Epistemic Subjects Beyond Individuals

July 30, 2019 - July 31, 2019
CLPS, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Rue Ducal 1

This will be an accessible event, including organized related activities

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Keynote speakers:

Cambridge University
University of California, Irvine
Cardiff University
University of Memphis


Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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Traditionally, epistemologists have investigated the nature of epistemic properties (e.g. knowledge, belief and understanding) on the assumption that they apply to human individuals and to human individuals only. Meanwhile technology and social collaboration are playing an increasingly large role in scientific practice, and our conceptual tools are lagging behind in taking this into account. Recent discussions in social epistemology have taken seriously the question whether epistemic properties may be suitably attributed (to a lesser or equal extent) to entities other than human individuals, such as groups (collective epistemology), artefacts (android epistemology) or individuals in conjunction with “external” components (extended epistemology). Developments in other fields (e.g. work in cognitive science on distributed, artificial and extended cognition respectively) seem to support an affirmative answer and provide useful perspectives for (social) epistemology and philosophy of science to account for epistemic practices beyond the individual. So far these developments have only to a very limited extent influenced the epistemology literature.


It is time to take a closer look at the “epistemic subject” as an explanatory concept and how it may fare in explaining entities beyond individuals. Taking into account not only perspectives from social epistemology, but from philosophy of science, philosophy of mind and cognitive science, the objective of the workshop will be to reflect upon the idea of epistemic subjects beyond human individuals - namely, the possibility of attributing understanding, knowledge or beliefs to collective, extended or artificial subjects as well as how to conceptualise them. Special regard will be given to collective understanding (i.e. understanding that is embodied rather than embedded in groups), as this topic is largely unexplored while still closely connected to existing discussions in the aforementioned disciplines. The range of topics will include:

  • Collective understanding, epistemic abilities, and distributed cognition
  • Collective knowledge, and collective know-how
  • The nature and demarcation of epistemic agency
  • Relations between epistemic properties of the group and its members: kinds of non-summativism, emergence and reducibility-relations
  • Extended epistemology and extended cognition
  • Android epistemology and artificial cognition


- Deborah Tollefsen 

- Orestis Palermos

- Alexander Bird

- Margaret Gilbert


(Read more on  https://esbiworkshop.wixsite.com/esbiworkshop or  https://philevents.org/event/show/68022)

Organisers: Sven Delarivière, Line Edslev Andersen, Joachim Frans, Bart Van Kerkhove, Erik Myin, Colin Rittberg

Scientific Committee: Philip Pettit, Orestis Palermos, Sven Delarivière, Line Edslev Andersen, Bart Van Kerkhove, Erik Myin, Duncan Pritchard

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July 13, 2019, 5:00am CET

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Joshua Habgood-Coote

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