Philosophical Studies

, Volume 176, Issue 8, pp 2221–2242 | Cite as

Against epistemic partiality in friendship: value-reflecting reasons

  • Sanford C. GoldbergEmail author


It has been alleged that the demands of friendship conflict with the norms of epistemology—in particular, that there are cases in which the moral demands of friendship would require one to give a friend the benefit of the doubt, and thereby come to believe something in violation of ordinary epistemic standards on justified or responsible belief (Baker in Pac Philos Q 68:1–13, 1987; Keller in Philos Pap 33(3):329–351, 2004; Stroud in Ethics 116(3):498–524, 2006; Hazlett in A luxury of the understanding: on the value of true belief, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013). The burden of this paper is to explain these appearances away. I contend that the impression of epistemic partiality in friendship dissipates once we acknowledge the sorts of practical and epistemic reasons that are generated by our values: value-reflecting reasons. The present proposal has several virtues: it requires fewer substantial commitments than other proposals seeking to resist the case for epistemic partiality (in particular, it eschews both Pragmatic Encroachment and Epistemic Permissivism); it is independently motivated, as it cites a phenomenon—value-reflecting reasons—we have independent reasons to accept; it provides a single, unified account of how various features of friendship bear on belief-formation; and makes clear how it is the very value we place on friendship itself that ensures against epistemic partiality.


Epistemic partiality Ethics of friendship Practical reasons Epistemic reasons Values Pragmatic encroachment Epistemic permissivism 



Thanks to Rigina Rini, Nomy Arpaly, Stephen Grimm, Carry Osbourne, Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Henry Jackman, Annalisa Coliva, Lindsay Crawford, Dan Korman, Katherine Hawley, Jennifer Lackey, Paul Faulkner, Duncan Pritchard, Aaron James, Baron Reed, and Catarina Dutilh Novaes, for comments on earlier drafts; to audiences at UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, York University, the Ethics and Epistemology Group at Fordham University, Utrecht University, and the European Summer School in Social Epistemology that took place near Madrid (summer 2017), where I have delivered earlier versions of this paper; and to two anonymous referees for Philosophical Studies, who gave me very helpful comments on several earlier drafts.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

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