Social Knowledge and Supervenience Revisited

Erkenntnis 83 (5):1033-1043 (2018)
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Abstract
Bird’s Essays in Collective Epistemology, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014) account of social knowledge denies that scientific social knowledge supervenes solely on the mental states of individuals. Lackey objects that SK cannot accommodate a knowledge-action principle and the role of group defeaters. I argue that Lackey’s knowledge-action principle is ambiguous. On one disambiguation, it is false; on the other, it is true but poses no threat to SK. Regarding group defeaters, I argue that there are at least two options available to the defender of SK, both taken from literature on individual defeaters and applied to group defeaters. Finally, I argue that Lackey’s description of the case of Dr. N.—as a case in which the scientific community does not know but is merely in a position to know—is mistaken. It assumes that Dr. N.’s publication is not scientific knowledge. An analogy to the individual case shows that it is plausible that the scientific community is not merely in a position to know, although its members are. This leaves intact a conception of social knowledge on which it does not supervene on the mental states of individuals.
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