Topics in epistemology



In the last 20 years, epistemology —the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature, value, and extent of knowledge, epistemic justification, the rationality of belief, understanding, and  ther epistemic notions such as certainty or wisdom—has shifted its focus from the epistemic behavior of individual cognizers to the epistemic behavior of groups (e.g., juries, committees, corporations) and from non- social sources of evidence (e.g., perception, memory, reasoning, introspection) to social sources of evidence (e.g., testimony). As a result, much of the current epistemological theorizing is centered on social epistemology , the branch of epistemology that deals with the social aspects of knowledge and other epistemic notions.

One of the subfields of social epistemology, group epistemology , has recently experienced tremendous growth. Recent contributions have addressed topics such as group assertion, group belief, group disagreement, group epistemic luck, group epistemic virtues, group inquiry, group justified belief, group knowledge, group lies, group polarization, group testimony, group understanding, or the epistemology of group deliberation.
This course is devoted to contrasting various topics in individual and group epistemology (e.g., knowledge, justified belief, etc.). In terms of skills , this course offers you the opportunity to develop three core skills for a successful academic career in philosophy: reading, discussing, and writing philosophy.

Course plan

The instructor will act as moderator and ensure that the most relevant topics of the papers are discussed. You are expected to actively participate in the group discussion by presenting your point of view and dynamically moving the discussion forward by responding to other students' comments (i.e., you are expected to agree, disagree, or follow up).

Research paper

The length of the research paper will be between 3000-5000 words. However, the length of the paper (within these limits) will not be considered relevant for evaluation. Instead, your paper will be evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Philosophical rigor and depth (including whether the structure is in service of the
  • stated dialectical goals of the paper).
  • Clarity.
  • Mastery of the topic (including mastery of the philosophical concepts).
  • Originality.

Blog post

Two weeks before the research paper deadline, you will participate in a blog on social epistemology in which you will be both a contributor and a commentator.
As a contributor , you will present one or at most two of the arguments you give in your research paper in a 1000-word post on the blog. Be specific: the point is not to present a general problem or thesis, but a specific argument.

As a commentator, you will comment on the other students' posts. Contributions and comments to the blog will last one week. This means the following:

  • A few days before the blog opens, you must submit your 1000-word essay. The instructor will upload your text to a website where the other students will have the opportunity to read it. That week, you will receive at least one written critical comment on your essay from each of the other students. Conversely, you must provide at least one written critical comment on the other students' essays (to all of them). You may respond to the other students' comments on your essay, but you are not required to do so. The other students may respond to your responses, but are not required to do so. And so on.
  • The deadline for submitting your comments is the last day of the blog. It is highly advisable that your essay be based on an almost finished draft of your research paper so that you can incorporate the feedback you have received (if relevant), polish the paper the week after the blog closes, and submit it. In this sense, the blog serves as a final quality check before submission.
Feedback Methodology

You will receive feedback on your work from two sources. First, the instructor will be happy to give you advice and feedback on the writing process at any time. In order to keep email correspondence to a minimum, this feedback will be given informally before or after class, or as needed during office hours. (In either case, you are required to tell the instructor the topic of your paper, even if you do not want or need feedback or advice). Second, you will receive at least as many comments on your blog posts as there are enrolled students minus one (i.e., you).


Blog post: 20%.
➔ Format: Essay with one or at most two of the arguments you will make in your
research paper. Be specific: the point is not to present a general problem or thesis, but
a specific argument.
➔ Length: 1000 words.

Written comments on other students' posts: 10%.

Research paper: 70%.
➔ Length: 3000-5000 words.
➔ Please include your name in the submitted document and a 150-200 word abstract.


For a general introduction to social epistemology:

● Goldman, Alvin & Blanchard, Thomas. 2011.Social Epistemology. Oxford Bibliographies Online.
● Goldman, Alvin & O'Connor, Cailin. 2019. Social Epistemology. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
● Goldman, Alvin. 2019. The What, Why, and How of Social Epistemology. In Fricker, M.; Graham, P.; Henderson, D. & Pedersen, N. J. (eds.). The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. Routledge.
● Grasswick, Heidi. 2018. Feminist Social Epistemology. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
● Lackey, Jennifer & McGlynn, Aidan (eds.) ( forthcoming ). Oxford Handbook of Social Epistemology. Oxford University Press.

When in doubt about relevant epistemological concepts, problems, or theories:
● Bernecker, Sven & Pritchard, Duncan (eds.). 2010. The Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Routledge.

For more specific recommendations ask the instructor.