Episteme 7 (3):248-265 (2010)
|Abstract||Recently, several scholars have argued that scientists can accept scientific claims in a collective process, and that the capacity of scientific groups to form joint acceptances is linked to a functional division of labor between the group members. However, these accounts reveal little about how the cognitive content of the jointly accepted claim is formed, and how group members depend on each other in this process. In this paper, I shall therefore argue that we need to link analyses of joint acceptance with analyses of distributed cognition. To sketch how this can be done, I shall present a detailed case study, and on the basis of the case, analyze the process through which a group of scientists jointly accept a new scientific claim and at a later stage jointly accept to revise previously accepted claims. I shall argue that joint acceptance in science can be established in situations where an overall conceptual structure is jointly accepted by a group of scientists while detailed parts of it are distributed among group members with different areas of expertise, a condition that I shall call a heterogeneous conceptual consensus. Finally, I shall show how a heterogeneous conceptual consensus can work as a constraint against scientific change and address the question how changes may nevertheless occur.|
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