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Transcript of Social Epistemology
Reductionism is the view that testimony-based justification does not arise from a distinct, basic principle of testimonial justification, but from principles involving perception and memory. Hume 1977 is a classic defense of reductionism. Wilson 2010 offers a new interpretation of Hume’s reductionism. Lyons 1997 offers arguments for reductionism. Fricker 1995 makes an important distinction between global and local reductionism, and argues for local reductionism. Nonreductionism, by contrast, holds that there is a basic principle of testimonial justification. Reid 1983 is a classic defense of nonreductionism against Hume. Burge 1993 offers a seminal articulation and defense of nonreductionism that remains very influential in contemporary debates. Faulkner 2000 and Lackey 2006 offer hybrid views of testimonial justification that integrate key insights of both reductionism and nonreductionism.
Burge, Tyler. “Content Preservation.” Philosophical Review102 (1993): 457–488.
A seminal defense of nonreductionism. Argues for the existence of an “acceptance principle,” which entitles us to accept testimonies as true unless there are stronger reasons not to do so. On this view, testimony, just like perception, is a basic source of justification.
Faulkner, Paul. “The Social Character of TestimonialKnowledge.” Journal of Philosophy97 (2000): 581–601.
Contends that the argument of Burge 1993 fails to recognize crucial epistemological differences between testimony , on the one hand, and perception and memory, on the other hand. Offers a hybrid theory of testimonial justification combining central elements of reductionism and nonreductionism.
Fricker, Elizabeth. “Telling and Trusting: Reductionism and Anti-Reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony.” Mind 104 (1995): 393–411.
Introduces a crucial distinction between two forms of reductionism (global and local) and argues against Coady 1992 that while global reductionism is implausible, local reductionism is an attractive position.
Hume, David. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding. Edited by E. Steinberg. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1977.
Section 10 is a classic defense of reductionism about testimonial justification. Originally published in 1748.
Lackey, Jennifer. “It Takes Two to Tango: Beyond Reductionism and Non-Reductionism in the Epistemology of Testimony.” In The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa, 160–191. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Argues that both reductionism and nonreductionism face important problems, and offers an alternative view of testimonial justification that integrates key elements of both reductionism and nonreductionism.
Lyons, Jack. “Testimony, Induction and Folk Psychology.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy75 (1997): 163–178.
A defense of a Humean reductionist view according to whichour justification for believing testimony is inductive: testimonial belief is justified because we have nontestimonial inductive evidence that testifiers are generally reliable.
Reid, Thomas. “An Inquiry.” In Thomas Reid’s Inquiry and Essays. Edited by Ronald Beanblossom and Keith Lehrer, 61–102. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1983.
Section 6 is a classic statement of the nonreductionist view that we are entitled to accept a testimony as true unless we have stronger reasons not to do so. Originally published in 1785.
Wilson, Fred. “Hume and the Role of Testimony in Knowledge.” Episteme7 (2010): 58–78.
Against Coady 1992 (see General Issues), argues that Hume does not claim that our testimonial beliefs can only be justified by nontestimonial evidence for the reliability of testimony in general. Rather, Hume’s account of what Wilson calls the “reasonable knower” recognizes that belief in the general reliability of testimony may be justified by testimonial evidence.
Most writers hold that knowledge and justification are only transmitted, not generated, by testimony. Welbourne1981 and Audi 1997 offer defenses of the transmission-only thesis. Critics of the transmission-only thesis include Graham 2000 and Lackey 1999. Adler 2006 offers a useful survey of the debate.
Adler, Jonathan E: “Epistemological Problems of Testimony”. In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward N. Zalta, 2006.
A thorough survey of the literature on the epistemology of testimony, focusing on the transmission–generation debate (among other topics).
Audi, Robert. “The Place of Testimony in the Fabric of Knowledge and Justification.” American Philosophical Quarterly 34 (1997): 405–422.
Argues that for someone to learn a proposition on the basis of a testimony, it is necessary (and sufficient) that the testifier knows the proposition under consideration: testimony can only transmit knowledge, and not generate it.
Graham, Peter J. “Transferring Knowledge.” Noûs34 (2000) 131–152.
An argument against the transmission thesis. Argues that for a subject to learn a proposition on the basis of a testimony, it is not necessary (nor sufficient) that the testifier knows the proposition under consideration. What is necessary is that the subject’s basis for accepting the proposition that pcarries the information that p.
Lackey, Jennifer. “Testimonial Knowledge and Transmission.” Philosophical Quarterly49 (1999): 471–490.
An influential defense of the view that testimony can generate (not only transmit) knowledge.
Welbourne, Michael. “The Community of Knowledge.” Philosophical Quarterly31 (1981): 302–314.
An early defense of the view that for someone to learn a proposition on the basis of a testimony, it is necessary (and sufficient) that the testifier knows the proposition under consideration, and thus that testimony can only transmit knowledge. Offers a challenge to the
traditional view of knowledge as individually held belief.
Social epistemology is a relatively young field, and anthologies on social epistemology generally or on special topics have started to appear only since around 1990. Schmitt 1994 is an early collection of essays in social epistemology. Goldman and Whitcomb 2011 and Haddock, et al. 2010 are two recent collections of papers on a wide variety of topics in social epistemology. Antony and Witt 1993 is an anthology of feminist essays containing several pieces on epistemology. Selinger and Crease 2006 is a collection of papers on expertise. Lackey and Sosa 2006 is an anthology on testimony. Feldman and Warfield 2010 is a collection of essays on the topic of disagreement. Machamer and Wolters 2004 is an anthology on science and social values.
Antony, Louise, and Charlotte Witt, eds. A Mind of One’s Own: Feminist Essays on Reason and Objectivity. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1993.
An anthology of feminist essays; section 2 focuses on feminist approaches to epistemology.
Feldman, Richard, and Ted Warfield, eds. Disagreement. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
A collection of papers on the topic of disagreement.
Goldman, Alvin, and Dennis Whitcomb, eds. Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
A collection of fifteen essays, many of which are very influential in the field. Contains sections on general approaches to social epistemology, trust in testimony and experts, peer disagreement, judgment aggregation, and the epistemology of epistemic systems.
Haddock, Adrian, Alan Millar, and Duncan Pritchard,eds. Social Epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
A collection of fifteen new essays on various topics in social epistemology, with particular focus on testimony, peer disagreement, and the nature of social epistemology.
Lackey, Jennifer, and Ernest Sosa, eds. The Epistemology of Testimony. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
A collection of twelve essays on testimony by leading epistemologists.
Machamer, Peter, and Gereon Wolters, eds. Science, Values and Objectivity. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press,2004.
A collection of essays on the role of social values in scientific inquiry.
Schmitt, Frederick, ed. Socializing Epistemology. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994.
The first important collection of essays on social epistemology. The introduction by Frederick Schmitt is a general discussion of the nature and aims of social epistemology.
Selinger, Evan, and Robert Crease, eds. The Philosophy of Expertise. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
A collection of essays on the nature and epistemology of expertise, by analytic and Continental philosophers.
Learning From Experts
In our highly complex and specialized world, we constantly rely on experts to form beliefs on various topics. Expertise, then, is a prime
source of socialevidence on which individuals rely, and experts are endowed with a special epistemic authority in our society. Thesocial
epistemology of expertise examines the nature of this epistemic authority and the epistemic properties of beliefs formed by relying on experts. Hardwig 1985 examines the epistemic nature of our reliance on experts. Conee 2009 examines which attitudes disagreeing experts themselves should adopt. Almassi 2009 considers a particular expert dispute in physics and argues that disagreement among experts can be rational. An important epistemological question regarding expertise is the question of how nonexperts can distinguish between genuine and fraudulent experts. This is an early question in philosophy that was raised by Plato in the Charmides(see Hardy 2010 for Plato’s view on expertise). Goldman 2001 and Coady 2006 examine this question under the guise of what Goldman 2001 calls the “novice/2-experts problem,” in which a novice must decide which of two disagreeing experts to trust. (See also Evidence in the Law).
Almassi, Ben. “Conflicting Expert Testimony and the Search for Gravitational Waves.” Philosophy of Science76 (2009): 570–584.
Through a study of an expert controversy in physics, examines the epistemic impact of certain social factors (such as the credibility and reputation of participants to the dispute) on the resolution of disagreements between experts, and argues that experts can rationally disagree with each other.
Coady, David. “When Experts Disagree.” Episteme3 (2006): 68–79.
Argues that the argument of Goldman 2001 against “going by the numbers” relies on a “nonindependence principle” that is not in general true, and examines the consequences of the failure of this principle for the question of what attitudes novices should adopt when experts
Conee, Earl. “Peerage.” Episteme6 (2009): 313–323.
Argues that experts involved in a longstanding scholarly disagreement are not epistemically justified in taking sides in the controversy.
Goldman, Alvin. “Experts: Which Ones Should You Trust?” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (2001): 85–109.
Offers a definition of what constitutes an expert and examines the question of what novices should believe regarding a topic on which experts disagree. Rejects the strategy of “going by the numbers” (counting and comparing the number of experts who agree on a certain issue) and examines other strategies, such as finding the experts’ records.
Hardwig, John. “Epistemic Dependence.” Journal of Philosophy82 (1985): 335–349.
Argues that “blind” reliance on expert authority is a source of knowledge (one, moreover, that plays an essential role in our lives), and examines the consequences of this claim for the nature of knowledge and rationality.
Hardy, Joerg. “Seeking the Truth and Taking Care forCommon Goods: Plato on Expertise and Recognizing Experts.” Episteme 7 (2010): 7–22.
Examines Plato’s conception of expertise. Argues that on Plato’s view an expert must have truth and error avoidance as the main epistemic goals, and caring for the common good as the overarching goal.
An important way in which we can get socialevidence relevant to our beliefs is by learning that other people agree or disagree with us on a certain question. Suppose, in particular, that you form an opinion as to whether p, and then learn that somebody with roughly the same level of cognitive abilities as you and who has been exposed to roughly the same evidence disagrees with you. (Let’s call that person your epistemic peer.) When you learn that your peer disagrees with you, should you revise your degree of confidence in p, and if so, by how much? This is the question with which the vast and growing literature on peer disagreement is concerned.The field has been divided primarily between conformist views (the Conformist[or Equal-Weight] View) and nonconformist views (the Nonconformist View). Recently, mixed views and views that examine some of the assumptions and setups of the debate have emerged (Mixed Views and Complications)
THE CONFORMIST (OR EQUAL-WEIGHT) VIEW
An influential view in the literature on peer disagreement is the conformist (or equal-weight) view. On this view, upon learning that an epistemic peer who has been exposed to the same evidence disagrees with me as to whether p, I am rationally required to substantially revise my degree of confidence in p. Specifically, I should give as much weight to my peer’s view as I give to my own, such that (for example) if I believe that pand my peer believes that not-p, we are both rationally required to suspend judgment about p. On this view, two epistemic peers cannot rationally disagree. Feldman 2010, Elga 2007, and Christensen 2007 are influential defenses of the equalweight view. Elga 2010 revises the equal-weight view to exclude from its scope cases where epistemic peers disagree about the epistemic significance of disagreement itself. Jehle and Fitelson 2009 examines and criticizes various precisifications of the equal-weight view in a Bayesian framework.
Christensen, David. “Epistemology of Disagreement: The Good News.” Philosophical Review 116 (2007): 187–217.
A defense of the conformist view, on which when I disagree with a peer who has the same evidence as I have, I should substantially revise my belief in the direction of my peer.
Elga, Adam. “Reflection and Disagreement.” Noûs41 (2007): 478–502.
Defends the equal-weight view, according to which when somebody whom you take to be your peer disagrees with you about a given proposition, you should give your peer’s view the same weight as your own.
Elga, Adam. “How To Disagree about How To Disagree.” In Disagreement. Edited by Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Argues for a restricted version of the equal-weight view,according to which when somebody whom you take to be your peer disagrees with you about a given proposition, you should give your peer’s view the same weight as your own, except when the topic is disagreement itself.
Feldman, Richard. “Reasonable Religious Disagreements.” In Philosophers without Gods. Edited by Louise Antony, 194–214. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
A seminal paper, usually credited with starting the debate over peer disagreement. Argues that a given batch of evidence justifies one and only one doxastic attitude toward a proposition (theUniqueness Thesis), and thus that epistemic peers who haveshared their evidence regarding a proposition pcannot reasonably disagree about p.
Jehle, David, and Branden Fitelson. “What Is the ‘Equal Weight View?” Episteme6 (2009): 280–293.
Examines several precisifications of the equal-weight view formulated in a Bayesian framework. Argues that many of these versions yield unsatisfactory updating rules and are therefore untenable, and that the tenable versions of the equal-weight view are not necessarily desirable
THE NONCONFORMIST VIEW
According to nonconformist views, peers who disagree as to whether pare not (or not always) rationally required to revise their original degrees of confidence in p. This opens up the possibility that two peers may disagreewithout both of them (or maybe either of them) being irrational. Rosen 2001 is an early defense of this view. Sosa 2010, Moffett 2007, Wedgwood 2007, and Bergmann 2009 offer various arguments for nonconformism. Kelly 2010 provides several influential arguments for a specific version of nonconformism (the total evidence view). Bergmann 2009 argues that two peers can rationally disagree while each thinks that the other may be rational too. White 2009 argues that treating my own and others’ beliefs as more or less reliable indicators is consistent with nonconformism.
Bergmann, Michael. “Rational Disagreement after FullDisclosure.” Episteme6 (2009): 336–353.
Considers whether two disagreeing epistemic peers who havefully disclosed their evidence to each other can rationally continue to disagree while each thinks that the other may be rational too. Bergmann distinguishes between an internal andan external kind of rationality and argues that for both kinds the answer tothis question is “yes.”
Kelly, Thomas. “Peer Disagreement and Higher Order Evidence.” In Disagreement. Edited by Richard Feldman and TedWarfield, 111–174. Oxford: Oxford University Press,2010.
Provides several influential arguments against the equal-weight iew, and defends an alternative, the total-evidence View. According to this view, the rational attitude to adopt in cases of peer disagreement depends on the total evidence possessed by the peers, not simply the evidence of the two peers’ doxastic states.
Moffett, Mark. “Reasonable Disagreement and RationalGroup Inquiry.” Episteme4 (2007): 352–367.
A defense of the nonconformist view of peer disagreementthat appeals to the underdetermination of theory by evidence coupled with a principle of epistemic conservatism, according to which we are justified in holding our beliefs when we become aware of alternative, equally well-supported beliefs.
Rosen, Gideon. “Nominalism, Naturalism, Epistemic Relativism.” Philosophical Perspectives15 (2001): 69–91.
An early defense of the view that epistemic peers who havecarefully reviewed their evidence can rationally disagree.
Sosa, Ernest. “The Epistemology of Disagreement.” In Social Epistemology. Edited by Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar, and Duncan Pritchard, 278–297. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Argues that full disclosure of evidence is uncommon, and thus that cases of disagreement where each peer is rational in sticking to his
or her view are possible.
Wedgwood, Ralph. The Nature of Normativity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Argues that it is rational to have an “egocentric epistemic bias” in favor of one’s own intuitions, and thus that in cases of peer disagreement, we are justified in giving our own view more weight than the view of our peers, simply in virtue of the fact that it is our view.
White, Roger. “On Treating Oneself and Others as Thermometers.” Episteme6 (2009): 233–250.
Argues that the “thermometer model” (on which my own and others’ beliefs are treated as more or less reliable indicators of facts) does not entail conformism about peer disagreement.
MIXED VIEWS AND COMPLICATIONS
Recently, several theories of peer disagreement have emerged that are not easily classified as either conformist ornonconformist. Lackey 2010 offers such an alternative view. Various complications in the debate on peer disagreement have also begunto be examined. Feldman 2009 examines whether evidentialism is compatible with several principles relied upon in the literature on disagreement, and answers in the positive. Feldman 2009,Roush 2009, and Christensen 2010 examine the nature ofhigher-order evidence (e.g., evidence about the reliability of my judgmental capacities), an instance of which is the evidence I acquire when I discover that a peer disagrees.
Christensen, David. “Higher-Order Evidence.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research81 (2010): 185–215.
Examines the nature of higher-order evidence (evidence about evidential relations) and argues that this kind of evidence is “toxic” in the sense that when an agent acquires it, the agent is bound to fall short of some epistemic ideal.
Feldman, Richard. “Evidentialism, Higher-Order Evidence, and Disagreement.” Episteme 6 (2009): 294–312.
Argues that evidentialism is compatible with several principles relied upon in the literature on peer disagreement, and argues that epistemic puzzles about peer disagreement are puzzles about the nature and impact of higher-order evidence.
Lackey, Jennifer. “A Justificationist View of Disagreement’s Epistemic Significance.” In Social Epistemology. Edited by Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar, and Duncan Pritchard, 298–325. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Argues that both conformist and nonconformist views are inadequate, and develops a justificationist view of peer disagreement, on which how one should react in a case of peer disagreement depends on the degree of justified confidence in one’s belief.
Roush, Sherrilyn. “Second Guessing: A Self-Help Manual.” Episteme 6 (2009): 251–268.
Provides a framework, based on the Principal Principle, for representing and dealing with higher-order evidence, and examines several consequences of this framework for the question of peer disagreement
We often speak of collective entities as having doxastic attitudes: for example, we might say that the jury believes the defendant to be guilty. Collective social epistemology studies the epistemic properties of group beliefs and judgments; in particular, it examines whether and how group doxastic attitudes can be rational and constitute knowledge. List 2005 examines these questions from the point of view of judgment aggregation theory—the theory of how groups aggregate the judgments of their members to produce collective judgments. Wray 2010 is a collection of essays on collective knowledge in science. Tollefsen 2008 shifts the focus by examining how group testimonies can not only be justified but provide justification. Collective social epistemology is predicated on the assumption that social groups literally have doxastic attitudes—in other words, that the claim that group Xbelieves that pdoes not simply mean that most or all members of X believe that p. Gilbert 1989, Searle 1995, Pettit 2003, Tuomela 2007, and List and Pettit 2011 offer systematic defenses of this assumption. Thagard 2010 argues that ascriptions of doxastic attitudes to social groups are literally false but nonetheless useful to capture the dynamics of belief-formation among the members of the group.
Collective Agents and Collective Beliefs
Gilbert, Margaret. On Social Facts. London: Routledge, 1989.
An influential defense of the claim that certain social groups have beliefs (and other mental attitudes) of their own. Gilbert examines the structure of such groups and argues that for them to exist,their members must stand in a certain relation that she calls “joint commitment.”
List, Christian. “Group Knowledge and Group Rationality: A Judgment Aggregation Perspective.” Episteme2 (2005): 25–38.
Introduces the theory of judgment aggregation (the theory of the procedures for aggregating individuals’ judgments into a collective judgment), and examines various aggregation procedures with respect to their abilities to produce consistent and true group judgments.
List, Christian, and Philip Pettit. Group Agency: The Possibility, Design, and Status of Corporate Agents. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 2011.
Argues that groups that face certain rationality constraints are doxastic and intentional agents in their own right. Examines the structure of such groups and the normative implications of their status as agents.
Pettit, Pettit. “Groups with Minds of Their Own.” In Socializing Metaphysics. Edited by Frederick Schmitt, 167–194. Lanham,
MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.
Argues that groups that are under pressure to make theirjudgments consistent are likely to make judgments that are starkly
discontinuous with their members’ beliefs, and that such groups thereby constitute persons with mental states of their own.
Searle, John. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: Free Press, 1995.
An influential work in social ontology, examining the “building blocks” of social reality. Searle argues that social groups can have mental attitudes (in particular, intentions and beliefs) of their own, and examines the relations of metaphysical dependence between these attitudes and the group members’ attitudes.
Thagard, Paul. “Explaining Economic Crises: Are There Collective Representations?” Episteme7 (2010): 266–281.
Argues that organizations and communities do not literally have mental representations. Rather, ascriptions of representations are
“metaphorical pointers” indicating the existence of a complex of social and psychological mechanisms relevant to how members of the group form beliefs.
Tollefsen, Deborah. “Group Testimony.” Social Epistemology21 (2008): 299–311.
Defends the claim that groups, not only individuals, can be testifiers in their own right. Argues that some versions of reductionism about individual testimony can be extended to explain how our beliefs can be justified on the basis of group testimonies.
Tuomela, Raimo. The Philosophy of Sociality: The Shared Point of View. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
A defense of the view that social groups can have mental attitudes of their own. Argues that there is a mode of believing and reasoning (the “we-mode”) characteristic of social collectives, and provides an in-depth analysis of the relations between collective mental states and the mental states of groups’ members.
Wray, K. Brad, ed. Special Issue: Collective Knowledge and Science. Episteme7.3 (2010): 181–283.
A special issue of Episteme devoted to the social epistemology of scientific groups
Social epistemology at large emphasizes that social systems have causaleffects on whether doxastic agents acquire and maintain justified beliefs. Epistemic relativists claim that social systems have a further, constitutiveeffect on justification. According to epistemic relativism, there are no objectively correct norms or principles of justification (epistemic antiobjectivism). Rather, an epistemic norm is correct only in the context of a certain culture or society.Similarly, a belief’s justification depends on its conformity to the culture’s epistemic norms. It follows on this view that epistemic justification is relative to the doxastic agent’s culture or society. Epistemic relativism thus represents an anticlassical approach to social epistemology (see General Perspectives) that rejects at leastsome of the main tenets of traditional epistemology. Epistemic relativism has been influential in certain currents of the sociology of science (see Barnes and Bloor 1982 for the classic statement) and has been defended in philosophy, as in Rorty 1991. Boghossian2006 critically examines arguments for and against Rorty’s epistemic relativism. Goldman 2010 offers an account of justification on which epistemic objectivism is compatible with a certain form of relativism about justification.
Barnes, Barry, and David Bloor. “Relativism, Rationalism, and the Sociology of Knowledge.” In Rationality and Relativism.
Edited by Martin Hollis and Steven Lukes, 21–47. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982.
A defense of the claim that there are no supracultural,objectively correct norms of rationality. Very influential in the sociology of science.
Boghossian, Paul. Fear of Knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Chapter 5 provides a clarification of the main tenets ofRorty’s epistemic relativism, and examines a (prima facie) strong argument for it.
Chapter 6 rejects several responses to Rorty’s relativism and endorses a (prima facie) strong argument against it. Chapter 7 defends the
view that there are universal, transcultural norms of rationality.
Goldman, Alvin. “Epistemic Relativism and Peer Disagreement.” In Disagreement. Edited by Richard Feldman and Ted Warfield, 187–215. Oxford: Oxford University Press,2010.
Argues for a nonstandard form of epistemic relativism that is compatible with the existence of objective, supracultural epistemic norms
and principles. On this basis, Goldman distinguishes between two kinds of evidence (material evidence and norm evidence) and argues
that peers who have shared all their material evidence can still reasonably disagree.
Rorty, Richard. Objectivity, Relativism and Truth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
A collection of essays presenting and defending Rorty’s influential version of relativism about epistemic justification.
Social Epistemology of Science
Since science is widely viewed as the paradigmatic epistemic enterprise and as a particularly authoritative epistemic source, the social dimension of scientific inquiry is a major area of research and debate in social epistemology. Three major (but nonexhaustive) topics of research can be distinguished: how to understand and model the social dimension of science generally and its bearing on the possibility of scientific objectivity and progress (see the Social Character of Science); the epistemic properties of scientific competition, division of labor and dissent (see Competition, Division of Cognitive Labor, Dissent); and the question whether social values have a legitimate role to play in the scientific inquiry (see Science and Social Values).
THE SOCIAL CHARACTER OF SCIENCE
COMPETITION, DIVISION OF COGNITIVE LABOR, DISSENT
SCIENCE AND SOCIAL VALUES
Do social values have a legitimate role to play in science? On the traditional, value-free ideal of science, only cognitive and epistemic values, such as simplicity or explanatory power, should play a role in methodological decisions, choice of evidential standards, and acceptance or rejection of theories. Rudner 1953 is an early challenge to the value-free ideal, and Jeffrey 1956 is a response to Rudner. Lacey 1999 is a contemporary defense of the value-free ideal of science. Douglas 2009 argues that social values have a legitimate role
to play at every stage of the scientific inquiry. Intemannand de Melo-Martin 2010 argue for the importance ofsocial values in justifying methodological decisions and evidential standards.
Douglas, Heather. Science, Policy, and the Value-Free Ideal. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2009.
An extensive critique of the value-free model of science, which also offers a useful overview of the literature. Douglas articulates an alternative, value-laden ideal of science on which social values have a legitimate role to play at every stage of thescientific inquiry (from
problem selection to theory choice) without threatening scientific objectivity.
Intemann, Kristin, and Immaculada de Melo-Martin. “Social Values and Scientific Evidence: The Case of the HPV Vaccine.” Biology and Philosophy25 (2010): 203–213.
Using HPV vaccines as an example, the authors argue that social values have a legitimate role to play not only in problem selection and
research funding allocation, but also in methodological decisions and choices of evidential standards.
Jeffrey, Richard. “Valuation and Acceptance of Scientific Hypotheses.” Philosophy of Science23 (1956): 237–246.
A response to Rudner 1953. Jeffrey argues that social values play a legitimate role in the practical application ofscientific hypotheses, but not in their justification.
Lacey, Hugh. Is Science Value-Free? Values and Scientific Understanding. London and New York: Routledge, 1999.
A defense of the value-free ideal of science. Lacey argues that science cannot be free from social values in certain respects (e.g., social values will always play a role in guiding problem selection), but that it can and should be impartial: that is, scientific theories should be
accepted and rejected solely on the basis of evidence and cognitive values (simplicity, explanatory power, etc.).
Rudner, Richard. “The Scientist quaScientist Makes Value Judgments.” Philosophy of Science20 (1953): 1–6.
An early critique of the value-free model of science. Argues that social and ethical values play a legitimate role in determining the level of
inductive risk that a scientist is willing to tolerate whenaccepting or rejecting a hypothesis.
Albert, Max. “Methodology and Scientific Competition.” Episteme8 (2011): 165–183.
Argues that the average quality of scientific research is so high because scientists converge on and maintain common methodological standards—a fact that Albert explains by the hereditary nature of scientific production (the quality of research used as input by a scientist significantly determines the quality of the scientist’s own work).
Beatty, John, and Alfred Moore. “Should We Aim for Consensus?” Episteme7 (2010): 198–214.
Argues that lack of consensus in a scientific community is not agood reason to reject the community’s epistemic authority, and that the quality of scientific deliberation is fostered by the existence of a vocal dissenting minority.
Kitcher, Philip: “The Division of Cognitive Labor.” Journal of Philosophy87 (1990): 5–22.
A seminal study, arguing that scientific progress is maximized when the scientific community encourages its members to pursue different strategies, and that the personal motives of the scientists can be exploited by scientific institutions so as to maximize scientific progress.
Kitcher, Philip. The Advancement of Science. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Chapter 8 expands the approach of Kitcher 1990 by further exploring the model of the division of cognitive laborpresented in Kitcher 1990, and presents several results on how various scientific organizational schemes can foster scientific progress. Also contains a discussion of the role of authority in scientific research.
Merton, Robert K. “Priorities in Scientific Discovery.” American Sociological Review22 (1973): 635–659.
Shows the existence of a priority rule in the social organization of science: scientists who first make a discovery are rewarded at the expense of all others working toward the same discovery. Argues that this rule is a pathology of the social organization of science and does not contribute to scientific progress.
Solomon, Miriam. Social Empiricism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
Chapters 5 and 6 present a discussion of the epistemic valueof consensus and dissent in science, which examines the conditions under which consensus or dissent are epistemically appropriate in ascientific community.
Strevens, Michael. “The Role of the Priority Rule inScience.” Journal of Philosophy100 (2003): 55–79.
Argues, contra Merton 1973, that the priority rule is not a pathology of science. Allocating prestige within thescientific community in accordance to the priority rule maximizes the benefits of scientific research to society.
A major question in recent social epistemology of science is how the division of scientific communities in competing research programs and scientific groups of different opinions can foster scientific progress. (The works in this subsection can thus be seenas responses to “debunking views” according to which the social nature of science casts doubt on the idea of scientific progress; see the Social Character of Science). Kitcher 1990 and Kitcher 1993 offer an influential model of the division of cognitive labor among scientists and argue that scientific progress is maximized when scientists areencouraged to explore different competing research programs and strategies. Strevens 2003 builds on Kitcher’s model to argue, against Merton 1973, that the “priority rule” (a rule for allocating prestige among competing researchers) fosters scientific progress. Albert 2011 argues that the competitive nature of science explains the high quality of research, and examines how competing scientists canconverge on common methodological standards. Solomon 2001 and Beatty and Moore 2010 examine the epistemic value of dissent in science
Barnes, Barry, David Bloor, and John Henry. Scientific Knowledge. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996.
An influential presentation and defense of the “Strong Program” in the sociology of scientific knowledge. According to proponents of the Strong Program, scientific beliefs are to be explained solely by the social factors that cause them, and no objective distinction can be drawn between causal factors that make a belief epistemically rational and causal factors that do not.
Haack, Susan. “Science as Social: Yes and No.” In Feminism, Science and the Philosophy of Science. Edited by Lynn
Hankinson Nelson and Jack Nelson, 79–94. Dordrecht,The Netherlands: Kluwer Academic, 1996.
A criticism of social constructivism about science and other radical views that are influential in the sociology of scientific knowledge. Haack argues for a “traditional” view of science in which scientists’ judgments about which theories to accept or rejectare primarily determined by evidential considerations.
Kitcher, Philip. The Advancement of Science: Science without Legend,Objectivity without Illusions. Oxford: Oxford University
An attempt to reach a middle ground between views thatdownplay the influence of social and psychological factors in the history of science, and sociological views that attempt to debunk scientific rationality and objectivity. Kitcher argues that the social nature of scientific inquiry (in particular, the division of cognitivelabor between competing scientists) contributes to scientific progress.
Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1986.
An influential statement of social constructivism about scientific facts. Through an ethnographic study of scientists’ laboratory work, Latour and Woolgar argue that scientific facts and entities exist only in virtue of the presence of a consensus among scientists. By contrast to proponents of the Strong Program, Latour and Woolgar insist more on the role of micro-interactions between scientists than on large-scale factors (such as political ideologies) in theconstruction of scientific knowledge.
Laudan, Larry. “The Pseudo-Science of Science?” In Scientific Rationality: The Sociological Turn. Edited by James R. Brown, 41–74. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Reidel, 1984.
A critical examination and rebuttal of the Strong Program in the sociology of knowledge. Laudan argues that the theses of the Strong Program are either trivial or based on the false assumptions that all the causes of scientific beliefs are social and that no principled distinction can be drawn between social factors that make abelief rational and those that do not.
Longino, Helen. The Fate of Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Argues that the “science wars” between philosophers of science and constructivist sociologists of science are based on the false assumption that social forces are solely sources of bias and irrationality, and offers an in-depth defense of the claim that social interactions among scientists actually contribute to securing scientific knowledge.
Shapin, Steven, and Simon Schaffer. Leviathan and the Air Pump. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.
An influential study of the debates between Hobbes and Boyle on Boyle’s air-pump experiments, in the tradition of the “Strong Program.” Shapin and Schaffer insist on the role of political ideologies and scientists’ personal and professional interests in the settlement of scientific debates, and cast doubt on the view of scientific inquiry as a process guided by considerations that are evidentially relevant to
the truth and falsity of scientific theories.
Solomon, Miriam. Social Empiricism. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001.
Defends a version of empiricism on which scientific communities are rational insofar as they distribute research efforts to different theories depending on their respective empirical success. Argues that the aggregated judgments of a scientific community can be collectively rational despite (and even thanks to) its members’ being individually irrational.
Starting in the 1980s, an intense debate has taken placeamong sociologists and philosophers of science on how to properly understand the social character of science and its impact on the possibility of scientific progress and objectivity. Influenced in particular by Kuhn, proponents of the “Strong Program” in the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) argue, often through detailed ethnographic and historical studies, that scientific beliefs are largely or exclusively determined by sociopolitical factors evidentially irrelevant to the truth of those beliefs. More radically, they argue that no objective distinction can be drawn between evidentially relevantand irrelevant factors, thereby casting doubt on the very idea of scientific objectivity and the epistemic authority of science. Barnes, et al. 1996 and Shapin and Schaffer 1985 are two influential works in this tradition. Latour and Woolgar 1986 is another influential work in the sociology of science, which shares with the Strong Program a “debunking” view of scientific progress and objectivity. (See Epistemic Relativism and Social Constructivism for more references in this tradition.) These trends in the sociology of science have attracted strong criticisms from philosophers concerned with defending scientific rationality and objectivity, as well as the possibility of scientific progress. Laudan 1984 and Haack 1996 both offer criticisms of the Strong Program and social constructivism about science, and defend a “traditional” view of scientific inquiry as guided (at least mainly) by evidentialconsiderations. Recently, detailed accounts of the social character of science have been offered that try to reach a middle ground by recognizing the many psychological and social factors at work in the dynamics of scientific inquiry, while insisting that the weight of those factors does not threaten scientific objectivity and rationality but actually can and does contribute to scientific progress. Kitcher 1993 is an influential account of the social dynamics of scientific inquiry in this vein; Solomon 2001 argues that interactions among biased scientists can lead to epistemically rational judgments at the level of the community. Longino 2002 argues that the social and the rational, far from being antithetic, are interlocked, so that scientific rationality is social in character.
Evidence in the Law
One of the main aims of legal institutions is epistemic in nature. One of the goals of a criminal trial, for example, is to arrive at true judgments about the nature and authorship of a crime. It is therefore surprising that epistemology and legal analysis (including philosophy of law) have ignored each other for so long. The social epistemology of law attempts to bridge this gap. Social epistemologists of law examine how rules (in particular, rules regarding evidence) and standards of proof built into current legal systems hinder or foster the discovery of truth in trials, as wellas whether and how these rules and standards should be revised to make legal systems epistemically better. Cohen 1977 is an early study of the epistemology of legal reasoning. Goldman 1999 and Laudan 2006 offer general discussions of the social epistemology of law and critical assessments of contemporary legal systems in terms of their epistemic properties. Much current work in the social epistemology of law focuses specifically on the rules of evidence in contemporary legal systems (mostly the American one). Sinnott-Armstrong and Schauer 2008 is a collection of essays on evidence in the law. Cranor 2006, Mnookin 2008, and Haack 2008 focus particularly on how evidence from scientific experts is and should be assessed by judges and juries. Nance 2008 examines certain current legal theories of the burden of proof.
Cohen, L. Jonathan. The Probable and the Provable. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.
A seminal work in the epistemology of law, which argues that reasoning in judicial matters is not a species of probabilistic reasoning. Cohen develops an alternative account (in terms of “inductive probabilities”) of judicial reasoning, on which different standards apply to different kinds of judicial proofs.
Cranor, Carl F. Toxic Torts: Science, Law and the Possibility of Justice. Cambridge, UK and New
York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
A critical epistemic examination of the post-Daubert standards of evaluation of expert testimony and scientific evidence in civil cases involving toxic substances.
Goldman, Alvin. Knowledge in a Social World. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
In chapter 9, Goldman argues that producing true judgments is and should be one of the main goals of judicial systems. Provides a comparative evaluation of the common-law and civil-law traditions in terms of their abilities to accomplish this goal, and argues (tentatively) that the latter fares better than the former.
Laudan, Larry. Truth, Error, and Criminal Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.
Starting from the assumption that finding the truth is one of the main goals of criminal trials, Laudan examines the procedures and rules of evidence that should be adopted in order to attain this goal, and sharply criticizes the standards of proof currently in place in the American criminal judicial system.
Haack, Susan. “Warrant, Causation, and the Atomism of Evidence Law.” Episteme5 (2008): 253–266.
Argues that a combination of pieces of evidence may collectively warrant a legal conclusion even if none of them individually warrants such a conclusion. On this basis, Haack shows that the requirement (laid out in Daubert vs. Merrell Dow, 1993) that each item of scientific expert testimony be individually screened for reliability hinders the discovery of truth in trials.
Mnookin, Jennifer. “Of Black Boxes, Instruments, andExperts: Testing the Validity of Forensic Science.” Episteme5 (2008): 343–359.
Using latent fingerprint examination and breath tests as examples, Mnookin argues that courts should be more concerned with whether a forensic technique has been experimentally tested and validated rather than (as they currently are) with whether experts can offer plausible descriptions and explanations of their methods.
Nance, Dale A. “The Weights of Evidence.” Episteme5 (2008): 267–281.
Examines Keynes’s concept of evidential weight (new evidence might decrease the probability of a hypothesis, but it also increases its Keynesian weight—roughly, the amount of evidence relevantto the probability of the hypothesis) and critically examines attempts to integrate this concept in a theory of the legal burden of proof.
Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Frederick Schauer, eds. Special Issue: Evidence in the Law. Episteme5(3) (2008): 251–410.
A special issue of Epistemedevoted to the social epistemology of law.
Epistemic Approaches to Democracy
Democratic procedures can be seen as devices for aggregating individual beliefs into collective judgments. For example,assuming that there are facts about which candidate would best serve thecommon interest, the majority rule in democratic elections can be seen as a procedure for aggregating individual beliefs into collective judgments about those facts. The epistemology of democracy examines how well such democratic procedures and institutions fare epistemically. A major historical figure in the epistemic approach to democracy is the Marquis de Condorcet (1743–1794), who showed in his “jury theorem” that, under certain conditions, a body of voters following the majority rule has a strong propensity to produce correct judgments as long as each voter is minimally reliable. Much contemporary work pursues Condorcet’s project of evaluating the epistemic properties of judgment-aggregation rules. List and Goodin2001 extends the Condorcet Jury Theorem; Bradley and Thompson 2012 shows that a variant of the majority rule fares better epistemically than the simple majority rule. Condorcet’s Jury Theorem has limitations, however (in particular, the assumption of minimal reliability of individual voters is a fairly strong one): see Anderson 2006 for a criticism of this approach to the epistemic advantages of democracy. Condorcet was the first to develop an epistemic approach to democracy—the project of defending the value of democratic procedures on the basis of their epistemic (truth-tracking) properties. The epistemic approach to democracy is alive and well: Estlund 2008,for example, offers an in-depth defense of democracy on which democracy is justified by its superior ability to get at the truth. Anderson 2006 also offers an epistemic defense of democratic procedures, one that relies on Dewey 1927’s approach to democracy, on which democratic procedures are seen as experimental procedures for getting at the truth. Building on the epistemic approach to democracy, Ackerman and Fishkin 2004 makes a concrete proposal for bettering American democracy. Kitcher 2001 focuses on a different topic: the proper place of science in a democratic society, and the way in which scientific agendas should be determined by the interests of society’s members.
Ackerman, Bruce, and James Fishkin. Deliberation Day. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004.
A proposal for making American democracy more deliberative, building on the arguments for the epistemic value ofdemocracy. Proposes the institution of a “Deliberation Day” beforepresidential elections that would bring small groups ofvoters together to discuss key political issues.
Anderson, Elizabeth. “The Epistemology of Democracy.” Episteme3 (2006): 8–22.
Presents Dewey’s account of the epistemic virtues of democracy,and argues that this account is superior to others in virtue of its capacity to model the epistemic functions of certain crucial features of the democratic process.
Bradley, Richard, and Christopher Thompson. “A (Mainly Epistemic) Case for Multiple-Vote Majority Rule.” Episteme 9 (2012): 63–79.
Argues that multiple-vote majority rule (a procedure onwhich individuals weigh their votes in accordance with how competent they are) achieves a better balance of epistemic reliability and equality of participation than other rules (including simple majority rule).
Dewey, John. The Public and Its Problems. New York: Holt, 1927.
A classic examination of the epistemic virtues of democracy. Insists on the crucial role of discussion and information sharing between epistemically diverse agents in the democratic process, and offers an experimentalist account of democracy. On this view, democratic procedures are a forum by which societies can determine what their goals should be and arrive at true judgments about how best to achieve those goals.
Estlund, David. Democratic Authority. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
Offers an in-depth epistemic defense of democracy. Democratic authority and legitimacy are grounded not in the intrinsic value of democratic procedures, but in their epistemic value—their superior tendency to produce and spread decision-guiding true beliefs.
Kitcher, Philip. Science, Truth, and Democracy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
An examination of the proper role of science in democracy. Argues that science does not pursue mere truth but significant truth, where significance is determined by the impact of research on human practical interests. Defends the idea that scientific research should be guided by the refined preferences of members of the society.
List, Christian, and Robert Goodin. “Epistemic Democracy: Generalizing the Condorcet Jury Theorem.” Journal of Political Philosophy9 (2001): 277–306.
Shows that the Condorcet Jury Theorem can be extended from majority voting over two issues to plurality voting over many issues. Also compares the truth-tracking properties of different socialdecision rules in contexts when there are more than twooptions to choose between.
An important and early focus of the social epistemology of democracy has been the principle of free speech. Mill 1999 offered an influential defense of the free-speech principle based on its epistemic benefits. On this approach, allowing the expressions of true and false opinions to “compete” freely in society promotes the elimination of error and the diffusion of truth in society. Schauer 1982 and Goldman and Cox 1996 criticize Mill’s argument.
Goldman, Alvin, and James Cox. “Speech, Truth, and the Free Market for Ideas.” Legal Theory2 (1996): 1–32.
Argues against the thesis (defended in particular by Mill1999) that a policy of “free market” in speech (that is,a policy with no restrictions on the expression of opinions in society) is an optimal institution for promoting true beliefs.
Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty. Peterborough, Canada: Broadview, 1999.
A classic defense of free speech, originally published in 1859. By fostering the critical exchange of ideas, the free-speech principle promotes the production and diffusion of true beliefs in society.
Schauer, Frederick. Free Speech: A Philosophical Enquiry. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.
An examination of the justifications for free speech. Argues against Mill’s epistemic defense of free speech by rejecting the claim that free speech promotes the discovery of truth.
The emergence of the Internet has led to the development of various mass-collaborative devices (e.g., online encyclopedias and prediction markets) designed to aggregate information dispersed across a large mass of individuals who may or may notbe experts about the topic at hand. Social reaction to these developments has oscillated between strong optimism (e.g., the hope that they will soon make our reliance on experts obsolete) and the fear thatthese widely used web devices are far less reliable than (and will soon destroy) sources of information like traditional encyclopedias and media. Internet epistemology contributes to this debate by examining the epistemic effects of Internet-based epistemic devices. Sunstein 2006 is a book-length, optimistic assessment of the epistemic effects of the Internet. Bragues 2009 and Fallis 2011 offer rather positive epistemic evaluations of prediction markets and Wikipedia, respectively. Simon 2010 examines technologies designed to improve the trustworthiness of online sources. Goldman 2008 raises epistemic worries about the practice of blogging as a substitute for traditional journalism. Coady 2011 offers a response to these charges
Bragues, George. “Prediction Markets: The Practical and Normative Possibilities for the Social Production of Knowledge.” Episteme 6 (2009): 91–106.
Surveys the history, mechanisms, and uses of prediction markets. Argues that prediction markets have shortcomings but nonetheless offer a promising way of improving the quality of organizational decisions.
Coady, David. “An Epistemic Defence of the Blogosphere.” Journal of Applied Philosophy28 (2011): 277–294.
Defends blogging against the charges raised by Goldman 2008, and argues that the existence of the blogosphere improves our epistemic and democratic practices.
Fallis, Don. “Wikipistemology.” In Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Edited by Alvin Goldman and Dennis Whitcomb, 297–313. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
Offers a mostly positive evaluation of Wikipedia’s epistemic properties. Argues that common epistemic concerns about the reliability and verifiability of Wikipedia are misplaced, and that Wikipedia displays many other epistemic virtues.
Goldman, Alvin. “The Social Epistemology of Blogging.” In Information Technology and Moral Philosophy. Edited by Jeroen van den Hoven and John Weckert, 111–122. Cambridge,UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
A comparison of the epistemic features of blogging and traditional media. Lays out the complexities involved in sucha comparison, and argues that blogging raises epistemic issues in that it lacks the filters and the balance present in traditional media.
Simon, Judith. “The Entanglement of Trust and Knowledge on the Web.” Ethics and Information Technology12 (2010): 343–355.
Examines the ways in which we use knowledge to rationally trust or distrust online sources, and the properties of various systems and technologies designed to enable users to better assess the trustworthiness of online sources.
Sunstein, Cass. Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
An examination of the epistemic properties of mechanisms (often Internet-based) for aggregating information disseminated in a mass of individuals, such as prediction markets, wikis, and blogs. Argues for their superiority over deliberative procedures.
Computer simulations are widely used to study the dynamics of social systems in general, and it is therefore natural that this methodology be used in social epistemology to study the dynamics of populations of truth-seeking agents. The articles in this section all make use of this methodology. All of them start by building formal models to represent the dynamics of belief formation in populations of agents and provide results about the properties of these dynamics (e.g., how fast a population of agents can converge on the truth). The best-known model of belief-formation dynamics is due to Rainer Hegselmann and Ulrich Krause (see Hegselmann and Krause 2009) and is extended by Riegler and Douven 2009. Weisberg andMuldoon 2009, Zollman 2010, and Zollman 2011 focus on the dynamics of belief formation in scientific communities.
Hegselmann, Rainer, and Ulrich Krause. “DeliberativeExchange, Truth, and the Cognitive Division of Labor.” Episteme6 (2009): 130–144.
Presents a model of belief formation in a group of truth-seeking agents who interact with one another and respond to the evidence they
receive. Derives several results about the conditions under which such agents can attain the truth.
Riegler, Alexander, and Igor Douven. “Extending the Hegselmann-Krause Model III: From Single Beliefs to Complex Belief States.” Episteme6 (2009): 145–163.
Presents a model of belief formation peopled by agents endowed with more complex belief states than in the model in Hegselmann and Krause 2009, and examines the conditions under which such agents can converge on the truth.
Weisberg, Michael, and Ryan Muldoon. “Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor.” Philosophy of Science76 (2009): 225–252.
Offers a model of the division of cognitive labor in which scientists divide their tasks in order to explore a new research topic. Examines and compares the epistemic properties of several strategies that scientists might adopt to explore the topic.
Zollman, Kevin J. S. “The Epistemic Benefit of Transient Diversity.” Erkenntnis72 (2010): 17–35.
Presents a model of the division of labor among scientists,and argues that there is a tradeoff between diversity of views in the scientific community and open and fast communication channels. Convergence on truth is likely when one factor is present, but not when both are.
Zollman, Kevin J. S. “The Communication Structure ofEpistemic Communities.” In Social Epistemology: Essential Readings. Edited by Alvin Goldman and Dennis Whitcomb, 338–350. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.
An analysis of a model of information transmission in scientific communities. Argues that restricting information transmission sometimes makes a community better off epistemically and that there is a tradeoff between the reliability of a community and the speed at which it reaches a correct conclusion
Argumentation and Dialectical Justification
One important social epistemic activity is the practice of argumentation, the process in which agents present arguments for their claims to an audience. The social epistemology of argumentation examines the norms and principles of good argumentation and the ways in which these norms and principles enable the practice of argumentation to achieve its epistemic goals. Habermas 1987,Siegel and Biro 1992, and Goldman 1994 are three important theories of the goal and norms of argumentation. Mercier and Sperber 2011 offers a theory about the proper volutionary function of reasoning on which reasoning is primarily an argumentative device. Someauthors argue that taking argumentation into account is crucial to understandwhat it is for a doxastic agent to be justified in believing that p. On the view of justification in Brandom 1994, an agent’s being justified in believing that pdepends in part on the agent’s capacity to offer arguments for a claim to justification to an audience, when the audience itself is warranted in raising questions about the agent’s grounds for justification. On this view, justification is partly dialectical: it consists partly in the ability to respond to certain social epistemic challenges. Williams 2008 develops this view of justification and builds a case against skepticism on this basis. Fricker 2010 links this account to Craig 1990 (cited under General Perspectives) in order to strengthen Williams’s case against skepticism. Wittgenstein 1969 also defends a social theory of epistemic justification.
Brandom, Robert. Making It Explicit. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994.
Offers a “default-and-challenge” model of justification, on which we are justified in believing that pas long as certain default conditions are met and as long as we are prepared to answer warranted questions that might arise about the existence of these default conditions. Brandom thus offers a social theory of justification, on which justification depends partly on our ability to answer certain appropriate
Fricker, Miranda. “Scepticism and the Genealogy of Knowledge.” In Social Epistemology. Edited by Adrian Haddock, Alan Millar, and Duncan Pritchard, 51–68. Oxford: OxfordUniversity Press, 2010.
Argues that Craig 1990’s (see General Perspectives) social genealogy of the concept of knowledge can be used to explain core features of epistemic justification as conceived by the Brandom 1994 default-and-challenge model and to strengthen the case against skepticism in Williams 2008.
Goldman, Alvin. “Argumentation and Social Epistemology.” Journal of Philosophy91 (1994): 27–49.
Examines the norms and principles that govern argumentation, and argues that these norms arise from the nature of argumentation as a social process directed at finding and communicating truths.
Habermas, Jürgen. The Theory of Communicative Action. Vol. 2. Translated by T. McCarthy. Boston: Beacon, 1987.
Argues for the existence of a distinctive kind of collective action (communicative action) in which the goal of the participants is to reach mutual understanding through argumentation. Develops atheory of argumentation on which the quality of a communicative practice (e.g., a democratic deliberation) is evaluated by its proximity to an “ideal speech situation” (a situation in which no participant is excluded or coerced).
Mercier, Hugo, and Dan Sperber. “Why Do Humans Reason? Arguments for an Argumentation Theory.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences34 (2011): 57–74.
Argues that reasoning evolved as an argumentative device designed to evaluate and devise arguments in order to persuade others. The authors appeal to evidence in social psychology to support their thesis and use it to explain various biases in reasoning. An example of psychological research relevant to social epistemology.
Siegel, Harvey, and John Biro. “Normativity, Argumentation, and an Epistemic Theory of Fallacies.” In Argumentation Illuminated. Edited by Frans van Eemeren, Rob Grootendorst, Anthony Blair, and Charles Willard, 85–103. Amsterdam: SICSAT, 1992.
Argues that the aim of argumentation is justified belief: an argumentation for a conclusion pis successful insofar as it makes it epistemically rational for the audience to adopt the belief that p. Offers a theory of fallacies based on this theory of the goal of argumentation.
Williams, Michael. “Responsibility and Reliability.” Philosophical Papers37 (2008): 1–26.
Argues that Brandom’s “default-and-challenge” model of justification appropriately integrates reliabilist and deontological insights about epistemic justification, and uses it to mount a case against skepticism. On this view, skeptical challenges do not constitute appropriate challenges to claims of justification.
Wittgenstein, Ludwig. On Certainty. Edited by Elizabeth Anscombe and Georg von Wright.Oxford: Blackwell, 1969.
Defends a distinctively social theory of justification, in which having justified beliefs is a matter of participating in certain social practices of giving reasons for one’s claims to other participants. T o be able to engage in such practices, participants must share a common “form of life.” The consequences of this view for traditional topics such as skepticism or relativism are a matter of controversy
Moral Social Epistemology
Moral social epistemology is concerned with two main types of questions. First, just as moral epistemology is concerned with how agents acquire justified beliefs about morality, moral social epistemologists study how socialinstitutions and practices foster or hinder the acquisition of justified beliefs about morality (and factual beliefs, insofar as those play a role in right actions). Buchanan 2002 argues that moral social epistemology so understood is an important part of applied ethics; Buchanan 2004 examines how liberalinstitutions impede the acquisition of morally damaging beliefs. Second, moral social epistemology examines the moralityof our social practices and actions regarding knowledge and truth—for example, the practice of telling the truth (see Williams 2002) or the actionof lying (see Fallis 2009). Fricker 2007 is an important account of the unfairness distinctive of certain epistemic norms and practices (e.g., giving little credibility to testimonies by members of racial or sexual minorities) and of their negative epistemic implications for the acquisition of knowledge and justified belief
Buchanan, Allen. “Social Moral Epistemology.” Social Philosophy and Policy19 (2002): 126–152.
Argues that applied ethics should incorporate social moralepistemology, defined as the study of social practices and institutions that facilitate or impede the formation and transmission of true beliefs, insofar as these beliefs play a role in right action
Buchanan, Allen. “Political Liberalism and Social Epistemology.” Philosophy and Public Affairs32 (2004): 95–130.
Argues that our deep epistemic dependency on others puts us at moral and prudential risk by making us vulnerable to adopt morally damaging false beliefs. Offers a defense of liberal institutions based on the argument that such institutions significantly reduce this risk.
Fallis, Don. “What Is Lying?” Journal of Philosophy106 (2009): 29–56.
Argues that lying is saying what one believes to be false when one also believes that the Gricean conversational norm“Do not say what you believe to be false” is in effect.
Fricker, Miranda. Epistemic Injustice. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Argues that there is a specific epistemic kind of injustice, in which persons are wronged in their capacities as knowers. Fricker explores two main kinds of epistemic injustice: testimonial in justice, in which people are harmed in their capacities as knowers, and hermeneutical injustice, in which people are harmed in their capacities as subjects of social experiences.
Williams, Bernard. Truth and Truthfulness. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Offers a fictional genealogy of our practices regarding truth, designed to explain the need for truth and truthfulness in our social lives.
Williams uses this genealogy to defend the value of truthand truthfulness against postmodern skeptics.
Social constructivism is an influential current in the social studies of science. According to social constructivism about science, scientific facts, entities, and truths do not exist independently of scientists’ activities and beliefs. Rather, they are metaphysically constituted by the activities and collective judgments of the scientific community, which are in turn the products of sociopolitical power struggles and negotiations between scientists. Social constructivism is a species of anticlassical epistemology in that it rejects the maintenets of traditional epistemology and philosophy of science (see General Perspectives). On this view, science as a social activity does not discover but constitutes(“constructs”) scientific facts; it is a matter of social and political negotiation rather than discovery. Latour and Woolgar 1986, Bloor 1991, and Knorr-Cetina 1999 areinfluential statements of strong social constructivism aboutscience and knowledge, and Foucault 1965 is an influential constructivist account applied to the case of modern psychiatry. Kukla 2000 and Boghossian 2006 offer detailed examinations and rebuttals of strong social constructivism. Brown 1991 argues against Latour’s version of social constructivism. Hacking 1999 defends a moderate form of social constructivism, on which certain epistemic projects in the human sciences causally shape the kinds of entities that they study.
Bloor, David. Knowledge and Social Imagery. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991.
An influential statement of a naturalistic social constructivist research program in the sociology of knowledge, on which beliefs are to be explained solely by the social factors causally responsible for them.
Boghossian, Paul. Fear of Knowledge. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Chapter 2 presents social constructivist views of knowledge andcontrasts them with traditional pictures of knowledge. Chapter 3
addresses the thesis that facts are socially constructed, and presents several arguments against this thesis as it has been defended by Goodman and Rorty.
Brown, James R. “Review Article: Latour’s Prosaic Science.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy21 (1991): 245–261.
An argument against Latour’s influential version of social constructivism. Brown argues that Latour’s ontological relativism collapses into epistemic relativism, and he defends the view that epistemic relativism in turn depends on indefensible assumptions about scientific practice.
Foucault, Michel. Madness and Civilization. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Pantheon,1965.
A study of the emergence of the concept of mental illness,arguing that the conceptualization of madness arose fromthe need to control threats to the social order. This is a constructivist view of madness, on which psychiatry creates rather than discovers truths about mental illness by promoting standards of normality that are in turn used to shape and control people’s behaviors.
Hacking, Ian. The Social Construction of What?Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Offers a critical examination of social constructivist claims inthe social and natural sciences, and identifies three major points of dispute between constructivists and realists. Building on Foucault’s work (see Foucault 1965), Hacking argues for a moderate version of social constructivism on which some scientific theories (those about “interactive kinds”) often causally produce certain traits in those kinds that, in turn, affect the theories’ characterization of them.
Knorr-Cetina, Karin. Epistemic Cultures: How the Sciences Make Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.
Through a comparative ethnography of particle physics and molecular biology, Knorr-Cetina argues for a constructivistview of scientific knowledge. On her view, knowledge in a scientific field is produced through a specific “epistemic culture”—a historicalamalgam of socioinstitutional mechanisms and epistemic standards internal to the field.
Kukla, André. Social Constructivism and the Philosophy of Science. London: Routledge, 2000.
A survey of philosophical work on the thesis that science is socially constructed, more sympathetic to social constructivism than other philosophical discussions. Argues that many of the objections often raised against versions of social constructivism are unsuccessful, but offers new arguments against strong social constructivism.
Latour, Bruno, and Steve Woolgar. Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
In this ethnographic study of scientists’ laboratory work, Latour and Woolgar articulate and defend an influential version of social
constructivism about scientific facts.
Feminist Social Epistemology
Feminist epistemologists inquire into the ways in which gender roles and conceptions of gender interact with epistemic theories and practices, and argue for the importance of such an inquiry for understanding knowledge in general. Insofar as it studies the interaction between certain social (namely gender) roles and epistemic conceptions and practices, feminist epistemology can thus be seen as a branch of social epistemology. Anderson 1995 offers such aninterpretation of feminist epistemology, and Haslanger 1999 argues that such an inquiry can contribute to progress in epistemology by illuminating the nature and role of our concept of knowledge. Feminist epistemologists emphasize the political and critical dimension of this inquiry, one of the main goals of which is to examine the ways in which dominant epistemic practices are harmful and unfairto women (see Langton 2000). Three main ways to undertake this inquiry can be distinguished. Feminist empiricism (Anderson 1995, Longino 1993) retains the traditional notion of objectivity as true representation of the world, and argues that the elimination of social (including gender) biases is a necessary condition to attain it. Feminist standpoint theory (Harding 1993, Wylie 2003) argues for the impossibility of a neutral representation of the world and insists on the various, possibly incompatible perspectives afforded by different social and gender roles. Feminist postmodernism (Haraway 1988) rejects the subject/object distinction associated with the traditional notion of objectivity and tries to articulate a fundamentally different model of cognitive inquiry.
Anderson, Elizabeth. “Feminist Epistemology: An Interpretation and a Defense.” Hypatia10 (1995): 50–84.
A presentation of feminist empiricism, which retains the traditional conception of knowledge and examines the influence of gender norms, concepts, and experiences on knowledge production. Anderson argues that feminist epistemology should be seen as a branch of social naturalized epistemology, and that, so understood,it raises deep challenges for traditional epistemology and can contribute to epistemological progress.
Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies14 (1988): 575–599.
An interpretation and defense of postmodernist feminism. Argues against the traditional conception of objectivity understood as impartial, truth-entailing representation of the world. Defends a view of knowledge as always situated and local; the only attainable kind of objectivity is a form of translatability between partial and subjective perspectives.
Harding, Sandra. “Rethinking Standpoint Epistemology: What is Strong Objectivity?” In Feminist Epistemologies. Edited by Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter, 49–82. New York: Routledge, 1993.
A presentation and defense of feminist standpoint epistemology, according to which certain social statuses (e.g., being of a certain gender) offer certain epistemic privileges in particular fields of knowledge.
Haslanger, Sally. “What Knowledge Is and What It Ought to Be: Feminist Values and Normative Epistemology.” Philosophical Perspectives13 (1999): 459–480.
Defends the idea that analyzing the concept of knowledge requires reflecting on the purposes and epistemic values that it promotes, and that feminist inquiries into our social and cognitive lives are highly relevant to such a reflection.
Langton, Rae. “Feminism in Epistemology: Exclusion and Objectification.” In The Cambridge Companion to Feminism. Edited by Jennifer Hornsby and Miranda Fricker, 127–145. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
A survey of feminist approaches and contributions to epistemology, focused particularly on the claim that dominant epistemic social practices harm and exclude women (e.g., by failing to recognize them as proper subjects of knowledge).
Longino, Helen. “Subjects, Power and Knowledge: Description and Prescription in Feminist Philosophies of Science.” In Feminist Epistemologies. Edited by Linda Alcoff and Elizabeth Potter, 101–120. New York: Routledge, 1993.
Longino defends a particular version of feminist empiricism (“critical contextual empiricism”), on which a theory is objective just in case it has undergone a social process of critical scrutiny by which theunwarranted assumptions of the theory can be eliminated. The quality of this process of scrutiny depends crucially on the existence of a diversity of perspectives among its participants. Thus social biases, by excluding women and other minorities from participating in these processes, hinder the attainment of objectivity.
Wylie, Alison. “Why Standpoint Matters.” In Science and Other Cultures: Issues in Philosophies of Science and Technologies. Edited by Robert Figueroa and Sandra Harding, 26–48. New York: Routledge, 2003.
A presentation of feminist standpoint epistemology (see Harding 1993), insisting on the fact that which social locations afford which epistemic privileges is an empirical question. Argues that feminist standpoint epistemology has an important role to play in the philosophy of science, and can complement the approaches of Longino 2002 and Solomon 2001 (cited under Social Epistemology of Science).
The Reductionism /
Transmission / Generation Debate
Learning from Experts
THE CONFORMIST (OR EQUAL-WEIGHT) VIEW
THE NONCONFORMIST VIEW
MIXED VIEWS AND COMPLICATIONS
Collective Agents and
Evidence in the Law
Moral Social Epistemology
THE SOCIAL CHARACTER OF SCIENCE
COMPETITION, DIVISION OF COGNITIVE LABOR, DISSENT
SCIENCE AND SOCIAL VALUES
There is a wide variety of general approaches to social epistemology. As an approximation, these various positions canbe placed on the following spectrum. At one end of the spectrum lies whatmay be called classicalsocial epistemology, which retains the focus of traditional epistemology on truth, rationality, and the normative question of how agents should behave epistemically. It is social in that it focuses on social practices and institutions and their epistemic effects on the pursuit of truth. Goldman 2011 offers a survey and classification of classical social epistemology. Goldman 1999 is a seminal defense and articulation of classical social epistemology. Craig 1990 is an early defense of the importance of taking thesocial into account for the projects of traditional epistemology. Fricker 1998 insists on the political dimensions of classical social epistemology. On the other end of the spectrum lies anticlassicalsocial epistemology, which rejects or ignores traditional epistemology’s notions of truth, knowledge, and justification.(Note that although anticlassical social epistemologists typically reject traditional epistemology’s way of understanding these concepts, they significantly differ in their motivations, scholarly traditions, and positive accounts of those notions.) Kuhn 1970 had a major influence on the development of anticlassical social epistemology, even though Kuhn himself did not accept such an interpretation ofhis work. Fuller 1988 is an articulation of anticlassical social epistemology which abandons traditional epistemology’s focus on truth. Kusch 2002 offers a version of social epistemology that rejects realist and objectivist stances on truth and justification. Epistemic relativism and social constructivism are species of anticlassical social epistemology (see Epistemic Relativism and Social Constructivism). Kitcher 1994 offers a useful comparison of these two sides of the spectrum and a defense of the classical side. Longino 2002 is an influential attempt to reach a middle ground between the two extremes of the spectrum.
Knowledge and the State of Nature
. Oxford: Clarendon, 1990.
Argues that the traditional project of conceptual analysis of knowledge is misguided, and that understanding our concept of knowledge requires examining how it fulfills fundamental social needs. By considering a
fictional “state of nature,”
Craig exhibits our dependence on
from which, he argues, our concept of knowledge arises. Craig also examines the implications of this hypothesis for familiar themes in epistemology (skepticism, externalism, etc.).
Fricker, Miranda. “Rational Authority and Social Power: Towards a Truly Social Epistemology.”
Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society
98 (1998): 159–177.
Argues that our need for
good informants (see Craig 1990)
gives rise to certain
norms of credibility
. In particular
, these norms can give rise to
unfair distributions of credibility
. Fricker emphasizes the importance of studying this kind of
, and of the consequent political dimension of social epistemology.
. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.
An exposition and
defense of anticlassical
social epistemology. Fuller is concerned with the normative question of how the institution of science should be organized, and what scientific strategies best foster knowledge production. However, he parts company with traditional epistemology in
rejecting the claim that knowledge is truth entailing
. On Fuller’s view, knowledge is a
social status that entails certain privileges
, and the
task of social epistemology is to evaluate the just allocation of these privileges.
Knowledge in a Social World
. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.
A seminal work arguing that social epistemology should be seen as complementing rather than replacing traditional epistemology: on this view social epistemology
retains traditional epistemology
’s normative focus on how epistemic practices can foster the production of true beliefs. Examines several
social practices and systems in terms of their ability to produce “veritistic value”
(the kind of value we place on having true beliefs).
Goldman, Alvin. “A Guide to Social Epistemology.” In
Social Epistemology: Essential Readings
. Edited by Alvin Goldman and Dennis Whitcomb, 11–37. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
A survey of (classical) social epistemology. Distinguishes among three kinds of social epistemology, concerned respectively with the social evidence that individuals can acquire, the judgments of collective doxastic agents, and the epistemic effects of certain social systems and institutions
Kitcher, Philip. “Contrasting Conceptions of Social Epistemology.” In
. Edited by Frederick Schmitt, 111–134. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994.
A comparative discussion of classical and anticlassical social epistemology (not Kitcher’s terms), and a defense of the classical side of the spectrum. Kitcher argues for a
“minimal social epistemology”
are the primary bearers of knowledge; the task of social epistemology so conceived is to
examine how social processes and institutions foster or hinder individuals’ acquisition of knowledge.
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
. 2d ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970.
Kuhn’s work is a major influence on anticlassical social epistemology (although he himself
did not accept such a reading
of his work). The notion of incommensurability has been used to developa relativist view of scientific knowledge, and many sociologists of science have relied on the concept of a paradigm shift to insist on the
primacy of social factors over the “pure” search for truth in explaining scientific change
. Knowledge by Agreement
. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.
A work in anticlassical social epistemology, arguing for a
are the primary bearers of
knowledge. Kusch parts company with traditional epistemology in endorsing a form of relativism about truth and justification. On Kusch’s
view, knowledge is a
to know is to share the consensual views
of one’s community and be recognized as a member of the
community on this basis.
The Fate of Knowledge
. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
Longino articulates a view of knowledge (“
critical contextual empiricism
”) intended to represent
a middle ground
between classical and anticlassical social epistemology. Longino retains the
classical normative distinction
between knowledge and mere opinion but argues for the
need to socialize our concept of knowledge and to replace traditional notions of truth and justification with the socialized notions of conformation and epistemic acceptability.
Goal of SE
Carrier of belief
Interpersonal, Institutional, Revision camp
A huge amount of what we believe is based at least partly on a distinctively social kind of evidence, namely the testimonies of other people. Although early epistemologists like Hume and Reid recognized this fact, only recently has testimony as a source of justification and knowledge become a central topic in epistemology. Two main questions in the epistemology of testimony are whether testimonial justification is basic or derived (see the Reductionism–Nonreductionism Debate), and whether testimony can generate or only transmit knowledge from the testifier to the audience (see the Transmission–Generation Debate).
Coady, C. A. J. Testimony: A Philosophical Study. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.
An important discussion of the nature of testimony, whichwas influential in making testimony a central topic in contemporary epistemology. Coady discusses references to testimony in Western philosophy, defends antireductionism about testimonial justification and knowledge, and offers discussions of the role of testimony in history, law, mathematics, and psychology.
Goldberg, Sanford. Relying on Others. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.
Defends a social version of reliabilism about testimonial knowledge, according to which a reliable belief-formingprocess may extend beyond the individual’s cognitive system and include the cognitive systems of other members of the individual’s epistemic community. Also contains an important discussion of “coverage,” a distinctive way in which we can acquire knowledge that not-p by recognizing that if p were true we would have heard it by now.
Lackey, Jennifer. Learning from Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.
An in-depth examination of the nature of testimony andtestimonial knowledge. Argues that what makes a testimony a source of knowledge is the reliability of the testifier as a speaker, not his or her reliability as a believer. Also contains arguments for the view that testimony can generate knowledge, and offers a novel theory of the justification of testimonial beliefs.
Lipton, Peter. “Alien Abduction: Inference to the Best Explanation and the Management of Testimony.” Episteme4 (2007):238–251.
Offers a “best explanation” theory of testimony, on whichwe are justified in accepting a testimony as true when the truth of the statement is part of the best explanation for the speaker’s making the testimony.
Moran, Richard. “Getting Told and Being Believed.” In The Epistemology of Testimony. Edited by Jennifer Lackey and Ernest Sosa, 272–306. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Argues that the kind of epistemic reasons we can have for believing a piece of testimony is essentially different fromthe kind of epistemic reasons provided by ordinary evidence. On this “assurance view” of testimony, a speaker constitutesthe testimony as a reason for belief by explicitly assuming responsibility for the truth of the statement.
Coady 1992 is a seminal discussion that heavily contributed to the recent wave of interest in testimony among epistemologists. Lackey 2008 and Goldberg 2010 are two recent book-length treatments of testimony. These three books contain discussions of the nature of testimony and its importance for our epistemic lives. Moran2006 offers a distinctive general perspective on testimony , on which the kind of evidence provided by testimonies is importantly different in nature from the evidence provided by other sources. Lipton 2007 offers a “best explanation” theory of testimony