Until recently, epistemology—the study of knowledge and justified belief—was heavily individualistic in focus. The emphasis was on evaluating doxastic attitudes (beliefs and disbeliefs) of individuals in abstraction from their social environment. The result is a distorted picture of the human epistemic situation, which is largely shaped by social relationships and institutions. Social epistemology seeks to redress this imbalance by investigating the epistemic effects of social interactions and social systems. After reviewing the history of the field in section 1, we provide a three-part taxonomy for social epistemology in section 2. The first part is concerned with inputs to individual doxastic decisions from other people’s assertions and opinions. The second part investigates the epistemic features of collective doxastic agents, such as courts and scientific panels. Finally, the third part studies epistemic properties of social institutions and systems: how they improve or impair epistemic outcomes for their individual members or the systems as a whole. We offer overviews of these three types of social epistemology in sections 3, 4 and 5 respectively.
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