Epistemic Collaborations: Distributed Cognition and Virtue Reliabilism

Erkenntnis 87 (4):1481-1500 (2022)
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Strong epistemic anti-individualism—i.e., the claim that knowledge can be irreducibly social—is increasingly debated within mainstream and social epistemology. Most existing approaches attempt to argue for the view on the basis of aggregative analyses, which focus on the way certain groups aggregate the epistemic attitudes of their members. Such approaches are well motivated, given that many groups to which we often ascribe group knowledge—such as juries and committees—operate in this way. Yet another way that group knowledge can be generated is on the basis of epistemic collaborations, such as scientific research teams and Transactive Memory Systems. To produce knowledge, epistemic collaborations rely heavily on the mutual interactions of their group members. This is a distinctive feature of epistemic collaborations that renders them resistant to aggregative analyses. To accommodate this kind of group knowledge, the paper combines virtue reliabilism with the hypothesis of distributed cognition in order to introduce the hybrid approach of distributed virtue reliabilism. On this view, beliefs produced by epistemic collaborations entertain positive epistemic standing in virtue of the mutual interactions of their group members; this positive epistemic standing is a collective property; epistemic collaborations qualify as epistemic group agents; collaborative knowledge is a special kind of group knowledge, motivating strong epistemic anti-individualism in a distinctive way.



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S. Orestis Palermos
Cardiff University

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