Social epistemology is a burgeoning branch of contemporary epistemology. Since the 1970s, philosophers have taken an ever-increasing interest in such topics as the epistemic value of testimony, the nature and function of expertise, the proper distribution of cognitive labor and resources among individuals in communities, and the status of group reasoning and knowledge. This trend emerged against the resistance of the widely shared view that social considerations are largely irrelevant to epistemological concerns. The trend was stimulated by diverse approaches to the study of knowledge, in such fields as library science, educational theory, the sociology of science, and economics, and within philosophy itself, in the decades preceding the 1980s. To name only a few influences within philosophy, W. V. Quine promoted a naturalistic approach to knowledge, and many who accepted the relevance of nature to epistemology found it sensible to accept the relevance of social factors as well. Thomas S. Kuhn suggested that social factors precipitate revolutionary conceptual and doctrinal changes in the history of science. And feminist epistemologists uncovered the importance of gender differences in knowledge – a species of social factor.
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