University Of Tasmania

File(s) under permanent embargo

Introduction to Special Issue on Applied Epistemology

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-22, 03:00 authored by David CoadyDavid Coady, Fricker, M

This collection then, in addition to contributing to some ongoing debates in applied epistemology, also aspires to be something of a call to arms. We hope that it will demonstrate that applied epistemology is an important and under-acknowledged field of philosophical inquiry. One thing that seems to have hindered the recognition of applied epistemology as a subject on a par with applied ethics is the fact that some of the (very few) people who work on it have an unnecessarily narrow conception of its scope. One very influential definition of the subject is given by Larry Laudan:

Applied epistemology in general is the study of whether systems of investigation that purport to be seeking the truth are well engineered to lead to true beliefs about the world. Theorists of knowledge, as epistemologists are sometimes known, routinely examine truth-seeking practices like science and mathematics to find out whether they are capable of delivering the goods they seek.

Essential though such an enterprise undoubtedly is, the truth test conception of applied epistemology that it delivers is surely too narrow. The respects in which it is narrow can be brought out by comparison with applied ethics. First, the truth test conception focuses exclusively on one epistemic good – truth – when there are other pertinent epistemic values worth focusing on, such as the successful weighing of different kinds of values or evidence, and such as understanding, including social understanding that is fundamentally interpretive. Thus, the truth test conception might be compared to a conception of applied ethics that focuses exclusively on a single ethical good, such as happiness. Of course there are ethical theories, most notably utilitarianism, which do this, but even advocates of utilitarianism do not usually think that applied ethics is just a matter of calculating total (or average) happiness in this case or that. Instead, utilitarians, like Peter Singer, will usually, when doing applied ethics, try to construct arguments that will be persuasive to as broad an audience as possible, and not to just his fellow utilitarians.


Publication title

Journal of Applied Philosophy








School of Humanities


Wiley-Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Place of publication

United Kingdom

Rights statement

Copyright 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Expanding knowledge in philosophy and religious studies

Usage metrics