P1. Philosophy (ENS, Paris)
The general aim of our research is to extend and develop Quine's naturalization of epistemology by elucidating what epistemic norms are, and how thinkers become sensitive to them. Given the many facets of ENs, interdisciplinary collaboration is a must. From the intentional-realist viewpoint adopted here, ENs are epistemic constraints, i.e. objective conditions for valid cognition; normative awareness refers to the sensitivity of epistemic or mental agents to these constraints. Only the latter is open to a psychological explanation. Philosophers are well-armed to explore the subject of norm dominance, and of meta-normativity from a conceptual viewpoint. ENs have been shown to be constitutive of mental agency, through their regulative effect on critical, self-evaluative thinking. Philosophers are also interested in the differences between norms and mechanisms , and in the distinctively epistemic character of ENs as contrasted with instrumental, social and moral norms. A naturalist account of ENs, however, cannot be based on intuitions about correct reasoning, knowledge and justification, for these might merely reflect ethnocentric preferences. An unprecedented interdisciplinary effort is thus needed to open up a new field of research, based on a well-thought-out methodology. Subjects' EN sensitivity will be explored 1) by eliciting engaged, task-dependent self-evaluations, rather than by using verbal questionnaires, 2) by observing how norm conflict is adjudicated in various tasks and contexts. 3) Experimental evidence will be collected, applying, as far as possible, similar behavioral paradigms to test EN sensitivity in children of different age groups, and in adults, from Europe and Japan. Neurophysiological correlates will be collected in children (EEG) and in adults (fMRI). Finally, anthropologists will explore how epistemic norms work in a Madagascar rural group, where epistemic compromises are an essential key to long term kinship relations. Experimental and observational research will in turn fuel a collective theoretical investigation on the nature of ENs and on the properties of norm sensitivity.
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