The Social Epistemology of Consensus and Dissent

In David Henderson, Peter Graham, Miranda Fricker & Nikolaj Jang Lee Linding Pedersen (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Social Epistemology. London: Routledge (forthcoming)
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Abstract
This paper reviews current debates in social epistemology about the relations ‎between ‎knowledge ‎and consensus. These relations are philosophically interesting on their ‎own, but ‎also have ‎practical consequences, as consensus takes an increasingly significant ‎role in ‎informing public ‎decision making. The paper addresses the following questions. ‎When is a ‎consensus attributable to an epistemic community? Under what conditions may ‎we ‎legitimately infer that a consensual view is knowledge-based or otherwise ‎epistemically ‎justified? Should consensus be the aim of scientific inquiry, and if so, what ‎kind of ‎consensus? How should dissent be handled? It is argued that a legitimate inference ‎that a ‎theory is correct from the fact that there is a scientific consensus on it requires taking ‎into ‎consideration both cognitive properties of the theory as well as social properties of ‎the ‎consensus. The last section of the paper reviews computational models of ‎consensus ‎formation.‎
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