A case for integrative epistemology

Synthese 198 (12):12021-12039 (2020)
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Abstract

Western analytic epistemology is undergoing an upheaval: the importance of social justice concerns is becoming increasingly recognized. Many of us want epistemology to reflect our lived experiences, and to do real work for us on issues that matter. Motivated by these concerns, researchers are increasingly focusing on ameliorating our epistemic concepts: finding ones that contribute to social justice. At the same time, however, many epistemologists claim that their project is purely metaphysical and thus value-neutral: epistemology is just about the truth, the facts! Ethics and politics thus have no place in epistemology proper. I will argue that, despite appearances to the contrary, these ameliorative and objectivist projects are not in conflict. Indeed, because the same concepts are our tools for both theoretical and practical reasoning, properly carrying out either project must be done in an integrated way with the other. I’ll use the example of medical research to show how social justice concerns can deeply influence scientific practice in ways that contribute to, rather than threaten, its claims to objectivity. I then develop an integrative epistemology on analogy with medical research to resolve both longstanding philosophical disputes and support our understanding and healing of public discourse.

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Lisa Miracchi
University of Pennsylvania

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