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Synthese

, Volume 191, Issue 1, pp 37–53 | Cite as

Epistemic dependence and collective scientific knowledge

  • Jeroen de RidderEmail author
Article

Abstract

I argue that scientific knowledge is collective knowledge, in a sense to be specified and defended. I first consider some existing proposals for construing collective knowledge and argue that they are unsatisfactory, at least for scientific knowledge as we encounter it in actual scientific practice. Then I introduce an alternative conception of collective knowledge, on which knowledge is collective if there is a strong form of mutual epistemic dependence among scientists, which makes it so that satisfaction of the justification condition on knowledge ineliminably requires a collective. Next, I show how features of contemporary science support the conclusion that scientific knowledge is collective knowledge in this sense. Finally, I consider implications of my proposal and defend it against objections.

Keywords

Social epistemology Scientific knowledge Collective knowledge Epistemic dependence Testimony Justification 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I am grateful to the following people: the organizers of the Collective Dimensions of Science conference in Nancy in December 2011 for giving me an opportunity to present an early version of this paper; audience members at that conference, members of the Theoretical Philosophy research group at VU University Amsterdam, and three anonymous referees for this journal for incisive comments on several earlier versions of this paper. Research for this paper was made possible by an Veni grant (275-20-023) from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of PhilosophyVU University AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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