Coining a Phrase

I’ve decided to coin a new phrase. Just heard a talk that convinced me we need it. The background is that a standard objection to many accounts of justification is that they imply that small children and animals have no justified beliefs. Think of Sellars, for example.

So forget the animals, and focus just on the small children version of the problem. When the view implies that small children can’t have justified beliefs, we should call the view guilty of . . . epistemic infanticide.


Coining a Phrase — 11 Comments

  1. Going the other direction, when a theory of justification implies that epistemology proper is impossible, we can call it ‘epistemic annihilation’. (I’m thinking of those critiques of epistemic externalism to the effect that if externalism were true, epistemologists should hand over everything to natural and social scientists). Perhaps it works better for Quinean-style naturalised ‘epistemology’. Anyhow, I think it has a good ring to it, and it’s definitely dramatic.

  2. Aren’t most of us guilty of epistemic infanticide? Who thinks that newborn infants have justified beliefs? I like to use 3 and 4 year olds as examples of people who clearly have justified beliefs despite the fact that they don’t satisfy conditions that some people think are required for justification. I never point out that infants have justified beliefs.
    Still I have to admit that “epistemic infanticide” is catchier than “epistemic toddlericide” or “epistemic preschoolericide”.

  3. I’m with Michael: I think the real problem for many theories is young children of just the age Michael is pointing to.

    Sometimes think of this in the Lockean phrase “children, idiots, etc.” If I could talk to Mr. Locke, one of the things I’d ask him is for a few more items on that list before he hits the “etc.” Wd love to know what if anything else he was thinking there. (For me, on many of these issues, some cognitively with-it non-human mammals often make for good examples.)

  4. Mike and Keith, maybe, but infancy extends in a vague way to somewhere up to at least a year and maybe beyond. Maybe once they are walking a bit, they are no longer infants? Regardless of how the vagueness is resolved, though, infants can know quite a bit. So, for the theories in question, they must either sever the connection between justification and knowledge or be guilty of epistemic infanticide. Or, of course, bite the bullet, denying that knowledge claim.

  5. A couple other possibilities:

    epistemic juvicide
    epistemic filicide

    Clearly, neither is as catchy as ‘epistemic infanticide’. But they’re catchier than ‘epistemic preschoolericide’, no? 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *