Research Workshop: "Is there a duty to disclose the epistemic risks of new media?"

Hanna Gunn (UC Merced)

Friday April 9th, 2021 (12:10pm - 2:00pm)


We generally accept that there is a duty to disclose risks to individuals who may be harmed by taking part in some activity, e.g., a clinical trial, bungee jumping, or exposure to potentially toxic substances. A failure to disclose these kinds of physical risks is a blameworthy act, and one that has been argued to constitute a failure to respect individual autonomy.

We treat the risks of developing shortness of breath from a heart medication to be very much unlike the risks of developing a belief that bee stings will cure heart disease from social media advertising. We have typically taken the attitude that being duped is a matter of personal responsibility. As a result, while we generally believe that there is a duty to disclose risks to physical well-being, there is no similar duty to disclose risks to epistemic well-being. In the face of our increasingly manipulative new media reality, this attitude is becoming suspect.

I consider the plausibility of the idea of distinctively epistemic risks and the plausibility of a corresponding duty to be warned about these risks by focusing on the personalization of our online lives. I present an argument modeled on arguments about informed consent for physical risks to show that there may be high moral costs at stake by failing to take epistemic risks of this sort seriously.



Hanna Kiri Gunn is an Assistant Professor in Cognitive and Information Sciences at the University of California, Merced. She received her PhD in philosophy from the University of Connecticut, Storrs in 2018. Her primary research areas are social epistemology, feminist philosophy, and applied ethics of technology. A primary research theme in all these areas is about the normative aspects of epistemic agency and epistemic community. Recent publications have been exploring the idea that epistemic life ought to aim not merely at truths (and other traditionally recognized epistemic goods), but also at fostering epistemic community and respect for the epistemic agency of others.




All Research workshops will be held via Zoom for the 2020-2021 school year. Zoom links are available on the Philosophy Major and Minor Canvas site.



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