, Volume 81, Issue 2, pp 305–334 | Cite as

Spreading the Credit: Virtue Reliabilism and Weak Epistemic Anti-Individualism

  • Spyridon Orestis PalermosEmail author
Original Article


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.


True Belief Gettier Case Epistemic Community Doxastic Justification Cognitive Success 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



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.


  1. Adams, F., & Aizawa, K. (2001). The bounds of cognition. Philosophical Psychology, 14(1), 43–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, F., & Aizawa, K. (2008). The bounds of cognition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar
  3. Alfano, M. (2014). What are the bearers of virtues?. In H. Sarkissian & J. Wright (Eds.), Advances in moral psychology. Continuum.Google Scholar
  4. Alfano, M. (forthcoming). ‘The embedded and extended character hypotheses’. In J. Kiverstein (Ed.), Philosophy of the social mind. Routledge. Google Scholar
  5. Alston, W. P. (2006). Beyond “justification”: Dimensions of epistemic evaluation. Ithaca, NY, Bristol: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Audi, R. (1998). Epistemology: A contemporary introduction to the theory of knowledge. London; New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Bach-y-Rita, P., & Kercel, S. W. (2003). Sensory substitution and the human–machine interface. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 7(12), 541–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. BonJour, L. (1985). The structure of empirical knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Burge, T. (1986). Individualism and psychology. The Philosophical Review, 95(1), 3. doi: 10.2307/2185131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Carter, J. A., & Palermos, S. O. (2014). Active externalism and epistemic internalism. Erkenntnis. doi:  10.1007/s10670-014-9670-5.
  11. Chemero, A. (2009). Radical embodied cognitive science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  12. Chisholm, R. M. (1977). Theory of knowledge. Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, A. (2007). Curing cognitive hiccups: A defense of the extended mind. Retrieved from
  14. Clark, A. (2008). Supersizing the mind: Embodiment, action, and cognitive extension. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Clark, A., & Chalmers, D. (1998). The extended mind. Analysis, 58(1), 7–19. doi: 10.1093/analys/58.1.7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Conee, E., & Feldman, R. (2001). Internalism defended. In H. Kornblith (Ed.), Epistemology: Internalism and externalism. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  17. Dretske, F. I. (1970). Epistemic operators. Journal of Philosophy, 67(24), 1007–1023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Faulkner, P. (2000). The social character of testimonial knowledge. The Journal of Philosophy, 97(11), 581–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fricker, E. (1994). Against gullibility. In B. K. Matilal & A. Chakrabarti (Eds.), Knowing from words (pp. 125–161). Springer Netherlands. Retrieved from
  20. Fricker, M. (2007). Epistemic injustice: Power and the ethics of knowing. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Froese, T., Gershenson, C., & Rosenblueth, D. A. (2013). The dynamically extended mind—a minimal modeling case study. arXiv:1305.1958 [nlin]. Retrieved from
  22. Fuller, S. (2007). The knowledge book key concepts in philosophy, science, and culture. Stocksfield: Acumen.Google Scholar
  23. Fuller, S. (2012). Social epistemology: A quarter-century itinerary. Social Epistemology, 26(3–4), 267–283. doi: 10.1080/02691728.2012.714415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Goldberg, S. (2010). Relying on others: An essay in epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Goldberg, S., & Henderson, D. (2006). Monitoring and anti-reductionism in the epistemology of testimony. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 72(3), 600–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Goldman, A. (1979). What is justified belief? In G. Pappas (Ed.), Justification and knowledge (pp. 1–23). Dordrecht: D. Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Goldman, A. I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Goldman, A. I. (2004). Group knowledge versus group rationality: Two approaches to social epistemology. Episteme, 1(01), 11–22. doi: 10.3366/epi.2004.1.1.11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goldman, A. (2010). Why social epistemology is real epistemology. In A. Haddock, A. Millar & D. Pritchard (Eds.), Social epistemology (pp. 1–29). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Google Scholar
  30. Greco, J. (1999). Agent reliabilism. Noûs, 33, 273–296. doi: 10.1111/0029-4624.33.s13.13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Greco, J. (2003). Knowledge as credit for true belief. Intellectual virtue: Perspectives from ethics and epistemology (pp. 111–134). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Greco, J. (2007). The nature of ability and the purpose of knowledge. Philosophical Issues, 17(1), 57–69. doi: 10.1111/j.1533-6077.2007.00122.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Greco, J. (2010). Achieving knowledge: A virtue-theoretic account of epistemic normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Greco, J. (2012). A (different) virtue epistemology. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 85(1), 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Green, A. (2012). Extending the credit theory of knowledge. Philosophical Explorations, 15(2), 121–132.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Green, A. (2014). Evaluating distributed cognition. Synthese, 191(1), 79–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Hardwig, J. (1985). Epistemic dependence. Journal of Philosophy, 82(7), 335–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hume, D. (2011). Enquiry concerning human understanding. [S.l.]: Simon & Brown.Google Scholar
  39. Kelp, C. (2013). Extended cognition and robust virtue epistemology. Erkenntnis, 78(2), 245–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kusch, M. (2002). Knowledge by agreement: The programme of communitarian epistemology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Lackey, J. (2007). Why we don’t deserve credit for everything we know. Synthese, 158(3), 345–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Lackey, J. (2008). Learning from words: Testimony as a source of knowledge. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Michaelian, K. (2014). JFGI: From distributed cognition to distributed reliabilism. Philosophical Issues, 24(1), 314–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Noë, A. (2004). Action in perception. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  45. Nozick, R. (1981). Philosophical explanations. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  46. Palermos, S. O. (2011a). Belief-forming processes, extended. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 2(4), 741–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Palermos, S. O. (2011b). Dualism in the epistemology of testimony and the ability intuition. Philosophia, 39(3), 597–613.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Palermos, S. O. (2014a). Knowledge and cognitive integration. Synthese, 191(8), 1931–1951.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Palermos, S. O. (2014b). Loops, constitution, and cognitive extension. Cognitive Systems Research, 27, 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Palermos, S. O. (forthcoming). Active externalism, virtue reliabilism and scientific knowledge. Synthese. doi:  10.1007/s11229-015-0695-3.
  51. Palermos, O., & Pritchard, D. (2013). Extended knowledge and social epistemology. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, 2(8), 105–120.Google Scholar
  52. Plantinga, A. (1993). Warrant and proper function. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pritchard, D. (2002). Resurrecting the Moorean response to the sceptic. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, 10(3), 283–307. doi: 10.1080/09672550210152122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pritchard, D. (2006). What is this thing called knowledge?. London, New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  55. Pritchard, D. (2008). Sensitivity, safety, and anti-luck epistemology. In J. Greco (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of skepticism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Pritchard, D. (2009). Knowledge. Palgrave Macmillan. Retrieved from
  57. Pritchard, D. (2010a). Cognitive ability and the extended cognition thesis. Synthese, 175(1), 133–151. doi: 10.1007/s11229-010-9738-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Pritchard, D. (2010b). Knowledge and understanding. In A. Haddock, A. Millar & D. Pritchard (Eds.), The nature and value of knowledge. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  59. Pritchard, D. (2012). Anti-luck virtue epistemology. Journal of Philosophy, 109, 247–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Reid, T. (1786). Essays on the intellectual powers of man. Dublin: Printed for L. White. Retrieved from
  61. Rupert, R. D. (2004). Challenges to the hypothesis of extended cognition. Journal of Philosophy, 101(8), 389–428.Google Scholar
  62. Rupert, R. D. (2009). Cognitive systems and the extended mind (1st ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Shieber, J. (2012). Against credibility. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 90(1), 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Shieber, J. (2013). Toward a truly social epistemology: Babbage, the division of mental labor, and the possibility of socially distributed warrant. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 86(2), 266–294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Sosa, E. (1988). Beyond scepticism, to the best of our knowledge. Mind, XCVII(386), 153–188. doi: 10.1093/mind/XCVII.386.153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Sosa, E. (1991). Knowledge in perspective: Selected essays in epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Sosa, E. (1999). How to defeat opposition to Moore. Noûs, 33, 141–153. doi: 10.1111/0029-4624.33.s13.7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Sosa, E. (2000). Skepticism and contextualism. Philosophical Issues, 10(1), 1–18. doi: 10.1111/j.1758-2237.2000.tb00002.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Sosa, E. (2007). A virtue epistemology: Apt belief and reflective knowledge. Oxford: Clarendon Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Sosa, E. (2011). Reflective knowledge: Apt belief and reflective knowledge (Vol. II). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  71. Steup, M. (1999). A defense of internalism. In L. Pojman (Ed.), The theory of knowledge: Classical and contemporary readings, 2nd edition. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing.Google Scholar
  72. Sutton, J. (2008). Between individual and collective memory: Interaction, coordination, distribution. Social Research, 75(1), 23–48.Google Scholar
  73. Theiner, G., Allen, C., & Goldstone, R. L. (2010). Recognizing group cognition. Cognitive Systems Research, 11(4), 378–395. doi: 10.1016/j.cogsys.2010.07.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Tollefsen, D., & Dale, R. (2012). Naturalizing joint action: A process-based approach. Philosophical Psychology, 25(3), 385–407. doi: 10.1080/09515089.2011.579418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Toon, A. (2014). Empiricism for cyborgs. Philosophical Issues, 24(1), 409–425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Vaesen, K. (2011). Knowledge without credit, exhibit 4: Extended cognition. Synthese, 181(3), 515–529.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Vaesen, K. (2013). Critical discussion: Virtue epistemology and extended cognition: A reply to Kelp and Greco. Erkenntnis, 78(4), 963–970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Van Fraassen, B. C. (2001). Constructive empiricism now. Philosophical Studies, 106(1/2), 151–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Van Fraassen, B. C. (2008). Scientific representation: Paradoxes of perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Wegner, D. M., Giuliano, T., & Hertel, P. T. (1985). Cognitive interdependence in close relationships. In D. W. Ickes (Ed.), Compatible and incompatible relationships (pp. 253–276). Springer New York. Retrieved from
  81. Weiner, M. (2003). Accepting testimony. The Philosophical Quarterly, 53(211), 256–264. doi: 10.1111/1467-9213.00310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Philosophy, Psychology and the Language Sciences, Department of PhilosophyUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghScotland, UK

Personalised recommendations