Call for Papers

Below is the announcement:

Special Volume of Social Epistemology on
“Collective Knowledge and Collective Knowers”

We invite submissions for a special issue of the journal Social Epistemology on collective knowledge. Submissions should address the question of whether and how a group of persons can be the subject of epistemic states. In other words, are there collective knowers, and if so, what and how can they know?

More information below the fold.

The standing assumption of (analytic) epistemology has been that knowledge is some sort of justified true belief (plus Gettier conditions) and that the epistemic subject (“the knower”) is an individual. To the extent that philosophers have acknowledged social aspects of knowledge, the focus has been on social factors that influence or determine what the individual subject knows. Those who have referred to cultures or societies “knowing” typically mean something like commonly held or culturally endorsed beliefs (see e.g., Berger and Luckman 1966), leaving out the traditional “justification” and “truth” criteria of knowledge. Others have characterized the “knowledge” of the society in terms of its collected discoveries as recorded in books and other cultural objects (see e.g., Popper 1973), leaving out the belief criterion. More infrequently has the focus been on the question of whether social groups themselves may be “knowers” in the traditional sense of subjects with justified true beliefs. Groundwork has now been laid by those working on collective intentionality (see e.g., Searle 1995, Tuomela 1995, Gilbert 1989, Bratman 1999, etc.), collective belief (see e.g., Gilbert 1987, Tuomela 1995, Schmitt 1994, Pettit 2003, and Tollefsen 2002) and group rationality (see e.g., Sugden 1993 and Graham 2002). This work provides us with valuable tools we can use to address the question of whether we can maintain the traditional conception of knowledge as essentially involving belief, truth, and justification, while admitting corporations, collectives, and other social groups as knowers. The purpose of this special issue is to evaluate the progress made so far and to push forward the philosophical exploration of collective knowledge.

Suggested Topics:
Suggested topics and issues to be addressed include (but are not limited to):

What sort of account, analysis, or definition of collective knowledge can be given?
Are current accounts of collective belief adequate for epistemic considerations?
Is there room within the traditional conception of epistemology for the idea of a collective knower? Or, does acceptance of collective knowledge require a revision of our traditional conceptions of knowledge or belief?
What is the relationship between individual knowledge and collective knowledge? Can the group know things none of the individual members know?
Does collective knowledge require second order knowledge (i.e., must the group “know that it knows”)?
What sorts of groups can be “knowers”? Must collective knowers be limited to certain types of groups or those groups with an explicitly epistemic goal (e.g., scientists, etc.)?
Papers should show engagement (either critical or continuous) with epistemology in the analytic tradition. Those whose abstracts fit most closely with the focus of this special volume and who show the most scholarly promise will be asked to submit a complete paper.


Extended abstract (750-1500 words) due: November 15, 2005. Complete paper due: May 15, 2006. For further information please contact Kay Mathiesen by mail at 1515 East 1st Street, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85719 or by e-mail at

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