Mandevillian Intelligence: From Individual Vice to Collective Virtue

In Joseph Adam Carter, Andy Clark, Jesper Kallestrup, Spyridon Orestis Palermos & Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Socially-Extended Epistemology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. pp. 253–274 (2018)
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Mandevillian intelligence is a specific form of collective intelligence in which individual cognitive shortcomings, limitations and biases play a positive functional role in yielding various forms of collective cognitive success. When this idea is transposed to the epistemological domain, mandevillian intelligence emerges as the idea that individual forms of intellectual vice may, on occasion, support the epistemic performance of some form of multi-agent ensemble, such as a socio-epistemic system, a collective doxastic agent, or an epistemic group agent. As a specific form of collective intelligence, mandevillian intelligence is relevant to a number of debates in social epistemology, especially those that seek to understand how group (or collective) knowledge arises from the interactions between a collection of individual epistemic agents. Beyond this, however, mandevillian intelligence raises issues that are relevant to the research agendas of both virtue epistemology and applied epistemology. From a virtue epistemological perspective, mandevillian intelligence encourages us to adopt a relativistic conception of intellectual vice/virtue, enabling us to see how individual forms of intellectual vice may (sometimes) be relevant to collective forms of intellectual virtue. In addition, mandevillian intelligence is relevant to the nascent sub-discipline of applied epistemology. In particular, mandevillian intelligence forces us see the potential epistemic value of (e.g., technological) interventions that create, maintain or promote individual forms of intellectual vice.

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Paul Smart
University of Southampton


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