Expert or Esoteric?
Philosophers Attribute Knowledge
Differently Than All Other Academics


Academics across widely ranging disciplines all pursue knowledge, but they do so using vastly different methods. Do these academics therefore also have different ideas about when someone possesses knowledge? Recent experimental findings suggest that intuitions about when individuals have knowledge may vary across groups; in particular, the concept of knowledge espoused by the discipline of philosophy may not align with the concept held by laypeople. Across two studies, we investigate the concept of knowledge held by academics across seven disciplines (N = 1,581) and compare these judgments to those of philosophers (N = 204) and laypeople (N = 336). We find that academics and laypeople share a similar concept of knowledge, while philosophers have a substantially different concept. These experiments show that (a) in contrast to philosophers, other academics and laypeople attribute knowledge to others in some “Gettier” situations; (b) academics and laypeople are much less likely to attribute knowledge when reminded of the possibility of error, but philosophers are not affected by this reminder; and (c) non-philosophy academics are overall more skeptical about knowledge than laypeople or philosophers. These findings suggest that academics across a wide range of disciplines share a similar concept of knowledge, and that this concept aligns closely with the intuitions held by laypeople, and differs considerably from the concept of knowledge described in the philosophical literature, as well as the epistemic intuitions of philosophers themselves.

Starmans, C. & Friedman, O. (2020). Expert or Esoteric? Philosophers Attribute Knowledge Differently Than All Other Academics. Cognitive Science.