Synthese 198 (7):6815-6834 (2019)

Abstract
In this article I defend pluralist theory against various objections. First, I argue that although traditional theories may also account for multiple ways to achieve social understanding, they still put some emphasis on one particular epistemic strategy. Pluralist theory, in contrast, rejects the so-called ‘default assumption’ that there is any primary or default method in social understanding. Second, I illustrate that pluralist theory needs to be distinguished from integration theory. On one hand, integration theory faces the difficulty of trying to combine traditional theories of social understanding that have contradictory background assumptions. On the other hand, pluralist theory goes beyond integrating traditional theories by accounting for a variety of factors that may play a role in social understanding but have been neglected in such theories, including stereotype activation, social and personal relationships, contextual features, individual moods, perceptions, and so on. Third, I argue that if the default assumption is rejected, pluralist theorists need to provide another positive account of why particular cognitive processes are more likely to come into play in a specific instance of social understanding than others in order to provide a genuine alternative to traditional theories. I discuss three versions of pluralist theory that meet this challenge by pointing to normativity, fluency, and interaction.
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DOI 10.1007/s11229-019-02490-5
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