The division of cognitive labor: two missing dimensions of the debate

  • Baptiste BedessemEmail author
Paper in General Philosophy of Science
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. EPSA17: Selected papers from the biannual conference in Exeter


The question of the division of cognitive labor (DCL) has given rise to various models characterizing the way scientists should distribute their efforts. These models often consider the scientific community as a self-governed sphere constituted by rational agents making choices on the basis of fixed rules. Such models have recently been criticized for not taking into account the real mechanisms of science funding. Hence, the question of the utility of the DCL models in guiding science policy remains an open one. In this paper, we show that two unconsidered dimensions would have to be taken into account. First, DCL studies miss the existence of distinct levels of epistemic objectives organizing the research process. Indeed, the scientific field is structured as a system of hierarchical, interconnected practices which are defined both by their inherent purposes and by various superposed external functions. Second, I criticize the absence of ontological considerations, since the epistemological significance of pluralism is highly dependent on the nature of the object under study. Because of these missing dimensions, current DCL models might have a limited usefulness to identify good practices of research governance.


Research policy Research funding Division of cognitive labor Social epistemology 


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Laboratoire Philosophie, Pratiques et LangagesUniversité Grenoble AlpesGrenobleFrance

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