The New Collective Epistemology and the Old Fallacy of Functional Equivalence

By Nicholas D. Smith.

Published by The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: October 20, 2015 $US5.00

In the new collective epistemology, groups are claimed to be able to believe things independently of their members. It follows from this claim that groups can come to have such beliefs, for example, by learning new information. Using several examples from learning environments, I argue against this tenet of collective epistemology, on the ground that it makes no sense to claim that groups can learn anything in the sense required for groups to have beliefs. If my argument is correct, collective epistemology is committing the fallacy of taking a functional equivalent of belief as actually being a belief. If so, then one of the most basic tenets of contemporary social epistemology is based on a mistake.

Keywords: Epistemology, Social epistemology, Group belief, Functional equivalence

The International Journal of Assessment and Evaluation, Volume 23, Issue 1, March 2016, pp.1-9. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: October 20, 2015 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 364.310KB)).

Prof. Nicholas D. Smith

James F. Miller Professor of Humanities, Department of Philosophy, Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR, USA