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Epistemic Epidemiology

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Epistemology is a branch of philosophy concerned with theories of knowledge. The name is derived from the Greek terms for episteme (knowledge) and logos (explanation). Epidemiology is the study and analysis of the distribution, patterns and determinants of health and disease conditions in defined populations. While the names of the two fields sound alike, they are obviously distinct. But I want to propose a subbranch of epistemology that could be called “epistemic epidemiology” or perhaps given a silly name like “epistidemology.” This subbranch would not be focused on the epistemic features of epidemiology (which would also be interesting). That is, it would not be about knowledge of diseases. Rather it would be about diseases of knowledge. These diseases of knowledge can include corruption or infection of normally healthy epistemic systems as well as epistemic systems that are fundamentally pathological in nature. One goal of this subbranch would be to work out descriptive accounts of various epistemic diseases as well as theories of how such diseases arise, spread, and do damage. There would also be descriptive accounts of epistemic systems that are inherently pathological. Of special interest would be the nature and causes of epistemepidemics—widespread epistemic pathologies in populations. This subbranch, I propose, should be more than descriptive. Like ethics (and medicine) it should also be prescriptive: epistemic pathologies should be analyzed with an aim to curing (or replacing) them, so that people can have healthy belief forming systems. As would be expected, doing prescriptive epistemology will involve disputes and controversies like those in ethics—arguments will be needed to defend claims about which epistemic systems are pathological and how they might be treated. Fortunately, there are already two established areas of thought that will be useful here. One area is what epistemologists call the ethics of belief (thanks to William Clifford) —this deals,. . .

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News source: A Philosopher's Blog

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