The Digital Turn in Epistemology

The Digital Turn in Epistemology

Main applicant: Prof.dr. F.A. Muller

Funding organisation: NWO research programme

Grant: 1 ME.

Duration: 2018 - 2022

Positions: Three PhD positions


Collaboration between EUR and Universiteit Utrecht

In collaboration with:

dr. J.M. Broersen (Faculty of Humanities, Universiteit Utrecht)
dr. A. Bakker (Faculteit of Humanities, Universiteit Utrecht)

Dutch title: De Digitale Wende in de Kenleer


Embodied, Embedded and Extended Cognition (E3C) marks the recent turn in Epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge. The three adjectives indicate that our knowledge and capacities are not located in our skulls, but extend to, and are distributed over: (i) our bodies, which are always embedded in their environment they interact with; and (ii) the artefacts we use, varying from paper notebooks to computers.

E3C holds that practical knowledge is primary: subject S knows how to perform an action, and that the other kind of knowledge, propositional knowledge, derives from it phylogenetically and ontogenetically — subject S knows that p. The mediation of knowledge acquisition by ICT is becoming so dominant and ubiquitous (smartphone, tablet, laptop, computer, world-wide-web) that Epistemology must take, after the E3C turn, a further, digital turn.  

We concentrate on the following epistemological questions that obtrude: How to make sense of mathematical knowledge after the turn in epistemology to E3C, given its abstract character? Does the digital turn affect the genesis and essence of mathematical knowledge? When practical knowledge is primary and propositonal knowledge is derivative (E3C), how does this ‘derivation’ work in a digital environment?  

To answer these pressing philosophical questions, an empirical case study in epistemology will be performed of the acquisition of mathematical knowledge and capacities in a controled ICT-embedded environment — also because the acquisition of these sorts of knowledge and capacties are exact and testable. Moreover, the flexible ICT–tool that this Project develops will also be of great service in mathematics eduction at secondary schools.

The purely philosophical project of inquiring into the effects of the E3C and digital turn in Epistemology on our understanding of what mathematical knowledge is lies in the hands of Daan Dronkers, since 1 February PhD at our Faculty.