Epistemic Dependence


This series of activities helps students think about epistemic dependence in their own lives.

Background Information


Many students do not realize how epistemically dependent they are on other people. This pair of exercises helps students think more deeply about epistemic dependence and to better understand and appreciate its role in their lives.


In-class writing assignment followed by an in-class team exercise.

Texts / Connections

Relevant texts:

  • Cynthia Townley, A Defense of Ignorance,” chs. 1-2
  • John Hardwig, “Epistemic Dependence”

Activity Plan

Individual writing exercise [Each student is randomly assigned one of the life periods listed below to write about.]

1. Life period: birth to kindergarten
2. Life period: School years (primary and secondary school)
3. Life period: post-work adult life

Students are given the following prompt:

Reflect on the ways in which humans are epistemically dependent on others during this period of their lives. With whom do they have significant epistemic relationships? What is the nature of those relationships? How does a person benefit epistemically during this life period from these relationships?

Team exercise [Each group is assigned one of the life periods to work on. A representative from each group is asked to present their team’s work on the board after the allotted time is up.]

Students are given the following prompt:

Draw a diagram, chart, or concept map displaying the network of epistemic relationships characterizing the period of life you have been assigned.


Wayne Riggs (University of Oklahoma)