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About the project


To promote and contribute toward producing outstanding scholarship in applied epistemology;

To promote the public dissemination of this scholarship;

To help equip those who wish to teach epistemology in an engaging, relevant, applied way with the resources to do so.


As a philosophical project, the Applied Epistemology Project focuses primarily on (i) conceptual questions, such as, “what is a conspiracy theory?, and (ii) normative questions, such as, “can it ever be rational to believe a conspiracy theory?”. We try to avoid armchair theorizing about empirical questions, such as, “why do so many people believe conspiracy theories?”.

However, philosophical theorizing about applied topics is enhanced when informed by a strong understanding of relevant empirical, social scientific research. To that end, we aim to facilitate interdisciplinary conversations with those working on related topics in cognate fields such as political science, psychology, sociology, communications, and journalism, and our Fellows include scholars from across these fields. We hope that, in turn, these scholars profit from the opportunity to think about the philosophical, conceptual, and normative foundations of the topics they study.

Applied epistemology is a relatively nascent field of study—or at least, it is only recently that it has been an identified field with a significant body of literature. Among other things, we hope that this project will contribute toward crystallizing a research agenda for the field, and in guiding researchers in their choice of questions. For our own part, we aim to focus on questions that (i) are amenable to being investigated using philosophical, and more specifically epistemological, methods and tools; (ii) are relevant to real human agents, and do not idealize too far away from the circumstances of the societies we live in; and (iii) to which the answers are not already obvious before we have begun theorizing. These are the questions to which we think applied epistemology can make the greatest contribution.

A final aspect of this project’s approach is to do applied epistemology in dialogue with the insights, tools and theories that have been developed in more “traditional” epistemology. Not only can our applied theorizing be enriched by these insights—we also hope that it will, in turn, itself shed light on traditional epistemological debates by showing what the consequences of the traditional theories are when they are applied to social and political problems.

What do we do?

First, the members of the project directly produce research in Applied Epistemology. These members include the Project Director, Alex Worsnip; Postdoctoral and Visiting Fellows that have so far included Giulia Napolitano and Molly O’Rourke-Friel; and an array of Faculty and Graduate Fellows from the UNC philosophy department and cognate fields, all of whom have research interests in applied epistemology or closely related topics. Click here for a full list of all the project’s members. Currently, a group of AEP Fellows is engaged in an interdisciplinary research collaboration on the philosophy and psychology of deference to experts, funded by a generous subgrant from Arizona State University’s Humility in Inquiry project, itself funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

Second, the project hosts events that showcase cutting-edge research in applied epistemology and that facilitate dialogue between its practitioners. In each of the project’s four years, we are hosting a workshop on a particular theme within applied epistemology, featuring talks by researchers from across the United States and beyond. In addition, we run an occasional works-in-progress series for the project’s members to present their work and give each other feedback. We also run occasional events for K-12 teachers on topics in applied epistemology broadly construed.

Finally, with the support of our funded Graduate Research Assistants, we produce resources that supports researchers and teachers of applied epistemology, and that brings the insights of applied epistemology to a wider public. So far, this includes our Applied Epistemology Bibliography, a curated selection of syllabi in applied epistemology, videos of workshop speakers giving brief and accessible summaries of their talks, and a blog featuring accessible discussions of applied-epistemological themes as they relate to current news events. We also share applied epistemology news and research via our Twitter/X account.


The Applied Epistemology Project is a joint venture of the UNC Department of Philosophy and the UNC Philosophy, Politics & Economics program. We gratefully acknowledge funding and support from both sources, as well as from the UNC College of Arts & Sciences.

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