Questioning the Role of Epistemic Agency: A Response to Calvert-Minor

Social Epistemology 25 (4):361 - 369 (2011)
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Abstract

In ??Epistemological communities? and the problem of epistemic agency? (Social Epistemology 25 (4): 341?360), Chris Calvert-Minor outlines Lynn Hankinson Nelson?s theory of evidence and her claims with respect to communities as primary epistemic agents, and criticizes both Nelson and her critics (including myself) for their undue emphasis on epistemic agency. Calvert-Minor argues instead for an epistemology framed around practises rather than epistemic agents. I argue that Calvert-Minor?s criticism that epistemic agency plays too central a role in the epistemology of Nelson and myself is problematically vague, and I suggest that Calvert-Minor?s concerns with Nelson might be articulated better in terms of the overly theoretical nature of her view of epistemic agency and evidence. I also argue that the contrast between an agent-centered and a practise-centered epistemology is not as stark as Calvert-Minor portrays, particularly when one considers my development of a view of epistemic agents as individuals-in-communities. I suggest that the heart of the disagreement between Calvert-Minor and the likes of Nelson and myself concerning the appropriate role of epistemic agency in epistemology may lie in different understandings of the underlying goals of epistemology

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Heidi Grasswick
Middlebury College