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The Epistemic Life of GroupsEssays in the Epistemology of Collectives$
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Michael S. Brady and Miranda Fricker

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198759645

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198759645.001.0001

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Collective Belief, Kuhn, and the String Theory Community

Collective Belief, Kuhn, and the String Theory Community

Chapter:
(p.191) 10 Collective Belief, Kuhn, and the String Theory Community
Source:
The Epistemic Life of Groups
Author(s):

James Owen Weatherall

Margaret Gilbert

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198759645.003.0011

Margaret Gilbert has proposed that ascriptions of beliefs to scientific communities generally involve a common notion of collective belief. Assuming that this interpretive hypothesis is correct, and that some of the belief ascriptions in question are true, then the members of some scientific communities have obligations that may act as barriers both to the generation and fair evaluation of new ideas and to changes in their community’s beliefs. This chapter argues that this may help to explain Thomas Kuhn’s observations on “normal science,” and goes on to develop the relationship between Gilbert’s proposal and several features of a group of physicists working on a fundamental physical theory called “string theory,” as described by physicist Lee Smolin. It is argued that the features of the string theory community that Smolin cites are well explained by the hypothesis that the community is a plural subject of belief.

Keywords:   Gilbert, collective, belief, scientific, communities, string theory, Lee Smolin, Thomas Kuhn

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