9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN11 Sociology of Emotions

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Emotions & Ethics Building II, C6.10

Epistemic Feeling, Knowledge and Communal Ethics

The paper outlines a twofold claim: (1) There is a specific kind of feeling called 'epistemic feeling'; (2) Epistemic feeling genuinely is collective feeling. The claim outlined presupposes the following assumptions made in Virtue Epistemology, Virtue Theory and Emotion Theory: beliefs must be rooted in virtues in order to get the credit of knowledge; virtues are enduring affective dispositions motivating us to behave in certain ways in a given situation; affective states are internally related to value ethics, either in that they are the means to 'grasp' objective values, or in that they are projective faculties that determine the valuable properties of a situation.
The central value involved in the enterprise of knowledge is truth-conformity; it is supplemented by the epistemic values of justification, warrant, explanation and evidence. Given the aforementioned assumptions on virtues and values, the claim of Virtue Epistemology implies that we dispose of affective dispositions that respond to or determine these epistemic values. Epistemic feelings so understood make us feel when and how epistemic values are at stake and motivate us to act in responsible ways given these values.

Within this theoretical setting I shall argue that epistemic feeling cannot be accounted for in terms of merely individual feeling. While individuals may have a general feeling for truth-conformity, their individual feeling for justification, warrant or explanation is derived from a communal feeling. The communal epistemic feeling is generated in the joint endeavour to determine the extent of justification or warrant for knowledge. It is a feeling that is distributed on individuals in virtue of their being members of an epistemic community, and it manifests in that it is felt in a We-mode rather than in an I-mode. Epistemic feeling thus bears ethical implications: on the one hand, it contributes to setting epistemic standards; on the other hand it ties individuals together into the shared responsibility of upholding them.