Epistemic landscapes, optimal search, and the division of cognitive labor

Jason Mc Kenzie Alexander, Johannes Himmelreich, Christopher Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


This article examines two questions about scientists’ search for knowledge. First, which search strategies generate discoveries effectively? Second, is it advantageous to diversify search strategies? We argue pace Weisberg and Muldoon, “Epistemic Landscapes and the Division of Cognitive Labor” (this journal, 2009), that, on the first question, a search strategy that deliberately seeks novel research approaches need not be optimal. On the second question, we argue they have not shown epistemic reasons exist for the division of cognitive labor, identifying the errors that led to their conclusions. Furthermore, we generalize the epistemic landscape model, showing that one should be skeptical about the benefits of social learning in epistemically complex environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)424-453
Number of pages30
JournalPhilosophy of Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Philosophy
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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