ArgLab • Permanent Seminar

Our epistemic duties in scenarios of vaccine mistrust

Giulia Terzian (NOVA University Lisbon)

What, if anything, should we do when someone says they don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change? Or that they worry that a COVID-19 vaccine might be dangerous? In this talk I will present an argument to the effect that in general, we face an epistemic duty to object to such assertions, qua instances of science denial and science sceptical discourse, respectively. To this end I will initially build on recent work by Casey Rebecca Johnson and Jennifer Lackey, who maintain that we ought to speak up when someone asserts a false, unwarranted belief, so as to fulfil an important epistemic obligation – namely, preventing epistemic harms in others. I will outline reasons for thinking that both science denial (SD) and vaccine hesitant (VH) discourses are harmful in a distinctively epistemic sense, and as such generate an especially strong duty to voice our disagreement.

I will then go on to suggest that this obligation is nonetheless defeasible: depending on the situational features of those involved, voicing an objection to VH discourse may actually end up doing more harm than good. If time allows, I will end by sketching what seems like a promising path towards restoring well-placed public trust in scientific testifiers.

For online participation, please use the following link (password: 006421).

Everybody is welcome to join!

This event is organized by P. Abreu and E. Rast. The purpose of this seminar series is to give researchers a platform to discuss ongoing work and problems in the philosophy of language, epistemology, argumentation, metaethics, and related areas. For administrative inquiries, please contact Pedro Abreu <> or Erich Rast <>.