Social epistemology

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-P046-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 05, 2022, from

2. Conditions of knowledge

Reid incorporates social factors into the conditions of justification by adding a principle of testimony. Others have proposed that the conditions of knowledge are in some sense social throughout. In particular, the content of the concept of knowledge is inherited from the social function of the concept of knowledge. Not all social functions of a concept are manifested in the content of the concept, but if the concept of knowledge has what we might call a social epistemic function, then perhaps it also has a social content. There are several examples of this approach.

Edward Craig (1990) has argued that the concept of knowledge is used in testimony as a tag to identify good informants. The concept of knowledge is not identified with the notion of a good informant itself, since knowing does not require being able to communicate to others the proposition believed, as does being a good informant. Rather, the proposal is that the concept of knowledge is an ‘objectivization’ of the notion of a good informant – a concept in which some of the features of a good informant that serve specific uses are stripped away. An analogous idea is that the concept of justification is used to identify justifiers – people able to justify a claim to an audience. On the most straightforward version of this view, suggested by David Annis (1978), one is justified in a belief (or claim) (relative to an audience) just in case one is able to justify it to the audience – or at least to hold one’s own in a conversation in which the claim is challenged. With regard to all such approaches, one worries that they have singled out a particular use of the concept of knowledge at the expense of other uses, uses that demand a different conceptual content (see Justification, epistemic §7).

Citing this article:
Schmitt, Frederick F.. Conditions of knowledge. Social epistemology, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-P046-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2022 Routledge.

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