Epistemic Structure in Non-Summative Social Knowledge

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Social Epistemology

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How a group G can know that p has been the subject of much investigation in social epistemology in recent years. This paper clarifies and defends a form of non-supervenient, non-summative group knowledge: G can know that p even if none of the members of G knows that p, and whether or not G knows that p does not locally supervene on the mental states of the members of G. Instead, we argue that what is central to G knowing that p is whether G has an epistemic structure that is functioning appropriately in accord with the action-related purposes of the group, and this structure may include non-agential elements such as devices that retain or process information. We argue that recent objections to non-summative group knowledge given by Jennifer Lackey do not in fact succeed in undermining the view, but do help to clarify the nature of non-summative group knowledge. The main upshot of our response to Lackey’s objections is that groups put their knowledge into action in ways that often differ from how individuals do, and social epistemologists should be careful to notice these differences, especially insofar as groups often structure themselves by employing various epistemically-relevant devices.


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