Figure 1: A network contagion model where a focal individual infects others with a belief. For this reason, philosophers of science have tended to use the network epistemology framework instead. This framework was introduced by economists Bala and Goyal to model how individuals learn from neighbors.
It was imported to philosophy by Kevin Zollman, who first used it to represent scientific communities Zollman , Now imagine the same caterpillar example, but where the individuals involved form evidence-based beliefs. One becomes suspicious that the caterpillar is poisonous, and tests to see if this is true. She shares the evidence she gathered not just her belief with those she is connected to. Her neighbors, on the basis of this evidence, themselves become more suspicious that the caterpillar is dangerous, and test for themselves.
They, in turn, share the evidence they gather with their neighbors. Beliefs can still spread through a network, but now they do so on the basis of at least semi-rational belief-forming mechanisms. In more detail: network epistemology models start with a collection of agents on a network, who choose from some set of options. One option is preferable to the rest, but to find out which this is, the agents must actually try them and see what results.
They could alternatively represent research approaches that yield different levels of scientific success. Agents have beliefs about which option is preferable, and change these beliefs in light of the evidence they gather from their actions. It is in this sense that agents are part of an epistemic community. Figure 2 shows what this might look like.
The black agents think this is more likely than not. Figure 2: Agents in a network epistemology model use their credences to guide theory testing. Their results change their credences, and those of their neighbors. Communities in this model can develop beliefs that the better theory vaccines are safe is indeed better, or else they can pre-emptively settle on the worse theory vaccines cause autism as a result of misleading evidence. In particular, groups with more network connections will be generically less likely to arrive at a correct consensus.
The group needs to entertain all the possible options long enough to gather good evidence and settle on the best one. In tightly connected networks, misleading evidence is widely shared, and may cause the community to pre-emptively settle on a poor theory. Mayo-Wilson et al. For instance, consider a learner who tests some preferred theory.
Alone, she may fail to test other successful theories, but a community representing a full diversity of preferred theories will be expected to learn which is best. One thing we know about human learners is that they have various cognitive and social biases that influence how they take up information from peers. One of these is conformity bias, or a tendency to espouse the views of group members, even if one secretly disagrees with them Asch Mohseni and Williams , Other Internet Resources similarly find that conformity slows learning, likewise because it prevents agents from sharing information, and because group members who expect this are less trusting of their peers.
A vaccine skeptic, for instance, might be skeptical of evidence shared by a physician, but accepting of evidence from a fellow skeptic. This can lead to stable, polarized camps that each ignore evidence and testimony coming from the other camp. And: how can we shape good epistemic networks to counteract these biases? These questions tie into how we should understand democracy in light of social epistemology. One of the most interesting recent uses of the network epistemology framework involves investigating the role of pernicious influencers, especially from industry, on epistemic communities.
Holman and Bruner look at a network model where one agent shares only fraudulent evidence meant to support an inferior theory. As they show, this agent can keep a network from reaching successful consensus by muddying the water with misleading data. Holman and Bruner and Weatherall et al. Weatherall et al. For example, Big Tobacco might gather up real, independent studies that happen to find no link between smoking and cancer, and share these widely Oreskes and Conway Together these two papers give insight into how strategies that do not involve fraud can shape scientific research and mislead the public.
One truth about epistemic communities is that relationships matter. These are the ties that ground testimony, disagreement, and trust. Epistemic network models allow philosophers to explore processes of influence in social networks, yield insights into why social ties matter to the way communities form beliefs, and think about how to create better knowledge systems.
Diversity has emerged several times in our discussion of formal social epistemology. Credit incentives can encourage scientists to choose a diversity of problems. In network models, a transient diversity of beliefs is necessary for good inquiry. Let us now turn to models that tackle the influence of diversity more explicitly. Figure 3 shows an example of such a landscape. Scientists are randomly scattered on the landscape, and follow search rules that are sensitive to this importance.
Investigators can then ask: how well did scientists do? Did they fully search the landscape? Did they find the peaks? Figure 3: An epistemic landscape. Location represents problem choice, and height represents epistemic significance. Their modeling choices and main result have been convincingly criticized Alexander et al. Agents face a problem modeled as a ring with some number of locations on it.
Each location is associated with a number representing its goodness as a solution. Such an agent is placed on the ring, and can see the locations 3, 7, and 10 spots ahead of their current position. They then move to whichever has the highest number until they reach a location where they can no longer improve their score. The central result is that randomly selected groups of agents who tackle the task together tend to outperform groups created of top performers. This is because the top performers have similar heuristics, and thus gain relatively little from group membership, whereas random agents have a greater variety of heuristics.
This result has been widely cited, though there have been criticisms of the model either as insufficient to show something so complicated, as lacking crucial representational features, or as failing to show what it claims Thompson ; Singer To this point we have addressed cognitive diversity.
But we might also be interested in diversity of social identity in epistemic communities. Social diversity is an important source of cognitive diversity, and for this reason can benefit the functioning of epistemic groups. For instance, different life histories and experiences may lead individuals to hold different assumptions and tackle different research programs Haraway ; Longino ; Harding ; Hong and Page If so, then we may want to know: why are some groups of people often excluded from epistemic communities like those in academia?
And what might we do about this? In recent work, scholars have used models of bargaining to represent academic collaboration. In the credit-economy tradition, Bright b explains why a noted phenomenon—that women tend to publish fewer papers than men—may not indicate a gap in quality of research. As he points out, anticipation of rejection may lead women to overshoot by producing papers of higher quality than necessary for publication. This gap contributes to the underrepresentation of women in some disciplines.
As we have seen in this section, models can help explain how and when cognitive diversity might matter to the production of knowledge by a community. They can also tell us something about why epistemic communities often, nonetheless, fail to be diverse with respect to social identity. Let us now move on to see how topics from social epistemology intersect with important questions about the proper functioning of democratic societies, and questions about the ethics of social knowledge and learning.
In our portrayal of social epistemology thus far, several different mosaics have been sketched. In some cases, a single epistemic agent seeks epistemic help from another agent. In other cases, a collective agent seeks answers to questions using its members in a collaborative fashion.
A question that arises, quite frequently, is how best to design a system that will maximize the attainment, or satisfaction, of its most important goals over time. As we have seen, this is a question that philosophers have attempted to answer with respect to the structure of scientific communities. Another good example of such systems are political systems, especially democratic political systems. There are many current democratic theorists who place much emphasis on the epistemological, or epistemic, properties of democratic institutions.
Elizabeth Anderson focuses on the question of how the epistemic properties of democratic systems can be designed to attain the best possible form of democracy. He highlights the importance of bringing together citizens from different walks of life to define, through discussion, the principal problems they confront and what might be the most promising solutions. Their different walks of life constitute, in effect, a range of experiments that can help them collectively appraise alternative solutions, thus taking advantage of cognitive diversity. When we contemplate the meaning of democracy, we often mean as a starting point, anyway a governmental system that features equal voting rights for all citizens.
A little reflection, however, readily indicates how shallow a role is played by mere voting rights. A citizen may be entitled to cast a vote for any of the candidates on the ballot. But this will not help the voter promote positive results positive by her lights if she has misguided views of what specific candidates for office would do if they were actually elected, or about what policy measures will be effective for details, see Goldman — This raises the question of just how informed or misinformed ordinary voters are, and what prospects there are for improving the present situation. Many political scientists have shown that American voters are strikingly uninformed with respect to textbook facts about their government.
Nonetheless, there are some rays of light. This approach suggests that ordinary citizens—even those who pay little attention to the details of politics—can learn what they need to know to make suitable choices by listening to the opinions of experts or news junkies.
Goldman An ability to recognize genuine expertise in political matters can play a significant role in promoting the kind of democratic success described above. As noted, though, it can be difficult for laypeople to decide which experts to trust. And as we saw in the last section, in our discussion of industrial influence on public belief, there are forces that work to undermine the functioning of democracy, and that often bring us away from this more optimistic picture.
In the next section we will briefly discuss some related issues. The latest challenge confronting the informational state of the public is the accelerating spread of misinformation and disinformation on the internet. On Twitter falsehoods spread further and faster than the truth Temming a,b. In the run-up to the U. In trying to tackle the spread of misinformation, many online platforms have implemented algorithms. Researchers explore which features of an article are the most reliable identifiers of fake news Temming b: Clearly, these sorts of tools have some promise as part of the enterprise of social epistemology.
But their power to discriminate true stories from false ones still has limited reliability. As platforms and programmers and governments develop tools to fight it, the purveyors of misinformation the Russian state, various partisan groups, advertisers, trolls, etc. All ill-informed populace, as noted, may not be able to effectively represent their interests in a democratic society. In order to protect democratic functioning, going forward it will be necessary for those fighting online misinformation to keep adapting with the best tools and theory available to them.
This includes understanding social aspects of knowledge and belief formation. In other words, social epistemology has much to say to those faced with the challenging task of protecting democracy from misinformation.
Life on File: Archival Epistemology as Theory
Some recent writers seek to expand the notion of social epistemology by incorporating moral or ethical elements. Miranda Fricker in particular has made significant contributions to this literature. An easily recognizable form of such injustice is when a person or a social group is unfairly deprived of knowledge because of their lack of adequate access to education or other epistemic resources. The first is testimonial injustice , which occurs when a speaker is given less credibility than she deserves because the hearer has prejudices about a social group to which the speaker belongs.
The second kind is hermeneutical injustice. This occurs when, as a result of a group being socially powerless, members of the group lack the conceptual resources to make sense of certain distinctive social experiences. For instance, before the s, victims of sexual harassment had trouble understanding and describing the behavior of which they were the victims, because the concept had not yet been articulated. These issues are relevant epistemological ones for those in democratic societies.
Epistemic injustices may leave some members of society ill-equipped to engage in the debates that fuel a well-functioning democracy. Testimonial injustice may prevent the spread of important information and perspectives through a community. As we saw in the last section, misinformation can also pose epistemic threats to democratic functioning. With respect to internet misinformation, we might ask: do we have a right to protection against such misinformation? Is it morally acceptable, or even morally mandatory, for internet platforms, or government bodies, to protect public belief by regulating and limiting misinformation?
There are deep political and moral issues here that we cannot possibly cover in this entry. But we will note a fundamental tension that is relevant. Free speech is protected in most democratic societies, but part of the defense of free speech by thinkers like Mill  is that it is crucial for freedom of thought. What is Social Epistemology? Giving Shape to the Field of Social Epistemology 3.
Central Topics in Social Epistemology 3. Judgment Aggregation 3. Formal Approaches to Social Epistemology 4. Social Epistemology and Society 5. Central Topics in Social Epistemology In exploring social epistemology we explore how assorted social-epistemic activities or practices have an impact on the epistemic outcomes of the agents or groups in question. As James Van Cleve formulates the view: Testimony gives us justified belief … not because it shines by its own light, but because it has often enough been revealed true by our other lights.
However, global reductionism has come under fire. Coady argues that the observational basis of ordinary epistemic agents is much too thin and limited to allow an induction to the general reliability of testimony. He writes: [It] seems absurd to suggest that, individually, we have done anything like the amount of field-work that [reductionism] requires … [M]any of us have never seen a baby born, nor have many of us examined the circulation of the blood nor the actual geography of the world … nor a vast number of other observations that [reductionism] would seem to require.
Coady 82 An alternative to global reductionism is local reductionism E. Thus Tyler Burge writes: [A] person is entitled to accept as true something that is presented as true and that is intelligible to him, unless there are stronger reasons not to do so. Burge 3. He argues as follows: [If] you and I have arrived at our opinions in response to a substantial body of evidence, and your opinion is a reasonable response to the evidence while mine is not, then you are not required to give equal weight to my opinion and to your own.
Under this view: A group G believes that p if and only if the members of G are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Judgment Aggregation What about other attempts to provide an account of group belief? Here is how List and Pettit express these metaphysical relations: The things a group agent does are clearly determined by the things its members do: they cannot emerge independently.
For example: The defendant was legally obliged not to do a certain action. The defendant did do that action. The defendant is liable for breach of contract. In this case, the court as a whole forms beliefs and casts votes as shown below: Obligation? They begin by introducing four conditions that seem to be ones that a reasonable aggregation function should satisfy: Universal domain : The aggregation function admits as input any possible profile of individual attitudes toward the propositions on the agenda, assuming that individual attitudes are consistent and complete.
Formal Approaches to Social Epistemology We have now seen some of the problems that face those who develop knowledge within a community. A Journal on Research Policy and Evaluation , 6 1. Lazarsfeld, and William N. Singer, William J. Hajek and C.
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Hitchcock eds. Du Bois, W. Pappas ed. Goldman, Alvin I. Harding, Sandra, , Whose Science? Whose Knowledge? This remarkable degree of institutionalization of comparative research has also fueled debates about its status, far beyond the methodological issues that, as previously noted, constitute a relatively classical demarcation criterion, and from which the idea of the comparative method has been developed.
In this sense, and as in other social sciences, it is usual to find in comparative research in education positions that define it as a discipline for example Heath , while others, as Phillips and Schweisfurth , argue that it would not be a discipline in the strict sense, but an almost-discipline. Arnove , Cowen , Rust et al. It is beyond the scope of this article to further these discussions in relation to the status of comparative studies, whether they constitute sub-disciplines, fields, sub-fields or specialties.
But it is evident, and cannot fail to be mentioned, the presence of some elements that literature usually emphasizes when characterizing an area or field of knowledge in the forged terms: a group of researchers who identify themselves as specialists in the area; subjects to grade level, seminars of undergraduate and also graduate programs; exchange networks and academic associations and professionals; national and international congresses, specialized academic journals etc. To all this must be added the proliferation of specialized literature, impossible to cite exhaustively, which covers issues such as the same definition of the field of comparative education and the discussion of theoretical and methodological approaches, through the thousands of studies that report or analyze results of empirical research.
On the other hand, the presence of comparative education in official institutions is also significant for example, Ministries of Education , multilateral organizations such as UNESCO, which have been concerned with promoting it, the thinks tanks of very diverse political and ideological orientations.
Many of these investigations, principally those of the World Bank, seek to legitimize the uniformity of educational agendas in Latin America through the homogeneity of the diagnosis of the respective educational systems. These same agendas have even been exported to other regions, such as Africa.
They are studies that return to the functionalist perspective of Comparative Education of the s, mainly in the United States of America 29 Rosar; Krawczyk, In methodological terms, it should be noted that comparative studies are not limited to a particular strategy. In general they are more frequent, or at least have more diffusion probably because they are promoted by international organizations research focusing on the secondary analysis of statistical data. But these statistical comparisons are also made from primary data, in the framework of studies that include the design of survey instruments and samples, as well as the field work and the systematization and analysis of data However, this greater visibility of comparisons based on national statistics does not imply that there is no comparative research using different methodologies, even qualitative, as life stories or case studies.
In the field of comparative education, for example, in , Stenhouse raised the importance of using case studies to contribute to the understanding of the educational phenomenon Crossley; Vulliamy, About the research that is part of the Latin American critical tradition in social sciences, it can be pointed out that it is distanced from the comparative approach by its strong association with the positivist paradigm and with the imperialist policy of development. In consequence, the academic productions of the critical tradition with comparative analysis were practically nonexistent, at least until the dawn of the 21st century.
Beyond the methodological solutions adopted in each situation, it has been argued that the existence of a dissimilarity of environments could be considered a necessary condition for an investigation to be defined as comparative. In this sense, it becomes relevant what Fideli denominates cross-contextual comparison 31 , which encompasses two forms of a comparative research more canonic and disseminated in the social sciences: the studies cross-national and the studies cross-cultural, which will be further discussed.
Its origins are in the middle of the 17th century, in the context of the decline of the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire after the Peace of Westafalia , which resulted in the emergence of more than relatively small autonomous states. In this historical framework, especially in the Germanic intellectual environments there was interest in comparing the situation of the states, and in particular the disintegration of the Germanic states in contrast to the consolidation of some of the modern European national states as France, for example.
Only two years after the Peace of Westphalia, in , Hermann Conring would take over the chair of Politics at the University of Helmstedt, in which he gave his famous lessons entitled Notitia Rerum Publicarum y Notitia Statuum Germania John, , and would begin to write a comparative, unfinished work, in which emphasizes the historical evolution of the states Jori, According to Westergaard , Conring was a pioneer in the development of a tradition of comparative analysis of states, which he defined as Staatenkunde.
In this institutional environment, the proposal of Conring acquired the status of autonomous science by the work of Achenwall, who called it Statistik Cullen, In this matrix, the information about the states that were located in the horizontal dimension: lines y the relevant properties for comparison which were located in the vertical dimension: columns Piovani, Although it never completely lost its validity, this line of investigation had a significant rebirth from the mid-twentieth century, in the framework of the Comparative Policy, with the publication of very important works as The Civic Culture: political attitudes and democracy in five nations, by Almond and Verba ; Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: lord and peasant in the making of the modern world, by Barrington Moore Jr.
But this type of analysis was not limited to the field of political studies. As is known the constitution of national education systems and educational policies have also resorted, at different times, to comparative studies between states. Initially these studies coexisted with the travel literature, which became important as a description of the mechanisms and efforts from different states to organize their national education systems.
The project of a science of comparative education took greater strength inasmuch as the belief in the linear relationship between formal education and progress was consolidated, and in education of the population as the best indicator of the development of a country Goergen, Kohn distinguishes four types of cross-national research:.
In the first type, the primary interest is in the country or countries under investigation. In the second one, the focus is on the evaluation of generalizations concerning the way in which some institutions operate or the ways in which specific social structures impact the subjects. In the third type the researcher seeks to establish relations between the characteristics of nations. In this sense, nations are classified from one or more dimensions. In the last type, nations are analyzed as components of the international system.
The first variant - already mentioned in this article in the preceding section - is one of the most widespread, between other reasons, because it is systematically promoted by international agencies. Most part of the time it acquires the form of comparison of statistical information of different countries with respect to the same subject. However, the semantic capacity of these works, understood in terms of the adjustment between the narrative the report and the referent of what is narrated, has often been questioned. When considering the problems of equivalence, it will be possible to understand the reason for these criticisms.
The cross-cultural research, for its part, also has a long tradition. Urry , of agreed with Rowe, suggests that the basis on which interest in other cultures began to take shape exotic cultures , it lies in the rediscovery of European classical antiquity during the Renaissance. In this context, the conquest and colonization of America raised the need to explain other cultures. However, the systematic study of such differences, initially through what is known as ethnology, was not established as a recognized field of study but until mid-nineteenth century, in Europe and North America.
This occurred around institutions that promoted the collection of information through mediators and publications about other cultures. But toward the end of the nineteenth century it began to become evident that the experts should become data collectors if they wanted to reach a deeper understanding of the cultural other Urry, ; Burgess, However, this kind of research, in its most classic forms, is not interested in the comparison between cultures or cultural systems, but by the detailed description of a specific no-Occidental culture.
It can be considered comparative only in the sense acquired by the terms cross-national and cross-cultural in some North American works, which expand the extension of these concepts to include the case of studies of a single country or a single culture, provided that is not their own. The investigation cross-cultural in the strict sense is actually a much more recent phenomenon.
In the case of research cross-national as the cross-cultural, the central problem, from the methodological point of view, is that of equivalence what is common. Osgood captures in a simple way, and at the same time overwhelming, the core of this problem: when is the same really the same?
A first problematic question refers to the actual identification of the objects to be compared. Fideli , p. The answer is simple: two objects can be compared only when they have at least one property in common. But even before the evaluation of the comparability of two objects, is the question of how they are conceptualized, on the basis of which criteria they are conceived. The difficulties of conceptualization are not simply limited to the objects of comparison.
They are not minor in the case of the identification of relevant properties and their respective states. Smelser argues that the problem of comparing the same property in different social and cultural systems is presented in two planes: the conceptual defining and the operative. The collection of information is not unrelated to the problems of equivalence.
There are two central aspects associated with the collection and measurement 34 of the data: a What information needs to be collected? The answer to the first question should be framed in the logical derivation of the way the research problem has been formulated, identifying the central aspects and variables involved in the study and the indicators that will be used to verify the states of the observation of units in the variables. But this is not a simple task. If the indicators change in meaning in different contexts, it follows that the constructs they represent may likewise lose comparability from one context to another Bynner; Chisholm, The second aspect, the collection and analysis of information, also finds serious difficulties in comparative research.
According to Marradi , p. In other words, even if an agreement could be reached on the relevant indicators, operational definitions for their survey should be constructed paying close attention to the possible biases that could lead to. There is no an algorithm that solves the problems of equivalence. But the most recommended strategy currently involves the collaborative work of groups from different countries or areas subject of comparison, experts on themes, dimensions and properties from which it is expected to establish the comparisons.
Although it is generally a hard and slow job, with a strong critical component and a craftsmanship, it is assumed that the consensus that can be reached in the definition of objects, the properties, the indicators and their respective operational definitions will give to the comparisons much more solid bases than those made from the universalized imposition of a model whose construction has had a strong local cultural and social bias. On the other hand, in the current phase of globalization of capitalism, in which the uniformity of national policies is produced through, among others, the supranational constraints, comparative research may acquire a very rich interpretative potential, considering the national historicities for the analysis of the convergences and of the specificities in the concretion of global policies.
However, this approach, which will be discussed below in its guidelines and general applications in the field of education, still requires further theoretical and methodological development. The aforementioned perspectives go through the redefinition of the field of comparative education and comparative research in education. But it is also interesting to dwell on the analysis of another approach - the socio-historical or sociological historical 35 -, on which was based one of our investigations: the study of educational reform during the last decade of the 20th century in four Latin American countries - Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Mexico - Krawczyk; Vieira, This also implies the recovery of historicity in the concretion of the phenomena and current processes in order to understand its uniqueness.
The complexity of reality can no longer be treated from perspectives that seek a single explanation, objective, neutral Pereyra, ; Madeira, ; Krawczyk; Vieira, The analysis of the results of comparative research, quite clearly, the importance of the historicity of countries in understanding national processes, as well as the scientific production generated in each of them.
The process of external induction imposed uniformity in educational policy in the region, as a result of the growing importance of international agencies and the leadership of the Banco Mundial in the design and implementation of the Reform. Meanwhile, when reflecting on the aspects related to the particular conditions of development of each of the countries it is observed that this reform is processed in societies with different histories that, somehow, contributes in the concretion of the changes, or which give it national specificities. In this sense, in the homogeneity discussed in the regional debate, certain diversity emerges in the new logic of social regulation and in the new role of the State in the countries studied.
This does not invalidate that the educational reform has produced institutional ruptures which weakened historically constituted social practices In recent years, although it is still incipient, has increased the concern to incorporate the historical dimension in comparative research in education. This historicity influences the ideas of the researchers and is reflected, although many times it is not explicit, in the choice of topics and in the definition of categories and of the assumptions from which the transformations are analyzed, among other things.
The institutional spaces where the investigations are carried out and the political environment is an important dimensions that stand out in the research experiences. The wording of the investigations suggests different approaches in different countries, which are manifested in the character of the knowledge produced and operates in the educational debate. Beyond the relationship between intellectual production and the social base in which they arise and with which they interact, there is also a historically shaped link between national and international trends that configures different impacts of the reform in the different countries.
This article has addressed some relevant aspects related to comparative research in social sciences. Kuhn's descriptions of the practices of scientific research communities, especially descriptions of the inculcation and preservation of paradigms during periods of "normal" science, were clear and influential examples of a social analysis of science, especially when contrasted with the positivist tradition of analysis. Michel Foucault developed a radically political view of knowledge and science, arguing that practices of so-called knowledge-seeking, especially in the modern world, really serve the aims of power and social domination , All of these writers may be considered "social epistemologists", although they themselves do not employ this phrase.
Perhaps the first use of the phrase "social epistemology" appears in the writings of a library scientist, Jesse Shera, who in turn credits his associate Margaret Egan. The focus of this discipline should be upon the production, flow, integration, and consumption of all forms of communicated thought throughout the entire social fabric" Shera was particularly interested in the affinity between social epistemology and librarianship.
He did not, however, construct a conception of social epistemology with very definite philosophical or social-scientific contours. What might such contours be? Classical epistemology has been concerned with the pursuit of truth. How can an individual engage in cognitive activity so as to arrive at true belief and avoid false belief? Classical epistemology has equally been concerned with rationality or epistemic justification, as suggested by part of the title of the Discourse.
A person might rightly conduct her reason in the search for truth but not succeed in getting the truth.
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However, as long as she forms a belief by a proper use of reason — and perhaps by proper use of other faculties like perception and memory — then her belief is rationally warranted or justified. Classical epistemologists all regard this as one sort of epistemic desideratum. Furthermore, according to the standard account of knowledge in classical epistemology, for a person to know a proposition, she must believe it, it must be true, and the belief in it must be justified or rationally warranted.
So if epistemology is the study of knowledge, and more specifically the study of how knowledge can be attained, it must also be the study of how true and justified belief can be attained. Epistemological projects restricted to just one of these dimensions — truth or justification — would also fit the classical mold. The foregoing remarks apply to classical epistemology in its "individualist" guise. What type of epistemology does one get if one tries to "socialize" classical epistemology? Some projects in social epistemology have adopted precisely these themes.
Perhaps the first formulation of a truth-oriented social epistemology is found in writings by Alvin Goldman from the late s through the mids Goldman , , Goldman there proposes to divide epistemology into two branches: individual epistemology and social epistemology or "epistemics". Both branches would seek to identify and assess processes, methods or practices in terms of their contributions — positive or negative — to the production of true belief. Individual epistemology would identify and evaluate psychological processes that occur within the epistemic subject.
Social epistemology would identify and evaluate social processes by which epistemic subjects interact with other agents who exert causal influence on their beliefs. The communicational acts of other agents and the institutional structures that guide or frame such communicational acts would be prime examples of social-epistemic practices that would be studied within social epistemology.
In Goldman's subsequent book, Knowledge in a Social World , this conception of social epistemology is developed in detail. It is argued that, both in everyday life and in specialized arenas such as science, law, and education, a certain value is placed on having true beliefs rather than false beliefs or no opinion uncertainty.
This type of value is called "veritistic value", and a measure of veritistic value is proposed. The rest of the book examines types of social practices that make positive or negative contributions toward increasing veritistic value. Types of practices examined include speech practices of reporting and arguing, market and non-market mechanisms that regulate the flow of speech, types of information technologies, assigning scientific credit and guiding scientific inquiries with an eye to credit, trial procedures or legal adjudication systems, and systems that disseminate political information about electoral candidates.
The veritistic approach to social epistemology aims to be evaluative or normative rather than purely descriptive or explanatory. It seeks to evaluate actual and prospective practices in terms of their impacts on true versus false beliefs. Although truth may have no explanatory role to play in the social studies of knowledge, it can play a regulative role.
How can truth play a regulative role, it may be asked, unless we already have ways of deciding what is true? How can the social epistemologist assess the truth-propensity of a practice unless she already has a method of determining whether the beliefs caused by the practice are true or false? But if she has such a method of determination, why bother with social epistemology? In answer to these questions, it is sometimes possible to demonstrate mathematically that a certain practice would have certain veritistic properties. For example, Goldman indicates that a particular difficult to instantiate practice of Bayesian inference has a general propensity, on average, to increase the veritistic properties of one's beliefs Goldman — Similarly, it can be shown mathematically that a certain mode of amalgamating expert opinions in a group yields greater group accuracy than other modes of amalgamation Shapley and Grofman ; Goldman 81— Finally, a practice can sometimes be judged veritistically unsatisfactory when later and better evidence shows that many judgments issued under its aegis were false.
The medieval practice of trial by ordeal was abandoned in part because it was shown that the ordeal had produced numerous erroneous judgments of guilt. This emerged when voluntary confessions were later obtained from different people, or new eye-witnesses came forward. Philip Kitcher has also developed the social epistemology of science from a truth-oriented perspective. One of his chief concerns has been the division of cognitive labor Kitcher , chap.
The progress of science will be optimized, says Kitcher, when there is an optimal distribution of effort within the scientific community. It may be better for a scientific community to attack a given problem by encouraging some members to pursue one strategy and others to pursue another, rather than all pursue the single most promising strategy. In saying that progress will be "optimized", it is meant that it will be optimized in terms of getting true answers to significant scientific questions.
In The Advancement of Science Kitcher constructs the notion of a "consensus practice", a social practice built up from individual practices consisting of an individual's beliefs, the informants he regards as credible, the methodology of scientific reasoning he accepts, and so forth. A "core" consensus practice consists of the elements of individual practices common to all members of the community. A "virtual" consensus practice is a practice generated by taking into account the statements, methodologies, etc.
Kitcher then constructs a family of notions of scientific "progress" and characterizes progress in terms of improvements of consensus practices in getting significant truth and achieving explanatory success. Feminist epistemologists often embrace the idea of social epistemology. However, many of them strongly criticize traditional epistemology and view it as a poor model for feminist epistemology. At least a few feminist epistemologists, however, take a fundamentally truth-oriented position. Elizabeth Anderson explicitly views feminist epistemology as a branch of social epistemology Furthermore, when she proceeds to explain the aim of social epistemology, she identifies it as the aim of promoting our reliable, i.
Thus, the fundamental aim is the classical one of seeking true beliefs and avoiding false ones. Miranda Fricker also adopts an approach to social epistemology with classical roots. She takes her lead from Edward Craig , who stresses the fact that human beings have a fundamental need to acquire truth beliefs and hence a derived need to seek out "good informants," people who will tell us the truth as to whether p. Fricker then points out that norms of credibility arise in society to pick out the class of good informants, people alleged to be competent about the truth as well as sincere.
Unfortunately, societal norms of credibility tend to assign more credibility to the powerful than they deserve and to deny credibility to the powerless. The latter is a phenomenon of epistemic injustice. This phenomenon is one that social epistemology should be concerned with, which has "politicizing" implications for the field. Such politicizing implications may be foreign to epistemology in the classical mold, but Fricker derives them from a classical epistemological perspective in which truth-seeking is the basic epistemic activity.
Thus far our examples of classically-oriented social epistemology center on the truth aim. What about the aim of epistemic justification or rationality? As indicated earlier, the problem of testimony is a problem about justification: What makes a hearer justified in accepting a report or other factual statement by a speaker? In the last two decades, testimony has become an active area of epistemological investigation. Although testimony theorists do not generally use the phrase "social epistemology" to describe their inquiry, that seems to be an appropriate label see Schmitt a.
According to reductionism about testimony, a hearer is justified or warranted in accepting a speaker's report or factual statement only if she is justified is believing that the speaker is reliable and sincere, and the justification for these kinds of belief rests on sources other than testimony itself. Thus, testimony is only a derivative source of epistemic warrant, not a "basic" source like perception, memory, or inductive inference.
A hearer must use sources like perception, memory, and inductive inference to arrive at the belief that speakers in general, or the present speaker in particular, are reliable and sincere. Only when the hearer has such justified beliefs, derived from non-testimonial sources, can she be justified in believing what any given speaker reports or asserts. Reductionism was endorsed by David Hume. In opposition to reductionism stands the doctrine of anti-reductionism about testimonial justification. Anti-reductionism holds that testimony is itself a basic source of evidence or warrant. No matter how little positive evidence a hearer has about the reliability and sincerity of a given speaker, or of speakers in general, she has default or prima facie warrant in believing what the speaker says.
Of course, evidence of the speaker's unreliability or insincerity may defeat or override her prima facie warrant for acceptance. But this doesn't undercut the anti-reductionist claim that testimony is a basic source of evidence for the truth of what the speaker asserts. Anti-reductionism in various strengths has been endorsed by C. Perhaps the most natural version of reductionism is global reductionism, which holds that justifiable acceptance of a speaker's report requires non-testimonially based positive reasons for believing that testimony is generally reliable. Here are two inital difficulties with global reductionism.
In order to have justified beliefs based on testimony, including testimony from one's own parents, very young children would have to wait until they have checked the accuracy of enough different kinds of reports from enough different speakers to infer that testimony is generally reliable. But surely young children aren't capable of this. Indeed, how could they acquire even the conceptual and linguistic tools needed for an induction to the general reliability of testimony without accepting some testimony in the first place?
Second, a person would have to be exposed to a wide sample of reports and corresponding facts in order to infer the general reliability of testimony. But the observational base of ordinary epistemic agents is too narrow to allow this. Coady points out, few of us have done anything like the field-work that global reductionism requires So, for most epistemic agents, global reductionism leads to skepticism.
According to anti-reductionism, one doesn't need positive reasons to support the general reliability of testimony, or even reasons for trusting a target speaker's reliability and sincerity. As far as the hearer's reasons are concerned, they need only satisfy the much weaker condition of not including evidence that defeats the speaker's reliability and sincerity. Since this negative requirement is extremely weak, most anti-reductionists add an additional requirement. In particular, they add the requirement that the speaker must actually be competent and sincere.
However, Jennifer Lackey argues that these two conditions don't suffice for hearer justifiedness, because of the weakness of the negative reasons requirement. Suppose Sam sees an alien creature in the woods who drops something that, on examination, seems to be a diary, written in a language that appears to be English. Sam has no evidence either for or against the sincerity and reliability of aliens as testifiers, so he lacks both positive reasons for trusting the diary's contents and negative reasons against trusting them.
If the alien is both reliable and sincere, anti-reductionism implies that Sam is justified in believing the diary's contents. Intuitively, however, he isn't so justified, says Lackey. Thus, we need a third kind of theory, she says, that combines reductionism's positive-reasons requirement for hearers with anti-reductionism's actual-reliability requirement for speakers. Many researchers in the social studies of knowledge reject or ignore such classical concerns of epistemology as truth, justification, and rationality.
It is acknowledged, of course, that various communities and cultures speak the language of truth, justification, or rationality, but the researchers in question do not find such concepts legitimate or useful for their own purposes. They seek to describe and understand a selected community's norms of rationality, like anthropologists describing the norms or mores of an alien culture.
But they reject the notion that there are any universal or "objective" norms of rationality, or criteria of truth, that they themselves could appropriately invoke. As Barry Barnes and David Bloor put it, "there are no context-free or super-cultural norms of rationality" So they are not prepared to decree that certain practices are more rational or more truth-conducive than others. In other words, they officially decline to make any judgments about the epistemic properties of various belief-forming practices though the debunking connotations of their work, discussed below, may belie this stance.
They indicate that such judgments would have no culture-free basis or foundation. They are, nonetheless, clearly interested in belief-forming practices. If we use the term "knowledge" for any sort of belief or at least for "institutionalized" belief , whether true or false, justified or unjustified, then they can be said to be investigators of knowledge. Since they are specifically interested in social influences on knowledge so understood , they plausibly qualify as social epistemologists.
Life on File: Archival Epistemology as Theory – Comparative and Historical Sociology
They do not typically apply this label to themselves, perhaps in recognition that what was traditionally called "epistemology" had different purposes or aspirations. But if the old aspirations must be abandoned — as Richard Rorty explicitly argued — why not use the old label for the new type of project?
For this reason, researchers in the social studies of science, or science and technology studies, will here be considered social epistemologists. There is, however, an additional reason why some of these writers might be called social epistemologists. Some claim to derive epistemologically significant conclusions in the classical sense of "epistemology" from their sociological or anthropological investigations.
Two examples are cases in point. First, as indicated earlier, historical case studies undertaken by members of the Edinburgh School attempt to show that scientists are heavily influenced by social factors "external" to the proper business of science. Other social analyses of science try to show how the game of scientific persuasion is essentially a battle for political power, where the outcome depends on the number or strength of one's allies as contrasted with, say, genuine epistemic worth.
If either of these claims were right, the epistemic status of science as an objective and authoritative source of information would be greatly reduced. This claim, if true, seems to have genuine epistemological significance. Second, some sociologists of science claim to show that scientific "facts" are not "out-there" entities, which obtain independently of the human social interactions, but are mere "fabrications" resulting from those social interactions.
This is an epistemological thesis, or at least a metaphysical thesis, of some philosophical significance. So some of these writers seem to have philosophical aspirations, not merely social science aspirations. Let us begin with the first type of thrust, i. The debunking of science's epistemic authority, at least by sociologists or historians of science, would have to be accomplished by empirical means, for example, by showing how scientific beliefs were actually produced in this or that socio-historical episode.
This is precisely what various historians and sociologists of science purport to accomplish. One challenge to this would be a straightforwardly empirical challenge: Do these historical accounts get matters right? Many debunking efforts by members of the "Strong Programme" in the sociology of science have been disputed by others.
In addition, there is an obvious, theoretically more interesting, response. How can these studies establish the debunking conclusions unless the studies themselves have epistemic authority? Yet the studies themselves use some of the very empirical, scientific procedures they purport to debunk.
If such procedures are epistemically questionable, the studies' own results should be in question. There is, in other words, a problem of "reflexivity" facing this type of debunking challenge. Members of the Edinburgh School sometimes deny that they are trying to debunk or undermine science.
Bloor, Barnes and Henry , for example, say that they cheerfully embrace the methods of science, that they "honour science by imitation" viii. However, as James Robert Brown points out, this claim is disingenuous. The logical implication of their descriptions of science is to undercut the objectivity and authority of science.
They cannot intelligibly propose a revolution and then deny that it would change anything Not all sociological approaches are linked to historical case studies. Some offer a more theoretical analysis of how scientists persuade one another of this or that conclusion. For example, Bruno Latour sketches an account of how persuasion is effected in science by marshalling "allies" of substantial reputation on one's own side of a controversy chap. Can this ostensibly non-epistemic account of science support a successful debunking of its epistemic pretensions? A first point to notice is that any successful debunking of epistemic authority, if explicitly spelled out, must address epistemic issues.
It must be shown that the procedures used by scientists have poor epistemic qualities. But this presupposes that there are objective, bona fide epistemic categories, which sociologists of science of Latour's persuasion tend to doubt or deny. If such categories are admitted, the further question arises as to whether persuasion by reference to the numbers of concurring "allies" is really an epistemically bad procedure.
Let us turn now to the social construction of scientific facts. Again there is a question of how this sort of thesis could be established by sociologists. How could any scrutinizing of the activities of human scientists have determinate implications as to whether certain chemical substances, for example, exist independently of interactions among such scientists? Latour and Woolgar claim that the "reality [of a scientific entity or fact] is formed as a consequence of [the] stabilization [of a controversy]" In other words, the reality does not exist prior to the social event of stabilization, but is the result of such stabilization.
How can they ascertain this without being trained, qualified biochemists as opposed to sociologists? How can the study of macro-events of a social nature establish that certain alleged biochemical substances do or do not exist independently of those macro-events? In discussing social constructivism, it is essential to distinguish between weak and strong versions. Weak social constructivism is the view that human representations of reality — either linguistic or mental representations — are social constructs.
For example, to say that gender is socially constructed, in this weak version of social constructivism, is to say that people's representations or conceptions of gender are socially constructed. Strong social constructivism claims not only that representations are socially constructed, but that the entities themselves to which these representations refer are socially constructed.
In other words, not only are scientific representations of certain biochemical substances socially constructed, but the substances themselves are socially constructed. The weak version of social constructivism is quite innocuous, at least in the present context. Only the thesis of strong social constructivism is metaphysically and, by implication, epistemologically interesting. It is this sort of metaphysical thesis that Latour and Woolgar seem to endorse. But there are many problems with this metaphysical thesis.