June 12, 2020

Lara Millman examines the epistemology of problematic beliefs in her MA thesis defence

Why individuals in socially problematic groups might be justified in believing erroneous things

Lara Roth Millman successfully defended her MA Philosophy thesis “Perceived Doxastic Warrant and Socially Problematic Beliefs” on June 11, 2020 to committee members Dr. Ann Levey (Supervisor), Dr. Megan Delehanty, Dr. Richard Zach (Neutral Chair) and Dr. Jeremy Fantl (Internal Examiner).

Lara Millman MA Thesis Defence June 11 2020

[clockwise from top left]: Megan Delehanty, Jeremy Fantl, Lara Millman, Ann Levey

Her thesis examines the epistemic mechanisms behind the persistence and acquisition of problematic beliefs: “as academics, we tend to assume groups espousing socially problematic beliefs—climate science denialists, fundamentalists, racists, Trump voters, etc.—are epistemically in the wrong.” Lara argues that it is possible for these group members to have arrived at their beliefs in epistemically sound ways: “Since we are extremely dependant on others for belief relevant information, our beliefs arise according to our epistemic circumstance, not some particular enlightenment or intelligence. According to purely epistemic standards, then, those in socially problematic groups might be doxastically justified in believing erroneous things.”

Her interest in the epistemology of problematic beliefs began during her undergraduate studies at the University of Lethbridge, working with Dr. Paul Viminitz as her honour’s supervisor. In her time at UCalgary, she completed a research project on fundamentalist epistemology in a seminar with Dr. Ann Levey, whose “helpful feedback, patience, wit, and interest” in the project made her the perfect fit for her graduate studies.  

We wish Lara great success as she moves on to do her PhD in Philosophy at Dalhousie University in September 2020!