The word of a reluctant convert
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Recent political events suggest that there is more political, religious, and moral division than many had previously realized. Since people on all sides think they’re in the right, mitigating division is in everyone’s interest. But overcoming division requires changing minds, and changing minds requires advocacy. These considerations raise important questions in the epistemology of advocacy. In particular, who are the best advocates? After making some general remarks about the epistemology of advocacy, I explore the thought, found in Berkeley’s dialogue Alciphron, that an important variable to consider when assessing advocates is whether they are converts. I argue that this is indeed an important variable to consider, as certain kinds of converts can avoid some attempts to dismiss advocates. However, non-converts score better than converts in other respects. I conclude by suggesting that empirical work must be done to assess the role conversion plays in assessing advocates.
KeywordsAdvocacy Conversion Social epistemology Authority Trust Bias Resistance
Thanks to Jon Herington and Robert Simpson for helpful discussion and to several anonymous referees for comments that helped improve the paper. Thanks also to Katia Vavova, Pete Graham, Luis Pinto de Sa, John Schwenkler, Daniel Fogal, Rosa Terlazzo, Lisa Cassell, and Mike Titelbaum.
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