Studies in Philosophy and Education

, Volume 34, Issue 2, pp 217–228 | Cite as

Ethical and Epistemic Dilemmas in Empirically-Engaged Philosophy of Education



This essay examines several ethical and epistemological issues that arise when philosophers conduct empirical research focused on, or in collaboration with, community groups seeking to bring about systemic change. This type of research can yield important policy lessons about effective community-driven reform and how to incorporate the voices of marginalized citizens in public policy debates. Community-based reform efforts are also particularly ripe for philosophical analysis since they can demonstrate the strengths and shortcomings of democratic and egalitarian ideals. This type of research also raises unique ethical dilemmas that challenge central tenets of research ethics. We focus on two foundational questions: What does informed consent mean in the context of community-based research (CBR) when CBR may dissolve differences between researcher and research participant, and its parameters can be hard to delineate? And what ethical, democratic, and epistemic issues arise when conducting research with and on community groups, given potentially competing commitments to respect the epistemological contributions of all participants while also meeting research norms to warrant findings and conclusions? Our examination has two aspects: we grapple with these issues through examples from our work to reveal their significance in our own philosophic practice, and more broadly, to reveal their significance as problems within traditional research ethics. We believe that this approach will demonstrate the utility of philosophic engagement with dilemmas in research ethics as a reflective matter, and in the course of empirical research itself.


Community-based research Ethics Epistemology Democratic theory Research ethics Informed consent 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of California Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable CaliforniaUniversity of CaliforniaSanta CruzUSA

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