Justificationist social epistemology and critical thinking

Educational Theory 61 (5):565-585 (2011)
Abstract
In this essay Juho Ritola develops a justificationist approach to social epistemology, which holds that normatively satisfactory social processes pertaining to the acquisition, storage, dissemination, and use of knowledge must be evidence-based processes that include appropriate reflective attitudes by the relevant agents and, consequently, the relevant institutions. This implies that the teaching of critical thinking and reasoning in general should strive to bring about such attitudes in students. Ritola begins by sketching a justificationist approach and defending it on a general level against the criticism posed by Alvin Goldman. He then defends it on the level of individual reasoners against the argument set out by Michael Bishop and J.D. Trout. Based on empirical evidence, Bishop and Trout argue that the kind of reflection advocated by a justificationist approach to reasoning leads to worse outcomes than the use of various statistical prediction rules. Ritola, in contrast, maintains that one cannot and should not replace critical reflection on evidence by a mechanical application of rules. Instead, he asserts, statistical prediction rules and empirical evidence regarding our reasoning performance are part of the total evidence that we should reflect on in our critical reasoning
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