Spreading the Credit: Virtue Reliabilism and Weak Epistemic Anti-Individualism
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Mainstream epistemologists have recently made a few isolated attempts to demonstrate the particular ways, in which specific types of knowledge are partly social. Two promising cases in point are Lackey’s (Learning from words: testimony as a source of knowledge. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2008) dualism in the epistemology of testimony and Goldberg’s (Relying on others: an essay in epistemology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010) process reliabilist treatment of testimonial and coverage-support justification. What seems to be missing from the literature, however, is a general approach to knowledge that could reveal the partly social nature of the latter anytime this may be the case. Indicatively, even though Lackey (Synthese 158(3):345–361, 2007) has recently launched an attack against the Credit Account of Knowledge (CAK) on the basis of testimony, she has not classified her view of testimonial knowledge into any of the alternative, general approaches to knowledge. Similarly, even if Goldberg’s attempt to provide a process reliabilist explanation of the social nature of testimonial knowledge is deemed satisfactory, his attempt to do the same in the case of coverage-support justification does not deliver the requisite result. This paper demonstrates that CAK can in fact provide, pace Lackey’s renunciation of the view, a promising account of the social nature of both testimonial and coverage-supported knowledge. Additionally, however, it can display further explanatory power by also revealing the social nature of knowledge produced on the basis of epistemic artifacts. Despite their disparities, all these types of knowledge count as partly social in nature, because in all these cases, according to CAK, the epistemic credit for the individual agent’s true belief must spread between the individual agent and certain parts of her epistemic community. Accordingly, CAK is a promising candidate for providing a unified approach to several and, perhaps all possible, instances of what we may call ‘weak epistemic anti-individualism’ within mainstream epistemology: i.e., the claim that the nature of knowledge can occasionally be both social and individual at the same time.
KeywordsTrue Belief Gettier Case Epistemic Community Doxastic Justification Cognitive Success
I am very thankful to Adam Carter and Duncan Pritchard for feedback in previous drafts of this paper. I am also grateful to two anonymous referees for Erkenntnis for their very insightful comments. Research into the area of this paper was supported by the AHRC-funded ‘Extended Knowledge’ Project, based at the Eidyn research centre, University of Edinburgh.
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