Knowledge and society: A comprehensive approach to social epistemology

South African Journal of Philosophy 42 (2):117-127 (2023)
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This article proposes an alternative approach to social epistemology – a comprehensive approach. It argues that the dominant approaches to social epistemology, which it identifies as communitarian and veritistic, are inadequate. It observes that the nature of the emphasis that the communitarian approach places on the epistemic community foster mindless tolerance in epistemology, which makes the pursuit of the cognitive goal of truth difficult to attain. It also observes that the veritistic approach that seeks to refocus social epistemology on the pursuit of the cognitive goal of obtaining truth does this at the expense of the affective goals of social epistemology. To overcome the inadequacies of the communitarian and the veritistic approaches and to ensure that social epistemology effectively pursues its cognitive and affective goals, this article offers the comprehensive approach. This approach absorbs the virtues of the communitarian and the veritistic approaches while avoiding their errors. Hence, it thrives on a view of truth that posits an objective and a subjective dimension of truth. The objective dimension ensures that the community only fosters and never impedes social epistemological projects such that social epistemology continues to pursue the cognitive goal of truth. The subjective dimension guarantees that the concern for truth does not lead to the neglect or abandonment of the pursuit of the affective goals of social epistemology. The rationale behind this approach is that for social epistemological projects and practices to remain truly epistemological and social, they must always take into consideration the cognitive and affective features of knowledge and knowers.

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Chrysogonus Okwenna
Simon Fraser University


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