Social epistemology is a many-splendored subject. Different theorists adopt different approaches and the options are quite diverse, often orthogonal to one another. The approach I favor is to examine social practices in terms of their impact on knowledge acquisition (Goldman 1999). This has at least two virtues: it displays continuity with traditional epistemology, which historically focuses on knowledge, and it intersects with the concerns of practical life, which are pervasively affected by what people know or don't know. In making this choice, I am not blind to the allure of alternative approaches. In this paper I explain and motivate the knowledge-centered approach by contrasting it with a newly emerging alternative that has a definite appeal of its own. According to this alternative, the chief dimension of social epistemological interest would be rationality rather than knowledge.
Alvin Goldman is Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science at Rutgers University. His principal research areas are epistemology, philosophy of mind and cognitive science: he has also written on metaphysics, political and legal theory, and philosophy of science. His publications include Pathways to Knowledge: Private and Public (2002); Knowledge in a Social World (1999); Philosophical Applications of Cognitive Science (1993); Liaisons: Philosophy Meets the Cognitive and Social Sciences (1992); and Epistemology and Cognition (1986).