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Publications

Find a list of Lani Watson's publications below.

 

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the right to know:
Epistemic rights and
why we need them
find out more and order

The Right To Know: Epistemic Rights And Why We Need Them. 2021. London: Routledge.


Synopsis: We speak of the right to know with relative ease. You have the right to know the results of a medical test or to be informed about the collection and use of personal data. But what exactly is the right to know, and who should we trust to safeguard it? This book provides the first comprehensive examination of the right to know and other epistemic rights: rights to goods such as information, knowledge and truth. These rights play a prominent role in our information-centric society and yet they often go unnoticed, disregarded and unprotected. As such, those who control what we know, or think we know, exert an influence on our lives that is often as dangerous as it is imperceptible. Beginning with a rigorous but accessible philosophical account of epistemic rights, Lani Watson examines the harms caused by epistemic rights violations, drawing on case studies across medical, political and legal contexts. She investigates who has the right to what information, who is responsible for the quality and circulation of information and what epistemic duties we have towards each other. This book is essential reading for philosophers, legal theorists and anyone concerned with the protection and promotion of information, knowledge and truth. Available now Reviews: "Watson makes a powerful and timely case for the adoption of a rights framework to understand and address the wrongs resulting from doubt mongering and misinformation campaigns. Written in a lucid and accessible style this book provides a defence of citizens’ right to know and of institutions and corporations’ duty to inform. It lays the groundwork for what promises to be a whole new area of inquiry." - Alessandra Tanesini, Cardiff University, UK




Educating for Good Questioning as a Democratic Skill. 2019. In: (eds.) Fricker, M., Graham, P., Henderson, D. and Pedersen, N. The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. New York: Routledge, 437-446.


Abstract: In this paper I argue that we should rethink the dominant answer-oriented education model and educate for good questioning. I align the case in support of educating for good questioning with the democratic education movement, drawing additional support from the distinct but complementary argument for skills-based education. I present an account of the skill of good questioning and examine three distinct contributions that this skill makes to the successful functioning of democratic society, arguing that good questioning facilitates 1) understanding, 2) participation, and 3) decision-making. Good questioning is thereby conducive to both individual learning and societal cohesion and is a key component of intellectual character, without which learning is in danger of becoming passive and compliant. Good questioning serves the aims of democratic education and, correspondingly, of democracy itself. We should educate for good questioning in democratic society. Download the PDF here.




Educating for Inquisitiveness: A Case Against Exemplarism for Intellectual Character Education. 2019. Journal of Moral Education 48(3): 303-315.


Abstract: One natural application of Linda Zagzebski’s exemplarist moral theory (EMT) is found in the context of moral and intellectual character education. Zagzebski discusses this application in her recent book, commenting that ‘exemplars can serve as a guide for moral training’ (p. 129) and endorsing ‘the learning of virtue by imitation’ (p. 129). This theme has been pursued compellingly by authors working at the intersection of virtue ethics and education, contributing to an emerging case for exemplarist-based approaches to character education. I focus on intellectual character education and draw attention to an interesting case in which exemplarism in the classroom may be seen to inhibit, rather than promote, the development of intellectually virtuous character. This is the case of virtuous inquisitiveness. Download the PDF here.




Review of Exemplarist Moral Theory. Co-authored with Alan Wilson.  (2019). Journal of Moral Philosophy 16: 755-767.


Abstract: This review essay provides a critical discussion of Linda Zagzebski’s (2017) Exemplarist Moral Theory (EMT). We agree that EMT is a book of impressive scope that will be of interest to ethical theorists, as well as epistemologists, philosophers of language, and philosophers of religion. We argue that exemplarism faces a number of important challenges, firstly, in dealing with the fallibility of admiration, which plays a central role in the theoretical framework, and secondly, in serving as a practical guide for moral development. Despite this, we maintain that EMT points the way for significant future theoretical and empirical research into some of the most well-established questions in ethical theory.




Questioning the Questions. 2018. The Philosopher 107(1): 33-36.


Recently I was handed a small black card by a stranger in the street. It read: ‘SIMPLE QUESTION! Where will YOU spend eternity?’ The card also displayed a website and a QR code, presumably for those wishing to seek out an answer. I haven’t visited the website yet but the card did get me thinking. Read more…




What is a Question. 2018. The Philosopher’s Magazine 82.


What was the last question that you asked. Take a moment to recall. Perhaps it was in conversation with a friend or colleague. Perhaps to a stranger in a café or a shop. Maybe you conducted a search in Google or wondered to yourself which article in The Philosophers’ Magazine to read next. Can you recall precisely what you asked, who you asked, or how you asked it. Read more…




Systematic Epistemic Rights Violations in the Media: A Brexit Case Study. 2018. Social Epistemology, 32:2, 88-102.


Abstract: In this paper, I outline the nature of epistemic rights and epistemic rights violations (Sections I-III) and demonstrate the widespread perpetration of such violations in pre-Brexit media coverage (Section IV). This provides a case study for the investigation of epistemic rights violations across national and international media; a topic of central concern for contemporary epistemology (Section V). Download the PDF here.




Educating for Curiosity. 2018. In: (eds.) Inan, I., Watson, L., Whitcomb, D., and Yigit, S. The Moral Psychology of Curiosity. Rowman and Littlefield, 293-310.


Abstract: My aim, in this chapter, is to present a characterisation of the intellectual virtue of curiosity that offers some insight into educating for the virtue, and provides theoretically grounded motivations for doing so. I begin by outlining a characterisation of curiosity as an intellectual virtue. I then examine three key features of this characterisation relevant to the task of educating for curiosity as an intellectual virtue. Finally, I present, what I take to be two of the most compelling reasons to educate for the intellectual virtue of curiosity. Download the PDF here.




Curiosity and Inquisitiveness. 2018. In: (ed.) Battaly, H. The Routledge Handbook of Virtue Epistemology. New York: Routledge.


Abstract: This paper offers characterisations of the intellectual virtues of curiosity and inquisitiveness and discusses the distinction between them. I argue that curiosity and inquisitiveness should not be regarded as synonymous. Specifically, virtuous inquisitiveness emerges as a restricted form of virtuous curiosity: it is virtuous curiosity manifested as good questioning. This has implications, within applied virtue epistemology, for the ways in which we educate for these closely related, but distinct intellectual virtues. Download the PDF here.




Educating for Good Questioning: A Tool for Intellectual Virtues Education. 2018. Acta Analytica, 33(3): 353-370.


Abstract: In this paper, I present a central line of argument in support of educating for good questioning, namely, that it plays an important role in the formation of an individual’s intellectual character and can thereby serve as a valuable pedagogical tool for intellectual character education. I argue that good questioning plays two important roles in the cultivation of intellectual character: good questioning 1) stimulates intellectually virtuous inquiry and 2) contributes to the development of several of the individual intellectual virtues. Insofar as the cultivation of intellectually virtuous character is a desirable educational objective, we should educate for good questioning. Download the PDF here.




The Epistemology of Education. 2016. Philosophy Compass, 11(3): 146-159.


Abstract: The landscape of contemporary epistemology has significantly diversified in the past thirty years, shaped in large part by two complementary movements; virtue and social epistemology. This diversification provides an apt theoretical context for the epistemology of education. No longer concerned exclusively with the formal analysis of knowledge, epistemologists have turned their attention towards individuals as knowers, and the social contexts in which epistemic goods such as knowledge and understanding are acquired and exchanged. As such the concerns of epistemology have once again aligned with questions lying at the heart of the philosophy of education regarding the nature, aims and practice of education. Employing the conceptual tools and frameworks of the contemporary field, these questions are addressed by both epistemologists and education theorists in the emerging epistemology of education literature. Download the PDF here.




Why Should We Educate for Inquisitiveness. 2016. In: (ed.) Baehr, J. Intellectual Virtues and Education: Essays in Applied Virtue Epistemology. Routledge. 38-53.


Abstract: Inquisitiveness is a paradigm example of an intellectual virtue. Despite some extensive work on the characterisation of the intellectual virtues, however, (e.g. Roberts and Wood, 2007; Baehr 2011) no detailed treatment of the virtue of inquisitiveness has been forthcoming in the recent literature. This paper offers a characterisation of virtuous inquisitiveness considered within the framework of educating for intellectual virtue. It presents the case in support of educating for inquisitiveness arguing that it is a primary intellectual virtue to educate for. Download the PDF here.




What is Inquisitiveness. 2015. American Philosophical Quarterly, 52(3): 273-288.


Abstract: This paper offers an in-depth examination of the intellectual virtue of inquisitiveness. A characterisation of inquisitiveness is developed in Part I in which the inquisitive person is identified as one who is characteristically motivated to engage sincerely in good questioning. Part II examines the place of inquisitiveness among the virtues. Inquisitiveness is seen to bear a defining relationship to the process of inquiry as a fundamentally motivating intellectual virtue. On this basis, it is argued that inquisitiveness plays a distinctively valuable role in the intellectually virtuous life, placing it at the heart of autonomous virtue epistemology. Download the PDF here.




What is a Question. 2021. Philosophy, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements 89: 273-297.


Questions are, in many respects, the hallmarks of the philosopher's trade. They are passed down from one generation to the next and yet, throughout history, philosophers have had relatively little to say about questions. In particular, few have asked or tried to answer the question ‘what is a question'. I call this the ‘Question Question’ and I offer an answer to it in this paper, furnishing philosophical analysis with the results of a large online survey, which has been running for more than a decade. Available here.




‘Knowledge is Power’: Barriers to Intellectual Humility in the Classroom. 2020. In: The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Humility edited by Alfano, M, Lynch, M. and Tanesini, A., 439-450.


How does the idea that knowledge is power play out in our schools and universities. How does it feature in our education systems and how does it impact upon the intellectual characters of students. Specifically, how does the pervasiveness of this idea in our schools and classrooms affect students’ willingness and ability to be intellectually humble. In this paper, I suggest that this idea presents itself in contemporary classrooms as a barrier to the development and exercise of intellectual humility. Simply put, when we equate knowledge with power, we make it harder to be intellectually humble. In its most prevalent manifestation, this barrier arises in the form of answer-oriented education. I spend the majority of the paper outlining the nature and impact of answer-oriented education and, towards the end, suggest one way to remove this barrier by shifting from answer-oriented to question-oriented education. The latter, I argue, warrants further attention in philosophical and educational research. Download PDF here.




Epistemic Rights in a Polarized World. 2020. In: Polarisation, Arrogance, and Dogmatism: Philosophical Perspectives edited by Lynch, M. and Tanesini, A. London: Routledge.


Epistemic rights feature both implicitly and explicitly in the highly polarized pro-life versus pro-choice abortion debate in the US. This paper explores the nature and role of epistemic rights in that debate. I argue that the proper characterisation of epistemic rights allows us to identify a range of epistemic harms perpetrated by key actors and institutions in the debate amounting to epistemic rights violations. Using two case studies, I highlight where epistemic rights arise and are violated in the abortion debate and examine the consequences of these violations for individuals and epistemic communities. I conclude that epistemic rights violations in the abortion debate harm individuals, diminish the quality of the debate and lead to increased polarization. Download PDF here.




Vices of Questioning in Public Discourse. 2020. In: The Routledge Handbook of Vice Epistemology edited by Battaly, H. London: Routledge.


Questioning is ubiquitous and habitual in our daily lives. We ask questions all the time, often without reflecting consciously on the practice. Sometimes it goes well, sometimes it doesn't and often we don’t notice the difference. Questions are also a familiar feature of public discourse and here the difference between good and bad questioning can have important and sometimes damaging effects: a leading question that influences the results of a referendum, a loaded question that forces a prejudicial response in public debate, the aggressive or insensitive questioning of journalists hungry for a story.

In this paper I investigate what makes questioning bad (Section I) then offer a taxonomy of bad questioning practices (Section II). Drawing on examples of questioning in contemporary politics, I go on to discuss the nature and impact of bad questioning in the public sphere (Section III). I argue that bad questioning is an intellectual failing often expressed in intellectual vices such as negligence, closed-mindedness and arrogance (Section IV). As such, bad questioning in the public sphere degrades the professional character of, for example, journalists and politicians and undermines the wider role that they play in our epistemic communities. I conclude that greater attention should be paid to questioning practices in public and political forums in order to check and maintain the epistemic and characterological integrity of key social institutions (Section V).

Download PDF here.