What Is Street Epistemology?

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R/StreetEpistemology users swedishpatchkid, HermesTheMessenger, billyyankNova


Street Epistemology International is committed to addressing dysfunction in public and private discourse by encouraging rationality through civil conversation and providing people around the world with the resources needed to develop, practice, and promote Street Epistemology.

Visit their YouTube channel here.

On R/StreetEpistemology

u/swedishpatchkid says:

Street epistemology is a conversational technique that focuses on why someone holds a belief. It originated in Peter Boghossian's book A Manual for Creating Atheists, but can be applied to any belief a person might hold. God beliefs are a common example, but you can also focus on belief in supernatural things, conspiracies, karma, flat earth, political opinions, and so on. Any belief is fair game, but the conversations are usually more productive when the belief is not universally held ("I believe two plus two is four" will make for a boring chat), and the belief affects how the person lives their life.

There are two roles, an interviewer, and the person getting interviewed (often called the interlocutor, or IL). The interviewer's job is only to ask questions, not to present their own opinion. It starts with the IL choosing a belief to focus on. The interviewer then starts to ask questions with the goal that both people understand why the IL holds the belief. The interviewer needs to be familiar with SE techniques, but knowing SE is optional for the IL. It'll work the same if the IL knows SE or not.

Identifying the reason isn't always simple. An SE technique for challenging a stated reason is to ask "If one day you found out that wasn't a good reason, perhaps because you found new evidence against it, would you still hold the belief?" If the IL says they would still hold the belief without that reason, then that's not the real reason.

If you get past that, a followup SE technique is to challenge the reason by asking if it could be used to justify another belief that the IL rejects. For example, if the topic is a god belief, and the reason was faith, then ask "If another person uses faith as the reason for believing in a different religion, are they justified in their belief?"

SE is finished when the IL is satisfied with their stated reason, or says they don't know why they hold the belief. There's also a middle outcome, where the IL revises how confident they are in their belief, after examining their reason.

SE is often successful in getting people to revise their beliefs where normal debate would only leave people angry and more polarized. Some key advantages of SE are:

  1. It's non-confrontational. Both participants should have a cordial and thought-provoking conversation, even when the topic is something that most people avoid in polite company. It's not a debate, it's an interview where everyone wins if it got them thinking a little deeper about something.
  2. There's no deception or "gotcha" aspect to it. The interviewer is not trying to trick the IL, and nothing about SE needs to be hidden.
  3. You don't need facts. The conversation is focused the IL's reasons for holding those beliefs. The IL can bring up facts they think are true, but the interviewer should never say "that's not true." Rather, the focus would be "if you found out that wasn't true, would it change your belief?" When doing SE, you should never need to pull out your phone to look something up.

u/HermesTheMessenger says:

Three words;

Updated Socratic method.

The main difference is that unlike the Socratic method, SE is not guiding someone to an often pre-determined conclusion.

Instead, SE allows a discussion where the path that resulted in the current conclusion can be examined. Through that examination, the person who has (had?) that conclusion can see for themselves if that path -- that method -- is justified. That examination can result in an eventual update in the person's methods used to reach justified conclusions ... and so their conclusions may change as a result.

u/billyyankNova says : I'd say it's a method for engaging in conversation with people whose beliefs differ from yours in an engaging and non-confrontational way to learn about why they have those beliefs and hopefully encourage them to think about them more deeply.


Street Epistemology International

Publication Date:



“Street Epistemology International Announces Global Launch Date of ‘Navigating Beliefs: A Learning Course for Rational Conversations.’” Street Epistemology International, 6 Oct. 2023, https://streetepistemology.com/sei/news/2023-10-06


Critical Thinking and Digital Literacy


Amanda Morton

Comment Date:



When trying to guide your loved one away from beliefs that are harming their well-being, consider using some street epistemology techniques.

Think of it like an updated Socratic method, asking open-ended questions that help examine what their core beliefs truly are, why they believe those things. and what led them to that point.

It's not about winning an argument or getting them to admit they're wrong. Approach with a curious mind and engage them to critically examine if their beliefs are truly serving them.