The Independence Thesis: When Individual and Social Epistemology Diverge
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Several philosophers of science have argued that epistemically rational individuals might form epistemically irrational groups and that, conversely, rational groups might be composed of irrational individuals. We call the conjunction of these two claims the Independence Thesis, as they entail that methodological prescriptions for scientific communities and those for individual scientists are logically independent. We defend the inconsistency thesis by characterizing four criteria for epistemic rationality and then proving that, under said criteria, individuals will be judged rational when groups are not and vice versa. We then explain the implications of our results for descriptive history of science and normative epistemology.