Skip to main content Accessibility help

The Epistemic Features of Group Belief

  • Kay Mathiesen

Recently, there has been a debate focusing on the question of whether groups can literally have beliefs. For the purposes of epistemology, however, the key question is whether groups can have knowledge. More specifically, the question is whether “group views” can have the key epistemic features of belief, viz., aiming at truth and being epistemically rational. I argue that, while groups may not have beliefs in the full sense of the word, group views can have these key epistemic features of belief. However, I argue that on Margaret Gilbert's influential “plural subject” account of group belief, group views are unlikely to be epistemically rational.

Hide All
BonJour, Laurence. 1985. The Structure of Empirical Knowledge. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Bratman, Michael. 1993. “Practical Reasoning and Acceptance in a Context.” Mind 102: 115.
Bratman, Michael. 1999. “Shared Intention and Mutual Obligation.” Faces of Intention: Selected Essays on Intention and Agency. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 130–41.
Clifford, W. K. 1879/2001. “The Ethics of Belief.” In The Ethics of Belief, Burger, A. J., ed. (accessed May 15, 2006).
Cohen, L. Jonathan. 1989. “Belief and Acceptance.” Mind 98: 367–89.
Corlett, J. Angelo. 1996. Analyzing Social Knowledge. Totowa, NJ: Rowman and Littlefield.
Durkheim, Emile. 1994. “Social Facts,” in Readings in the Philosophy of Social Science, Martin, Michael and McIntyre, Lee C., eds. Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, pp. 433–40.
Engel, Pascal. 1998. “Believing, Accepting, Holding True.” Philosophical Explorations 1: 140151.
Fallis, Don. 2005. “Epistemic Value Theory and Judgment Aggregation.” Episteme 2(1): 3955.
Foley, Richard. 1993. Working Without at Net: A Study of Egocentric Epistemology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Giersson, Heimat. 2004. “Contra Collective Epistemic Agency.” Southwest Philosophy Review 20: 163166.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1987/1996. “Modeling Collective Belief.” In Living Together: Rationality, Sociality, and Obligation. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 195214.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1989. On Social Facts. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1994. “Remarks on Collective Belief.” In Socializing Epistemology: The Social Dimension of Knowledge, Schmitt, Frederick F., ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 235255.
Gilbert, Margaret. 1996. “More on Collective Belief.” Living Together: Rationality, Sociality, and Obligation. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 339–60.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2000. “Collective Belief and Scientific Change.” In Sociality and Responsibility: New Essays in Plural Subject Theory. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2002. “Belief and Acceptance as Features of Groups.” Protosociology 16: 3569.
Gilbert, Margaret. 2004. “Collective Epistemology.” Episteme 1(2): 95107.
Goldman, Alvin. 1999. Knowledge in a Social World. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
DeRose, Keith. 1999. “Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense.” In The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology, Greco, John and Sosa, Ernest, eds. Oxford: Blackwell.
Hakli, Raul. 2006. “Group beliefs and the distinction between belief and acceptance.” Cognitive Systems Research 7(2–3): 286297
Kawall, Jason. 2000. “Other-Regarding Epistemic Virtues.” Ratio 15(3): 257275.
Lehrer, Keith. 1990. Theory of Knowledge. Boulder, CO: Westview.
McMahon, Christopher. 2003. “Two Modes of Collective Belief.” Protosociology 18/19: 347362.
Meijers, Anthonie. 2002. “Collective Agents and Cognitive Attitudes.” Protosociology 16: 7085.
Meijers, Anthonie.. 2003. “Why Accept Collective Beliefs? Reply to Gilbert.” Protosociology 18/19: 377–88.
Mathiesen, Kay. 2003. “On Collective Identity.” Protosociology 18/19: 6685.
Mathiesen, Kay.. 2005. “Collective Consciousness.” In Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind, Thomasson, Amie and Smith, David Woodruff, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Miller, Seumas. 2001. Social Action: A Teleological Account. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Pettit, Philip. 2003. “Groups With Minds of Their Own.” In Socializing Metaphysics: The Nature of Social Reality, Schmitt, Frederick F., ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 167193.
Preyer, Gerhard. 2003. “What is Wrong With Rejectionists?” In Interpretation, Sprache und das Soziale: Philosophische Artikel (Interpretaion, Language and the Social: Philosophical Articles). Frankfurt am Main.
Quinton, Anthony. 1975. “Social Objects.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 75: 127.
Schanck, R. L. 1932. “A Study of a Community and Its Groups and Institutions Conceived As Behaviors of Individuals.” Psychological Monographs 43.
Schmitt, Frederick. 1994. “The Justification of Group Beliefs.” In Socializing Epistemology: The Social Dimensions of Knowledge, Schmitt, Frederick F., ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, pp. 257–88.
Searle, John R. 1995. The Construction of Social Reality. New York: The Free Press.
Steup, Matthias, ed. 2001. Knowledge, Truth, and Duty. New York: Oxford University Press.
Tollefsen, Deborah. 2002a. “Challenging Epistemic Individualism.” Protosociology 16: 86117.
Tollefsen, Deborah. 2002b. “Organizations as True Believers.” Journal of Social Philosophy 23: 395410.
Tollefsen, Deborah. 2003. “Rejecting Rejectionism.” Protosociology 18/19: 389405.
Tuomela, Raimo. 1995. The Importance of Us: A Philosophical Study of Basic Social Notions. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
Tuomela, Raimo. 1992. “Group Beliefs.” Synthese 91: 285318.
Tuomela, Raimo. 2000. “Belief versus Acceptance.” Philosophical Explorations 2: 122137.
Tuomela, Raimo. 2004. “Group Knowledge Analyzed.” Episteme 1(2): 109127.
Velleman, J. David. 2000. “On the Aim of Belief.” In The Possibility of Practical Reason. Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp. 244281.
Wedgwood, Ralph. 2002. “The Aim of Belief.” Philosophical Perspectives 16: 267297.
Williams, Bernard. 1973. “Deciding to Believe.” In Problems of the Self: Philosophical Papers 1956-1972. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 135151.
Wray, K. Brad. 2001. “Collective Belief and Acceptance.” Synthese 129: 319333.
Wray, K. Brad. 2003. “What Really Divides Gilbert and the Rejectionists?Protosociology 18/19: 363376.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 1742-3600
  • EISSN: 1750-0117
  • URL: /core/journals/episteme
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed