What is Social Epistemology?

I am one of the founders of the field of social epistemology, which frames all the research I do. Here is the definition of the field that appeared in the latest edition of The Norton Dictionary of Modern Thought (Fontana in the UK). It has the virtue of encompassing both the major areas of interest and the fault lines of disagreement:

Social epistemology. An intellectual movement of broad cross-disciplinary provenance that attempts to reconstruct the problems of epistemology once knowledge is regarded as intrinsically social. It is often seen as philosophical science policy or the normative wing of science studies. Originating in studies of academic knowledge production, social epistemology has begun to encompass knowledge in multicultural and public settings, as well as the conversion of knowledge to information technology and intellectual property. The institutional presence of the field began with the quarterly, Social Epistemology (Taylor & Francis, 1987- ). Despite their many internal differences, social epistemologists agree on two points:

        1. classical epistemology, philosophy of science and sociology of knowledge have presupposed an idealized conception of scientific inquiry that is unsupported by the social history of scientific practices;
        2. nevertheless, one still needs to articulate normatively appropriate ends and means for science, given science's status as the exemplar of rationality for society at large.

The question for social epistemologists, then, is whether science's actual conduct is worthy of its exalted social status and what political implications follow from one's answer. Those who say "yes" assume that science is on the right track and offer guidance on whom people should believe from among competing experts, whereas those who say "no" address the more fundamental issue of determining the sort of knowledge that people need and the conditions under which it ought to be produced and distributed.

If you're interested in seeing how I have developed social epistemology so far, check out my book ventures.


NEW! Here are some synopses of my early books, along with other works related related to social epistemology

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