David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Inquiry 46 (4):501 – 521 (2003)
Philosophers have often noted that science displays an uncommon degree of consensus on beliefs among its practitioners. Yet consensus in the sciences is not a goal in itself. I consider cases of consensus on beliefs as concrete events. Consensus on beliefs is neither a sufficient nor a necessary condition for presuming that these beliefs constitute knowledge. A concrete consensus on a set of beliefs by a group of people at a given historical period may be explained by different factors according to various hypotheses. A particularly interesting hypothesis from an epistemic perspective is the knowledge hypothesis: shared knowledge explains a consensus on beliefs. If all the alternative hypotheses to the knowledge hypotheses are false or are not as good in explaining a concrete consensus on beliefs, the knowledge hypothesis is the best explanation of the consensus. If the knowledge hypothesis is best, a consensus becomes a plausible, though fallible, indicator of knowledge. I argue that if a consensus on beliefs is uncoerced, uniquely heterogeneous and large, the gap between the likelihood of the consensus given the knowledge hypothesis and its likelihoods given competing hypotheses tends to increase significantly. Consensus is a better indicator of knowledge than "success" or "human flourishing".
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Citations of this work BETA
Boaz Miller (2013). When is Consensus Knowledge Based? Distinguishing Shared Knowledge From Mere Agreement. Synthese 190 (7):1293-1316.
Boaz Miller (forthcoming). Scientific Consensus and Expert Testimony in Courts Lessons From the Bendectin Litigation. Foundations of Science:1-19.
Anton Froeyman, Laszlo Kosolosky & Jeroen Van Bouwel (forthcoming). Introduction: Social Epistemology Meets the Philosophy of the Humanities. Foundations of Science:1-13.
Inmaculada de Melo-Martín & Kristen Intemann (2014). Who's Afraid of Dissent?: Addressing Concerns About Undermining Scientific Consensus in Public Policy Developments. Perspectives on Science 22 (4):593-615.
Jacob Stegenga (forthcoming). Three Criteria for Consensus Conferences. Foundations of Science:1-15.
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