Indicators of the reliability of informants are essential for social learning in a society that is initially dominated by ignorance or superstition. Such reliability indicators should be based on meta-induction over records of truth-success. This is the major claim of this paper, and it is supported in two steps. (1) One needs a non-circular justification of the method of meta-induction, as compared to other (non-inductive) learning methods. An approach to this problem (a variant of Hume's problem) has been developed in earlier papers and is reported in section 2. It is based on the predictive optimality of meta-inductive learning, under the assumption that objective success records are globally available. (2) The rest of the paper develops an extension of this approach, so-called local meta-induction. Here individuals can access only success records of individuals in their immediate epistemic neighborhood. It is shown that local meta-inductive learning can spread reliable information over the entire population, and has clear advantages compared to success-independent social learning methods such as peer-imitation and authority-imitation.
GERHARD SCHURZ is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Duesseldorf (email@example.com). His major areas of research are philosophy of science, epistemology, logic, and cognitive science. Among his books are The Is-Ought Problem (Kluwer 1997), Einfuehrung in die Wissenschaftstheorie (Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 3rd edn 2011) and Reliable Knowledge and Social Epistemology (ed. with M. Werning, Amsterdam 2009).