Knowledge in a Scientific Community

  • Kevin McCain
Part of the Springer Undergraduate Texts in Philosophy book series (SUTP)


In earlier chapters various social aspects of scientific knowledge have been explored. These have been aspects which allow for social evidence to provide scientific knowledge to an individual. The focus in this chapter, however, moves beyond the study of individualistic characteristics of scientific knowledge by looking at science itself as an epistemic system. The thoroughgoing social nature of science leads to some characteristics which make it an epistemic system particularly well suited for adding to the store of scientific knowledge. In particular, the social nature of science leads to a division of cognitive labor. This division of cognitive labor both makes it so that trust plays an integral role in the generation of scientific knowledge and so that scientific progress is enhanced by the scientific community hedging its bets by scientists pursuing a wide variety of research projects utilizing a variety of methods. Although the individual scientists who make up the scientific community are not perfect, various social institutions in science help to make good use of their baser motivations.


Scientific Community Scientific Knowledge Social Institution Scientific Progress Priority Rule 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adler, J. (2014). Epistemological problems of testimony. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition).
  2. Brock, B., & Durlaf, S. (1999). A formal model of theory choice in science. Economic Theory, 14, 113–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cohen, P. A., Kulik, J. A., & Kulik, C. C. (1982). Educational outcomes of tutoring: A meta-analysis of findings. American Educational Research Journal, 19, 237–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Durkheim, E. (1893/1997). The division of labor in society. New York: The Free Press.Google Scholar
  5. Fricker, E. (1994). Against gullibility. In B. K. Matilal & A. Chakrabarti (Eds.), Knowing from words (pp. 125–161). Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Fuchs, D., Fuchs, L. S., Mathes, P. G., & Simmons, D. C. (1997). Peer-assisted learning strategies: Making classrooms more responsive to diversity. American Educational Research Journal, 34, 174–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gleick, J. (2004). Isaac Newton. New York: Vintage Books.Google Scholar
  8. Goldman, A. I. (1999). Knowledge in a social world. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Goldman, A. I. (2001). Experts: Which ones should you trust? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 63, 85–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goldman, A. I. (2011). A guide to social epistemology. In A. Goldman & D. Whitcomb (Eds.), Social epistemology: Essential readings (pp. 11–37). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Goldman, A. I., & Shaked, M. (1991). An economic model of scientific activity and truth acquisition. Philosophical Studies, 63, 31–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hagstrom, W. (1965). The scientific community. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  13. Hands, D. W. (1995). Social epistemology meets the invisible hand: Kitcher on the advancement of science. Dialogue, 34, 605–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hands, D. W. (1997). Caveat emptor: Economics and contemporary philosophy of science. Philosophy of Science, 64, 107–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hardwig, J. (1985). Epistemic dependence. Journal of Philosophy, 82, 335–349.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hegselmann, R. & Krause, U. (2006). Truth and cognitive division of labour: First steps towards a computer aided social epistemology. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Stimulation, 9.
  17. Hull, D. (1988). Science as a process. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hume, D. (1739–1740/1978). A treatise of human nature. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  19. Keil, F. C. (2006). Doubt, deference, and deliberation: Understanding and using the division of cognitive labor. In T. Z. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology: Volume 1 (pp. 143–166). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Keil, F. C., Stein, C., Webb, L., Billings, V. D., & Rozenblit, L. (2008). Discerning the division of cognitive labor: An emerging understanding of how knowledge is clustered in other minds. Cognitive Science, 32, 259–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kitcher, P. (1993). The advancement of science: Science without legend, objectivity without illusions. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  22. Kuhn, T. S. (1977). The essential tension: Selected studies in scientific tradition and change. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Latour, B., & Woolgar, S. (1979). Laboratory life: The social construction of scientific facts. Beverly Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Lehrer, K. (1975). Social consensus and rational agnoiology. Synthese, 31, 141–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lehrer, K., & Wagner, C. (1981). Rational consensus in science and society. Dordrecht: Reidel.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Longino, H. (2013). The social dimensions of scientific knowledge. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition).
  27. Lutz, D. J., & Keil, F. C. (2002). Early understanding of the division of cognitive labor. Child Development, 73, 1073–1084.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Merton, R. (1973). The sociology of science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Merton, R. (1988). The Matthew effect in science, II: Cumulative advantage and the symbolism of intellectual property. Isis, 79, 607–623.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Muldoon, R. (2013). Diversity of the division of cognitive labor. Philosophy Compass, 8, 117–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Muldoon, R., & Weisberg, M. (2011). Robustness and idealization in models of cognitive labor. Synthese, 183, 161–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Rescher, N. (1990). Cognitive economy: The economic dimension of the theory of knowledge. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press.Google Scholar
  33. Sarkar, H. (1983). A theory of method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  34. Shapin, S. (1994). A social history of truth: Civility and science in seventeenth-century England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  35. Shatz, D. (2004). Peer review: A critical inquiry. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  36. Smith, A. (1776/1904). An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations (5th ed.). London: Methuen & Co.Google Scholar
  37. Solomon, M. (1992). Scientific rationality and human reasoning. Philosophy of Science, 59, 439–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Strevens, M. (2003). The role of the priority rule in science. Journal of Philosophy, 100, 55–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Strevens, M. (2006). The role of the Matthew effect in science. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 37, 159–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Strevens, M. (2010). Reconsidering authority: Scientific expertise, bounded rationality, and epistemic backtracking. In T. Z. Gendler & J. Hawthorne (Eds.), Oxford studies in epistemology: Volume 3 (pp. 294–330). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Thagard, P. (1988). Computational philosophy of science. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Thagard, P. (1993). Societies of minds: Science as distributed computing. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 24, 49–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wagner, C. (1985). On the formal properties weighted averaging as a method of aggregation. Synthese, 25, 233–240.Google Scholar
  44. Weisberg, M., & Muldoon, R. (2009). Epistemic landscapes and the division of cognitive labor. Philosophy of Science, 76, 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Wray, K. B. (2000). Invisible hands and the success of science. Philosophy of Science, 67, 163–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Zollman, K. J. S. (2010). The epistemic benefit of transient diversity. Erkenntnis, 72, 17–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin McCain
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA

Personalised recommendations