Basil Mueller

Postal Address:

University of Bern
Institute of Philosophy
Länggassstrasse 49
3012 Bern

Office: Unitobler, D222


I’m a PhD-Student at the University of Bern and a member of the SNF-project Explaining Human Nature: Empirical and Ideological Dimensions. I’m also an associated member of the Zurich Epistemology Group on Rationality. From January to June 2023 I’ll be a recognised visiting student at the University of Oxford, visiting with Prof. Neil Levy.

The topic of my PhD-project is social epistemic norms and their evolution. Social epistemologists have recently begun to make use of social norms in their theorizing of a variety of phenomena. In parallel there exists an empirical literature on the evolution of cooperation, culture, and normativity that heavily relies on social norms. Although there are some exceptions, there’s only been little exchange between the two fields. The PhD-project aims to synthesize these as of yet dispersed insights to advance debates in social epistemology and the evolution of cooperation, culture and normativity. I’m also interested in how these questions bear on metaepistemological issues. The project is being supervised by Rebekka Hufendiek and Anne Meylan.

More generally, my main research interests lie in epistemology (social epistemology, epistemic normativity, metaepistemology) and in the philosophy of psychology and biology (cognitive irrationality, evolution of normativity, evolutionary explanations).

I’ve published two papers that illustrate some of these research interests:

In a forthcoming paper I introduce the notion of an epistemic conflict of interest [ECOI]. In ECOI, a normatively more weightier interest (roughly to form and share true beliefs) stands in conflict with normatively less weightier interests — I focus on research on cognitive irrationality to tease out how such secondary interests might look like. The resulting framework addresses an explanatory gap in the literature on social epistemic norms by making explicit why there’s a need for these norms to regulate our epistemic lives. Lastly, I show how the ECOI-framework furthermore allows us to make sense of and amend norm regulation failures.

In another paper I argue that empirical research on the evolution of a social-learning mechanism is compatible with an epistemic error theory.

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