Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course


Individual Knowledge vs. Collective Knowledge – Sydney

The descriptive implication is that history and sociology of science can proceed neither by focusing exclusively on individual researchers nor by focusing exclusively on aggregate properties of scientific communities. Rather, both levels must be considered in understanding how groups come to further scientific knowledge… An accurate historical record of science ought to incorporate both detailed descriptions of the achievements of individual scientists and also a social history of the relevant scientific communities and institutions, including an analysis of how learning methods are shared and research results are communicated.
– “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge,” Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, David Danks.

At the beginning of this unit, I started with three propositions:

  • Knowledge is what can be observed or what we can think about
  • Knowledge is limited by ourselves
  • Knowledge is mainly individualized

I chose to explore my third proposition, knowledge is mainly individualized. To aid me in my search, I came up with this statement: if knowledge is created by our experiences, and experiences come from sensory information and our interpretation of it, and no one can experience the exact same thing as another, then knowledge is individualized. However, as much as I wanted to explore this statement, the reading I found was not related to it.

I read “Plato, Pascal, and the Dynamics of Personal Knowledge” by Michael Friedrich Otte, Tânia M. M. Campos, and Alexandre S. Abido; as well as “The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge” by Conor Mayo-Wilson, Kevin J. S. Zollman, and David Danks. The material in both of these readings was mainly mathematical. They talked about figures and mathematical examples of how the concepts they mention could be used, but I was hoping to find the more humanities-based perspective on the idea of collective and individual knowledge. I did, although find a point that was mentioned in “The Independence Thesis,” which provided evidence for my idea. “The Independence Thesis” mentions that groups of scientists/researchers are all individual. This suggests that there is such thing as group knowledge, but it is first based upon individual knowledge.

This led to my next question: Is it possible to have collective or group knowledge without individual knowledge? This is a question I hope to use to guide my ideas further and bring up in future discussions.


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