Social epistemology

Social epistemology refers to a broad set of approaches that can be taken in epistemology (the study of knowledge) that construes human knowledge as a collective achievement. Another way of characterizing social epistemology is as the evaluation of the social dimensions of knowledge or information.[1]

As a field of inquiry in analytic philosophy, social epistemology deals with questions about knowledge in social contexts, meaning those in which knowledge attributions cannot be explained by examining individuals in isolation from one another. The most common topics discussed in contemporary social epistemology are testimony (e.g. "When does a belief that x is true which resulted from being told 'x is true' constitute knowledge?"), peer disagreement (e.g. "When and how should I revise my beliefs in light of other people holding beliefs that contradict mine?"), and group epistemology (e.g. "What does it mean to attribute knowledge to groups rather than individuals, and when are such knowledge attributions appropriate?").[1] Social epistemology also examines the social justification of belief.[1]

One of the enduring difficulties with defining "social epistemology" that arises is the attempt to determine what the word "knowledge" means in this context. There is also a challenge in arriving at a definition of "social" which satisfies academics from different disciplines.[1] Social epistemologists may exist working in many of the disciplines of the humanities and social sciences, most commonly in philosophy and sociology. In addition to marking a distinct movement in traditional and analytic epistemology, social epistemology is associated with the interdisciplinary field of science and technology studies (STS).


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