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Epistemic humility — an intellectual virtue

Summary:
From Lars Syll Being a true expert involves not only knowing stuff about the world but also knowing the limits of your knowledge and expertise. It requires, as psychologists say, both cognitive and metacognitive skills. The point is not that true experts should withhold their beliefs or that they should never speak with conviction. Some beliefs are better supported by the evidence than others, after all, and we should not hesitate to say so. The point is that true experts express themselves with the proper degree of confidence—meaning with a degree of confidence that’s justified given the evidence … Epistemic humility is an intellectual virtue. It is grounded in the realization that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete—and that it might require revision in light of new

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from Lars Syll

Being a true expert involves not only knowing stuff about the world but also knowing the limits of your knowledge and expertise. It requires, as psychologists say, both cognitive and metacognitive skills. The point is not that true experts should withhold their beliefs or that they should never speak with conviction. Some beliefs are better supported by the evidence than others, after all, and we should not hesitate to say so. The point is that true experts express themselves with the proper degree of confidence—meaning with a degree of confidence that’s justified given the evidence …

Epistemic humility — an intellectual virtueEpistemic humility is an intellectual virtue. It is grounded in the realization that our knowledge is always provisional and incomplete—and that it might require revision in light of new evidence. A lack of epistemic humility is a vice—and it can cause massive damage both in our private lives and in public policy …

It’s never been more important to learn to separate the wheat from the chaff—the experts who offer well-sourced information from the charlatans who offer little but misdirection. The latter are sadly common, in part because they are in greater demand on TV and in politics. It can be hard to tell who’s who. But paying attention to their confidence offers a clue. People who express themselves with extreme confidence without having access to relevant information and the experience and training required to process it can safely be classified among the charlatans until further notice.

Eric Angner

About Lars Syll
Lars Syll
Lars Jörgen Pålsson Syll (born November 5, 1957) is a Swedish economist who is a Professor of Social Studies and Associate professor of Economic History at Malmö University College. Pålsson Syll has been a prominent contributor to the economic debate in Sweden over the global financial crisis that began in 2008.

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