Philosophical Topics

Volume 50, Issue 2, Fall 2022

Social Minds in Digital Spaces

Daniel Williams
Pages 41-64

Identity-Defining Beliefs on Social Media

When membership of a community depends on commitment to shared beliefs, the community is a belief-based coalition, and the beliefs are identity-defining beliefs. Belief-based coalitions are pervasive features of human social life and routinely drive motivated cognition and epistemically dysfunctional group dynamics. Despite this, they remain surprisingly undertheorized in social epistemology. This article (i) clarifies the properties of belief-based coalitions and identity-defining beliefs, (ii) explains why they often incentivize and coordinate epistemically dysfunctional forms of communication and cognitive labor, and (iii) argues that they provide a better explanation of many epistemic problems on social media than the concepts of epistemic bubbles, echo chambers, and gamification.