Market Epistemology

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Thicke, Michael
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According to Margaret Gilbert's collective epistemology, we should take attributions of beliefs to groups seriously, rather than metaphorically or as reducible to individual belief. I argue that, similarly, attributions of belief to markets ought to be taken seriously and not merely as reports of the average beliefs of market participants. While many of Gilbert's purported examples of group belief are better thought of as instances of acceptance, some collectives, such as courts and markets, genuinely believe. Such collectives enact truth-aimed processes that are beyond the control of any single individual. These processes produce beliefs that are distinct from any individual belief and do not merely report the "average" or "majority" view of the group. In the case of markets, beliefs are indicated by prices, though it is often difficult to infer beliefs from prices and those inferences are almost always uncertain. Market beliefs are justified when traders collectively possess sufficient evidence, there are sufficient incentives for participants to trade based upon the evidence they possess, sophisticated traders have enough power to counter common cognitive biases, and there is no manipulation of prices. Thus, in some cases markets can know.