PhD studentship available - KnowledgeLab: Knowledge-First Social Epistemology

  • 1 x PhD Position (Philosophy – Epistemology)
  • Funding body: European Research Council
  • Deadline for applications: 1 May 2022
  • Open to all applicants: UK and International
  • Start date for PhD: 1 October 2022 or as soon as possible thereafter
  • Funding details: Tuition fees and annual stipend funded by the ERC

Project Summary

KnowledgeLab is a major research project in social epistemology, financed by a 1.5 million Euro grant from the European Research Council, and hosted by the COGITO Epistemology Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.

KnowledgeLab develops a new, knowledge-first research programme for social epistemology.

Social epistemology investigates the epistemic effects of social interactions: e.g., how we gain knowledge from social sources (others’ testimony, the media), how we should respond to disagreement, how groups (scientific teams, organisations) can know. It is among the most thriving areas in contemporary philosophy.

We are highly social creatures, dependent on each other for flourishing in all walks of life. Our epistemic endeavours make no exception: due to our physical, geographical, and psychological limitations, most of the knowledge we have is sourced in social interactions. We must inescapably rely on the intellectual labour of others, from those we know and trust well, to those whose epistemic credentials we take for granted online. Results in social epistemology have wide, direct impact on: (1) scientific practice (e.g. concerning academic publishing, guidelines for scientific authorship and collaboration, knowledge policy and debates over the role of the Internet in knowledge transmission and creation); (2) society at large (e.g. concerning voting, legal standards for criminal conviction, cross-cultural communication barriers, licensing mass communication policies, increasing social cohesion).

KnowledgeLab develops a novel research programme for social epistemology, one that puts knowledge first: it starts with the function of social epistemic interactions, i.e. that of generating knowledge, and investigates the epistemic normative structure that is borne out by this function: how should we proceed in social epistemic interactions in order to generate knowledge? KnowledgeLab employs this methodology in the service of the epistemology of testimony, disagreement, and groups, and develops an integrated account of the epistemology of the media. This framework is highly relevant in the context of a globalised society, replete with both easy-access information and misinformation: it is more important than ever to know what separates trustworthy sources of information from untrustworthy ones.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 948356).

Work Packages

01. Knowledge-First Methodology for Social Epistemology
This work package will develop a knowledge-first methodological approach for social epistemology. Knowledge first frameworks - first proposed in Tim Williamson's 'Knowledge and Its Limits' (2000) - take knowledge as central to epistemological affairs and venture to analyse other epistemic standings in terms of knowledge. KnowledgeLab develops a knowledge-first framework for social epistemological issues. It starts the analysis with the epistemic function of our social epistemic interactions - that of generating knowledge - and it identifies the normative structure that is borne out by this function.

02. Knowledge-First Epistemology of Testimony
Develops a novel, knowledge-first framework for the epistemology of testimony, together with a novel account of testimonial justification. The key hypothesis is that, because testimonial exchanges have the function of generating knowledge in hearers, hearers are by default justified in trusting a speaker’s claim (absent defeaters).

03. Knowledge-First Epistemology of Disagreement
Develops a novel account of the normativity of belief in the face of disagreement. The hypothesis under investigation is that, in cases of disagreement, one should improve one's corresponding doxastic attitude with regard to closeness to knowledge.

04. Knowledge-First Epistemology of Groups
Develops a knowledge-first view of justified group belief. The hypothesis under investigation is that groups are social epistemic agents, and group belief that falls short of knowledge is an instance of failure in epistemic function fulfilment. When, however, it is acquired via a properly functioning epistemic process that has the function of generating knowledge, the belief in question is justified even if not knowledgeable.

05. Knowledge-First Epistemology of the Media
Develops the first integrated account of the epistemology of the mass media in the literature. It has two research aims: A1. Developing a knowledge-first epistemology of media consumption. On this account, the epistemic responsibilities of the audience mainly consist in spotting defeaters, and withholding belief until this reason to distrust has been cleared. A2. Developing a knowledge-first epistemology of media testimony, according to which reliability and fairness in presenting opposing views should be weighed against each other with a view to generating knowledge.

The PhD student

The Ph.D student will have the freedom to investigate any of the topics covered by the project (epistemology of testimony, groups, disagreement, media), by working in a knowledge-first framework.

An expectation is that the Ph.D student will complete six chapters in total and will submit the final version by project's completion. The PI will arrange for the Ph.D to be externally examined by an expert in the area, who will join an internal examiner not on the supervisory team; the degree awarded upon completion will be a Ph.D in Philosophy from the University of Glasgow.

The PhD student will be affiliated with Glasgow's COGITO Epistemology Research Centre, and more widely in Glasgow's Philosophy department and graduate community. Both COGITO and the Glasgow Philosophy department regular work-in-progress seminars, where the PhD student can gain feedback on their work--along with the feedback that will be given in regular supervision sessions at project team workshops (3 per year).

Because the studentship at Glasgow is embedded more widely in Glasgow's College of Arts, the PhD student will benefit from an array of training opportunities provided by the College of Arts' Postgraduate Research Skills Development programme. This includes over 20 different professional skills and career development courses over the three-year studentship.
Furthermore, the PhD student will have an opportunity to develop their teaching portfolio by tutoring undergraduate courses in Philosophy, if they so wish.

In terms of a supervisory meeting schedule: it is expected that the PhD student will meet to review progress with the PI at least once per month. In addition, the PhD student will undergo an Annual Progress Review (APR) each May, in which yearly milestones are assessed by the supervisory team as well as Philosophy's Postgraduate Research convenor.

Outputs (PhD student)

(a) Research activity: The Ph.D student's principal output will be a doctoral thesis on the project's theme.
(b) Authorship: The Ph.D student will be a solo author of the Ph.D thesis.
(c) Publication: The Ph.D thesis will be made available open access at Glasgow University Library.


We seek applicants with a masters degree (or equivalent) in analytic philosophy. A demonstrable interest/competence in relevant topics in epistemology will be considered an advantage.

Funding eligibility

To be eligible you will also need to be accepted onto the relevant PhD programme via University of Glasgow Admissions.

How to apply

Applicants should submit a Curriculum Vitae, including contact details of two academic referees, a 2-page research proposal, and a writing sample.
This should be sent in an email to by 1 May 2022.
Interviews will be held in the first half of May.

Further information

If you have any questions, please email Professor Mona Simion at

First published: 21 March 2022