Research Article

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.

Kay Mathiesen teaches information ethics in the School of Information Resources at the University of Arizona. Her articles on collectives and social epistemology appear in Midwest Studies in Philosophy, Protosociology, The Southern Journal of Philosophy, and in a volume on Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind.