INTEG 221: The Social Nature of Knowledge

This is a course about diverse ways of knowing. We’ll examine the nature of knowledge by studying some of the theory behind it (namely “epistemology”) and by listening to experts talk about how knowledge is produced in various disciplines.

The two areas that we’ll study are feminist epistemology and social epistemology, which have arisen as alternatives to more traditional theories of knowledge. Traditionally, epistemology has focused on individuals as the producers of knowledge, while ignoring particular features of those individuals (e.g., their gender or race), since they’re thought to be irrelevant to what someone can know or how they can know it. Feminist epistemologists, on the other hand, argue that the features of a person are epistemically relevant – all knowledge is “situated knowledge” in the sense that someone’s characteristics and experiences provide a lens through which she views the world. Social epistemologists argue against the idea that knowledge is produced by individuals. They claim that most of our knowledge is created and transmitted through social processes, and that we ought to pay attention to how these processes work if we want to understand the nature of knowledge. On both of these views, people do not produce “objective” knowledge as a result of being neutral and detached. Instead, feminist and social epistemologists offer new concepts of objectivity in order to reconcile their theories of knowledge with the idea that we can still have objective knowledge.

In Part I of this course, we’ll study feminist epistemologies to learn about diverse ways of knowing. In Part II of the course, there will be visits by three guest lecturers to talk about the nature of knowledge in their disciplines. In Part III of the course, we’ll turn to some issues in social epistemology, including why trust is important for creating and sharing knowledge, and the epistemology of collaboration.

This course is on the Faculty of Engineering Complementary Studies List

Most recent INTEG 221 syllabus (in the Outline Repository)

INTEG 221 course description (in the Undergraduate Academic Calendar)