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Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency

Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency

Patrick J. Reider


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The field of epistemology is undergoing significant changes. Primary among these changes is an ever growing appreciation for the role social influences play on one’s ability to acquire and assess knowledge claims. Arguably, social epistemology’s greatest influence on traditional epistemology is its stance on de-centralizing the epistemic agent. In other words, its practitioners have actively sought to dispel the claim that individuals can be solely responsible for the assessment, acquisition, dissemination, and retention of knowledge. This view opposes traditional epistemology, which tends to focus on the individual’s capacity to form and access knowledge claims independent of his or her relationship to society.

Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency is an essential resource for academics and students who ask, “in what manner does society engender its members with the ability to act as epistemic agents, what actions constitute epistemic agency, and what type of beings can be epistemic agents?”

This intriguing volume brings together philosophers and sociologists with very different conceptions of what social epistemology is, or should be, and what it might contribute to our understanding of social agency. It will be essential reading for graduate students and scholars in epistemology, philosophy of science, and sociology.
Martin Kusch, Professor in Applied Theory of Science and Epistemology, Department of Philosophy, University of Vienna
What we can say about the Reider volume is that it has taken the brave and humanistic approach to the dialectic in both its structure and in its overall cast; the editor asked for foundational articles from the flag-bearers of what we might call the analytic and the critical approaches to social epistemology, and then solicited thought-provoking responses to them.
Patrick J. Reider teaches philosophy at Misericordia University. He is the editor and a contributing author to Wilfrid Sellars, Idealism and Realism: Understanding Psychological Nominalism (2016). He recently contributed to Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective as their Special Issue Editor. SERRC is the online platform for the journal Social Epistemology: A Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Policy.

Finn Collin, Professor of Media, Cognition and Communication, University of Copenhagen, Denmark; Fred D’Agostino, Professor of Philosophy, University of Queensland, Australia; Paul Faulkner, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Sheffield, UK; Steve Fuller, Auguste Comte Chair in Social Epistemology, University of Warwick, UK; Sanford C. Goldberg, Professor of Philosophy, Northwestern University, USA; ; Angelica Nuzzo, Professor of Philosophy, Brooklyn College, USA; Orestis Palermos, Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, UK; Duncan Pritchard, Professor of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, UK; Frank Scalambrino, Affiliate Assistant Professor of Philosophy, University of Dallas, USA; R. Valentine Dusek, Professor of Philosophy, University of New Hampshire, USA; Francis Remedios, independent scholar, Canada

Social epistemologists have challenged the assumption that an individual epistemic agent is at the center of the analysis of knowing. They have investigated the question of which social processes are effective in bringing about true beliefs and when a person is justified in relying on another person’s testimony. Some social epistemologists have explored the question of whether knowledge or justified belief can be attributed to collective epistemic agents or distributed cognitive systems that may include non-human entities such as artificial intelligence. In light of these developments, Social epistemology and epistemic agency, edited by Patrick Reider, is a timely volume of articles.
This volume is an important contribution to both social epistemology and the theory of epistemic agency, and it can be read with profit not only by professional philosophers but by everyone who is interested in how we can improve knowledge in our communities.
Frederick F. Schmitt, Oscar R. Ewing Professor of Philosophy, Indiana University

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
Contents 7
Introduction 9
I: Anchor Articles 19
Chapter One: A Proposed Research Program for Social Epistemology 21
Chapter Two: A Sense of Epistemic Agency Fit for Social Epistemology 39
II: Responses and Further Considerations 59
Chapter Three: Two Kinds of Social Epistemology and the Foundations of Epistemic Agency 61
Chapter Four: Fuller’s Social Epistemology and Epistemic Agency 79
Chapter Five: Agency and Disagreement 93
Chapter Six: Disciplines, the Division of Epistemic Labor, and Agency 109
Chapter Seven: The Distribution of Epistemic Agency 127
Chapter Eight: Toward Fluid Epistemic Agency 145
Chapter Nine: “Epistemic Agency” 163
Chapter Ten: Epistemic Agency as a Social Achievement 179
Index 197
Author Biographies 199