Group Normic Reliabilism


Group normic reliabilism says the following:

GNR: A collective belief is justified only if, given the process via which it was formed (r explained) it would require a deviation from normality (i.e. it would cry out for explanation) for the belief/judgement to be false (see Leplin 2007, and Smith 2016 for similar views of individual justification).

Normic reliabilism is well motivated as a condition on both individual and group justification: It solves a number of puzzles about justification (Smith (2016)), it is, as I will argue, independently motivated by knowledge centric approaches to justification, and it is able so solve some recalcitrant problems in the theory of group justification (due to Lackey (2016)).

The problems it solves are as follows:

1. Any view that places reliability at center stage in our theory of justification is going to have to deal with the fact that group reliability and individual reliability can seemingly come apart. Large groups can, by the Condorcet jury theorem, be highly reliable despite their members being only marginally above chance reliable. This also allows group level justification to float (almost) entirely free of the bases upon which members form their beliefs

GNR avoids this problems: the basis upon which members form their beliefs are part of the process (or explanation) for the resultant group belief. If a well-structured deliberative group reaches a false conclusion this is something which cries out for explanation. If a large group of unreliable and irresponsible agents reaches a false judgement this does not cry out for explanation (despite its low probability). Thus, despite the latter being more statistically reliable, they, unlike the deliberative group, will not be justified.

2. GNR also avoids Lackey’s manipulation of evidence problem: On joint acceptance views, a group’s justification is determined by their evidence, which is in turn determined by the reasons group members jointly accept. This allows groups to not accept evidence they don’t like, and form justified beliefs in whatever propositions they choose. Summativist views face a similar problem: we can generate justified group beliefs by adding and subtracting group members with the relevant justified beliefs. I argue, contra Lackey, that Lackey’s own view faces a version of this problem as well.

GNR avoids the problem: The process of picking evidence, or gerrymandering the group membership, is part of the explanation for the group’s belief (i.e. the belief forming process). The resultant process is unreliable and does not justify belief according to GNR.

Lackey, J. 2016. What is Justified Group Belief? Philosophical Review 125 (3). 341-396.

Leplin, J. 2007. In Defence of Reliabilism. Philosophical Studies 134. 31-42.

Smith, M. 2016. Between Probability and Certainty: What Justifies Belief. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


2 thoughts on “Group Normic Reliabilism

  1. Peet, Andrew says:

    Also, should have mentioned this in the talk: The project leading to this talk has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 818633).

  2. Peet, Andrew says:

    I make reference to a handout in the talk, but I obviously uploaded it to the wrong place. So, I have uploaded it to my website which is linked to the right.

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