Collective epistemic virtues

Social Epistemology 21 (3):281 – 297 (2007)
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At the intersection of social and virtue epistemology lies the important, yet so far entirely neglected, project of articulating the social dimensions of epistemic virtues. Perhaps the most obvious way in which epistemic virtues might be social is that they may be possessed by social collectives. We often speak of groups as if they could instantiate epistemic virtues. It is tempting to think of these expressions as ascribing virtues not to the groups themselves, but to their members. Adapting Margaret Gilbert's arguments against individualist accounts of collective beliefs, I show that individualist accounts of group virtues are either too weak or too strong. I then formulate a non-individualist account modeled after Gilbert's influential account of collective beliefs. A crucial disanalogy between collective traits and beliefs, I argue, makes the success of this model unlikely. I conclude with some questions with which the future work on collective epistemic virtues should engage.



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Reza Lahroodi
University of Northern Iowa