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ERIC Number: EJ1029317
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Dec
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: N/A
ISBN: N/A
ISSN: ISSN-0309-8249
Lockean Social Epistemology
McNulty, Lisa
Journal of Philosophy of Education, v47 n4 p524-536 Dec 2013
Locke's reputation as a sceptic regarding testimony, and the resultant mockery by epistemologists with social inclinations, is well known. In particular Michael Welbourne, in his article "The Community of Knowledge" (1981), depicts Lockean epistemology as fundamentally opposed to a social conception of knowledge, claiming that he "could not even conceive of the possibility of a community of knowledge". This interpretation of Locke is flawed. Whilst Locke does not grant the honorific "knowledge" to anything short of certainty, he nonetheless held what we would call "testimonial knowledge" in appropriate esteem. This can be shown by his careful distinction between testimony and mere received opinion. Furthermore, this distinction is dependent upon a knowledge community which enables hearers of testimony to access alternative accounts. In view of this, we can consider Locke's "Conduct of the Understanding" in a new light. Dedicated to the autodidact adult, The "Conduct" directs the learner to reason clearly and well. One goal is to render adult students capable of assessing testimony. The advice given is social in nature. The student must not limit his study to "one sort of men or one sort of books". Otherwise, he faces the sort of cognitive isolation which would render him a mere receiver of opinion. The picture of Locke that emerges is not that of a dyed-in-the-wool sceptic regarding testimonial knowledge, but of a philosopher who formed an embryonic social epistemology embedded within a programme of adult education.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Adult Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A