The epistemic significance of consensus

Abstract
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".
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00201740310003388
Options
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
Edit this record
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Mark as duplicate
Request removal from index
Revision history
Download options
Our Archive


Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 30,719
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Three Criteria for Consensus Conferences.Jacob Stegenga - 2016 - Foundations of Science 21 (1):35-49.

View all 6 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles
The Non-Modularity of Moral Knowledge.Theresa Waynand Tobin - 2005 - Social Philosophy Today 21:33-50.
Social Network Structure and the Achievement of Consensus.K. J. Zollman - 2012 - Politics, Philosophy and Economics 11 (1):26-44.
The Elusiveness of Consensus in Science.Steve Fuller - 1986 - PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association 1986:106-119.
Ethics by Committee: The Moral Authority of Consensus.Jonathan D. Moreno - 1988 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 13 (4):411-432.
Possibilities of Consensus: Toward Democratic Moral Discourse.Bruce Jennings - 1991 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 16 (4):447-463.
Committees and Consensus: How Many Heads Are Better Than One?Peter Caws - 1991 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 16 (4):375-391.
Hierarchy of Scientific Consensus and the Flow of Dissensus Over Time.Kyung-Man Kim - 1996 - Philosophy of the Social Sciences 26 (1):3-25.
Overlapping Consensus.Nebojša Zelić - 2009 - Croatian Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):101-115.
Added to PP index
2009-01-28

Total downloads
47 ( #114,864 of 2,197,287 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #298,964 of 2,197,287 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Monthly downloads
My notes
Sign in to use this feature