemplars would help us reconceptualize the ethical demands by motivating us to imagine exemplar's perspectives.

Day2-Epistemic Paternalism

According to Daniella Meehan (Glasgow University), there is an inherent tension between virtue epistemology and epistemic nudging. Some might think nudging can help us cure intellectual vices, i.e., epistemically damaging characters that need systematic treatment. However, a systematic epistemic nudging involves a potential risk of harming our reflective epistemic autonomy, in the worst scenario, leading to creating yet another epistemic vice (such as laziness). A few ways to avoid this conflict were proposed: allowing some violations of epistemic autonomy for the greater good, nudging to enhance our deliberative capacity, and defending the view of characters fostered by nudging is not a genuine vice.

How shall we combat fake news? Shane Ryan (Nazarbayev University) believes an educational approach is key. Having compared three different ideas surrounding epistemic interventions: paternalism, benevolence, and laissez-faire, he concludes that making public media education a requirement for releasing contents on social media site may be permissible based on his formulation of epistemic paternalism: regardless of what S believes Y's wish, if S acts because of a positive epistemic standing that X may improve Y's epistemic welfare, S acts epistemically paternalistically.  



Rie Iizuka (Kansai University) takes virtues to be beautiful into serious consideration. Unlike familiar cautionary tales in enhancement debate in general (e.g., the argument from giftedness), people are eager to enhance their beauty standards by using various methods. Our narratives surrounding beauty practices are dominantly positive, choice-oriented, and techno-progressive. While we may rightfully attribute some virtues (such as tenacity or courage) to those who engage in such practices, she left some cautionary remarks: beauty practices are driven by consumerism that does not necessarily track beauty ideals. We also need to acknowledge the virtue of humility for appreciating the beauty in others.

Emma Gordon (Glasgow University) has shown a dilemma inherent in pharmacological cognitive enhancement. Her research is conducted in collaboration with Lucy Dunn (Glasgow University Medical School). When one achieves epistemically (e.g., acquiring knowledge) with the help of an enhancement drug, such an achievement seems to be primarily attributed to the drug than ourselves. We can avoid this cheapened achievement problem by claiming that success is ours when enhancement is adequately integrated into our cognitive architectures. On one hand, proper integration requires systematic and long-term use of enhancement drugs in such a way we understand the effect of such medications reliably, but on the other hand, constant use of cognitive enhancement drugs will have severe consequences, such as physiological and psychological dependence. 

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