Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Traditional, Formal, and Social Epistemology

The Penn Philosophy Department has a strong and active tradition of research in many areas of epistemology. Members of the Department work on and teach a diverse range of topics in this area, including traditional, formal, and social epistemology.

Some of the faculty who do research in epistemology include:

Gary Hatfield does research on the history of epistemology, focusing on Descartes. Prof. Hatfield also does research in the contemporary philosophy of vision and perception.  His research, which is highly tied to empirical findings, has implications for many epistemological questions.

Daniel Singer researches in formal, social, and traditional epistemology. His research includes specifically foundational questions about epistemic normativity and formal epistemology. He also uses agent-based computer simulations to explore questions in social epistemology.

Errol Lord has given a theory of the basing-relation, a notion often appealed to in traditional epistemology. His research also includes giving a reasons-first approach to epistemic normativity.

Lisa Miracchi uses her research in philosophy of mind to shine light on questions in epistemology. She argues for a competency-first conception of epistemology, and she has recently argued that her view can solve the new evil demon problem.

Zoltan Domotor has done a lot of foundational and technical work on formal epistemology, particularly focusing on the dynamics of probabilities, higher-order probabilities, and their connection to physics.

There are a number of kinds of approaches to epistemology that multiple Penn philosophers adopt. Michael WeisbergDaniel Singer, and Cristina Bicchieri, as well as a number of affiliated faculty and scholars, use agent-based computer models to ask questions about how social structures affect collective beliefs, a question in social epistemology. The research of Penn epistemologists like Gary Hatfield and Lisa Miracchi tends to be highly empirically-informed, which requires and facilitates interdisciplinary research with faculty outside of philosophy. Epistemologists at Penn also tend to cross traditional boundaries of where epistemology ends. Alexander Guerrero, for example, asks epistemological questions about political structures; Errol Lord and Daniel Singer research the foundations of epistemology at the intersection of metaethics; and Zoltan Domotor connects formal epistemology to empirical research in science. Penn faculty also research questions closely related to epistemology as part of our behavioral ethics research.

With all of these resources and approaches to epistemological questions, Penn prides itself on being a good and open place to research epistemology.