Dr Orestis Palermos on "Active Externalism, Virtue Reliabilism and Scientific Knowledge"
Abstract. Collaboratively produced knowledge has so far received no attention from mainstream epistemologists. Given the discrepancy between the robustly social nature of this type of collective knowledge and the methodological individualism that underlies mainstream epistemology, this is hardly surprising. Nevertheless, a promising way to bridge the gap in the existing literature is to combine virtue reliabilism from mainstream epistemology with the hypothesis of distributed cognition from externalist philosophy of mind and cognitive science. On this basis, it is possible to introduce the idea of epistemic group agents in order to account for collaborative group knowledge: i.e., cognitive success that is the product of a collective belief-forming process that belongs to a group as whole. By way of fleshing out this kind of strong epistemic anti-individualism—according to which, knowledge can be distinctively social—the paper focuses on two concrete examples: (1) Transactive Memory Systems and (2) Scientific Research Teams. These two case studies can also reveal what is practically required for the efficient design of future epistemic group agents such as social machines, scientific research teams, and knowledge management systems.