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Epistemology of Scientific Collaboration

Dang, Haixin (2019) Epistemology of Scientific Collaboration. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation primarily concerns how scientific collaborations function, how scientists know together, and how we ought to think about collective justification and collective responsibility in light of scientific practice. When a group of 5,000 physicists announces that “The mass of the Higgs boson is 126GeV,” who is responsible for this discovery? Who should be held accountable if the claim turns out to be false or otherwise faulty? My account of collective responsibility seeks to assign responsibility to individual agents, while recognizing that it is the relationships in which individuals stand to each other and to the group which make them the appropriate targets for judgments of responsibility. However, in order to have a decomposition of collective responsibility, we first need to clarify the notion of epistemic responsibility. Epistemic responsibility exists as a vague concept at the intersection between epistemology and ethics. I clarify this concept and show how it can and should work in practice. I argue that epistemic responsibility should be distributed among members of a group when epistemic labor is distributed. My account of epistemic responsibility extends recent work in metaethics on moral responsibility. I decompose the concept into three distinct senses: attributability, answerability, and accountability. An epistemic agent can be responsible in one, two, or all three senses of responsibility. My account recognizes that agents in a collaboration may not all be responsible in the same way or to the same degree. Agents are epistemically responsible depending on their degree of answerability and in virtue of their epistemic position within the group. An important implication of my analysis of collective responsibility is that collective justification does not depend on members always coming to consensus on the justifiers of a group’s conclusions. Existing accounts of collective justification take consensus as the ideal, such that disagreement or heterogeneity among individuals is taken as a negative feature which should be eliminated. I argue that not all disagreement is bad. If the disagreement is itself justified, then disagreement is actually of epistemic value and not a negative feature.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Dang, Haixinhxdang@gmail.comhad270000-0002-8039-4876
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairMitchell, Sandra
Committee CoChairWoodward, James
Committee MemberMachery, Edouard
Committee MemberZollman, Kevin
Committee MemberNersessian, Nancy
Date: 26 September 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 19 July 2019
Approval Date: 26 September 2019
Submission Date: 29 July 2019
Access Restriction: 5 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 5 years.
Number of Pages: 133
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History and Philosophy of Science
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: social epistemology, philosophy of science
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2019 12:30
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2019 12:30

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