The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge

Philosophy of Science 78 (4):653-677 (2011)
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Abstract

In the latter half of the twentieth century, philosophers of science have argued (implicitly and explicitly) that epistemically rational individuals might compose epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, epistemically rational groups might be composed of epistemically irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they together imply that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists might be logically independent of one another. We develop a formal model of scientific inquiry, define four criteria for individual and group epistemic rationality, and then prove that the four definitions diverge, in the sense that individuals will be judged rational when groups are not and vice versa. We conclude by explaining implications of the inconsistency thesis for (i) descriptive history and sociology of science and (ii) normative prescriptions for scientific communities.

Author Profiles

David Danks
University of California, San Diego
Conor Mayo-Wilson
University of Washington
Kevin Zollman
Carnegie Mellon University

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