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Summary Epistemic contextualism is primarily a semantic thesis about the meaning of the word "knows" and its cognates. Invariantism, which is the more traditional view, holds that the truth or falsity of sentences like "Mary knows that the bank is open on Saturday" does not shift from context to context. Contextualists, however, argue that such a sentence can be true in one context but not another. A typical model here is the case of indexical expressions, like "I" or "here." My utterance of "I am a president" can be false while Obama's is true. Some contextualists have argued that this can solve skepticism in a satisfactory way: e.g. "I know I have hands" is true out on the street but false in the philosophy classroom, where the context raises the standards for knowledge.  Attempting to capture some of the same phenomena as contextualism, various forms of invariantism involving "pragmatic encroachment" have been developed.  These include interest-relative invariantism, on which a subject's interests make a difference to whether they know a proposition, and related forms of subject-sensitive invariantism.
Key works Elements of contextualism begin at least with relevant alternatives theory, but explicitly contextualist theories begin primarily with: Cohen 1986, DeRose 1992, and Lewis 1996. New versions of invariantism developed partly in response to contextualism begin largely with: Fantl & McGrath 2002, Hawthorne 2004, and Stanley 2005. There have been some recent empirical critiques of these views.
Introductions The free encyclopedia entries by Rysiew 2007 and Black 2003 provide excellent introductions to contextualism. Buckwalter 2012 provides an overview of relevant empirical literature.
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  1. Joshua Alexander, Chad Gonnerman & John Waterman (forthcoming). Salience and Epistemic Egocentrism: An Empirical Study. In James Beebe (ed.), Advances in Experimental Epistemology. Continuum.
    Jennifer Nagel (2010) has recently proposed a fascinating account of the decreased tendency to attribute knowledge in conversational contexts in which unrealized possibilities of error have been mentioned. Her account appeals to epistemic egocentrism, or what is sometimes called the curse of knowledge, an egocentric bias to attribute our own mental states to other people (and sometimes our own future and past selves). Our aim in this paper is to investigate the empirical merits of Nagel’s hypothesis about the psychology involved (...)
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  2. B. Armour-Garb (2011). Contextualism Without Pragmatic Encroachment. Analysis 71 (4):667-676.
    In ‘Withdrawal and contextualism’, Jonathan Adler (2006) provides an argument which, if successful, undermines what contextualists take to be prime support for their view. Given the popularity of contextualist (and related) positions in epistemology, together with the fact that, thus far, no one has challenged Adler's argument, a critical assessment therefore presses. In this article, after briefly reviewing Adler's argument, I show that it fails. My reason for taking his argument to fail will then provide novel support for contextualism, one (...)
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  3. Kent Bach (2010). Knowledge in and Out of Context. In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O.’Rourke & Harry S. Silverstein (eds.), Knowledge and Skepticism. Mit Press. 105--36.
  4. James Beebe (forthcoming). Experimental Epistemology. In Andrew Cullison (ed.), Companion to Epistemology. Continuum.
    An overview of the main areas of epistemological debate to which experimental philosophers have been contributing and the larger, philosophical challenges these contributions have raised.
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  5. Martijn Blaauw (2008). Subject Sensitive Invariantism: In Memoriam. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (231):318–325.
    Subject sensitive invariantism is the view that whether a subject knows depends on what is at stake for that subject: the truth-value of a knowledge-attribution is sensitive to the subject's practical interests. I argue that subject sensitive invariantism cannot accept a very plausible principle for memory to transmit knowledge. I argue, furthermore, that semantic contextualism and contrastivism can accept this plausible principle for memory to transmit knowledge. I conclude that semantic contextualism and contrastivism are in a dialectical position better than (...)
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  6. Martijn Blaauw (2005). Challenging Contextualism. Grazer Philosophische Studien 69 (1):127-146.
    In order to explain such puzzling cases as the Bank Case and the Airport Case, semantic contextualists defend two theses. First, that the truth-conditions of knowledge sentences fluctuate in accordance with features of the conversational context. Second, that this fluctuation can be explained by the fact that 'knows' is an indexical. In this paper, I challenge both theses. In particular, I argue (i) that it isn't obvious that 'knows' is an indexical at all, and (ii) that contrastivism can do the (...)
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  7. Martijn Blaauw (2003). WAMming Away at Contextualism. SATS 4 (1):88-97.
    Contextualism is a quite popular research program nowadays. In essence, the contextualist holds that the truth conditions of knowledge attributing and of knowledge denying sentences vary in accordance with the context in which the sentences are uttered. This theory is positively motivated by its (alleged) capability of best explaining certain intuitions we have about knowledge attributions and knowledge denials. In this paper, I will argue that this positive motivation isn't as compelling as the contextualists think it to be. This I (...)
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  8. Tim Black, Contextualism in Epistemology. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  9. Michael Blome-Tillmann (2012). Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism and the Problem of Known Presuppositions. In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), New Essays on Knowledge Ascriptions. OUP. 104-119.
    In this chapter, I produce counterexamples to Presuppositional Epistemic Contextualism (PEC), a view about the semantics of ‘knowledge’-ascriptions that I have argued for elsewhere. According to PEC, the semantic content of the predicate ‘know’ at a context C is partly determined by the speakers’ pragmatic presuppositions at C. The problem for the view that I shall be concerned with here arises from the fact that pragmatic presuppositions are sometimes known to be true by the speakers who make them: hence the (...)
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  10. Michael Blome-Tillmann (2009). Contextualism, Subject-Sensitive Invariantism, and the Interaction of 'Knowledge'-Ascriptions with Modal and Temporal Operators. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (2):315 - 331.
    Jason Stanley has argued recently that Epistemic Contextualism (EC) and Subject-Sensitive Invariantism (SSI) are explanatorily on a par with regard to certain data arising from modal and temporal embeddings of 'knowledge'-ascriptions. This paper argues against Stanley that EC has a clear advantage over SSI in the discussed field and introduces a new type of linguistic datum strongly suggesting the falsity of SSI.
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  11. Elke Brendel (2014). Contextualism, Relativism, and the Semantics of Knowledge Ascriptions. Philosophical Studies 168 (1):101-117.
    It is argued that neither contextualism nor relativism can provide a satisfying semantics of knowledge ascriptions. According to contextualism, the truth conditions of knowledge ascriptions of the form “S knows that p” vary with the epistemic standards operative in the contexts of utterance. These epistemic standards are determined, in particular, by the speaker’s stakes with regard to p or the consideration of error-possibilities. It is shown that the absolute concept of utterance truth together with a knowledge rule of assertion lead (...)
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  12. Jessica Brown (2013). Experimental Philosophy, Contextualism and SSI. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (2):233-261.
    I will ask the conditional question: if folk attributions of "know" are not sensitive to the stakes and/or the salience of error, does this cast doubt on contextualism or subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI)? I argue that if it should turn out that folk attributions of knowledge are insensitive to such factors, then this undermines contextualism, but not SSI. That is not to say that SSI is invulnerable to empirical work of any kind. Rather, I defend the more modest claim that leading (...)
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  13. Jessica Brown (2008). Knowledge and Practical Reason. Philosophy Compass 3 (6):1135-1152.
    It has become recently popular to suggest that knowledge is the epistemic norm of practical reasoning and that this provides an important constraint on the correct account of knowledge, one which favours subject-sensitive invariantism over contextualism and classic invariantism. I argue that there are putative counterexamples to both directions of the knowledge norm. Even if the knowledge norm can be defended against these counterexamples, I argue that it is a delicate issue whether it is true, one which relies on fine (...)
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  14. Jessica Brown (2008). Subject‐Sensitive Invariantism and the Knowledge Norm for Practical Reasoning. Noûs 42 (2):167-189.
  15. Jessica Brown (2006). Contextualism and Warranted Assertibility Manoeuvres. Philosophical Studies 130 (3):407 - 435.
    Contextualists such as Cohen and DeRose claim that the truth conditions of knowledge attributions vary contextually, in particular that the strength of epistemic position required for one to be truly ascribed knowledge depends on features of the attributor's context. Contextualists support their view by appeal to our intuitions about when it's correct (or incorrect) to ascribe knowledge. Someone might argue that some of these intuitions merely reflect when it is conversationally appropriate to ascribe knowledge, not when knowledge is truly ascribed, (...)
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  16. Jessica Brown (2005). Adapt or Die: The Death of Invariantism? Philosophical Quarterly 55 (219):263–285.
    Contextualists support their view by appeal to cases which show that whether an attribution of knowledge seems correct depends on attributor factors. Contextualists conclude that the truth-conditions of knowledge attributions depend on the attributor's context. Invariantists respond that these cases show only that the warranted assertability-conditions of knowledge attributions depend on the attributor's context. I examine DeRose's recent argument against the possibility of such an invariantist response, an argument which appeals to the knowledge account of assertion and the context-sensitivity of (...)
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  17. Jessica Brown (2005). Comparing Contextualism and Invariantism on the Correctness of Contextualist Intuitions. Grazer Philosophische Studien 69 (1):71-100.
    Contextualism is motivated by cases in which the intuitive correctness of a range of phenomena, including knowledge attributions, assertions and reasoning, depends on the attributor's context. Contextualists offer a charitable understanding of these intuitions, interpreting them as reflecting the truth value of the knowledge attributions and the appropriateness of the relevant assertions and reasoning. Here, I investigate a range of different invariantist accounts and examine the extent to which they too can offer a charitable account of the contextualist data.
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  18. Jessica Brown & Herman Cappelen (eds.) (2011). Assertion: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    Assertion is a fundamental feature of language. This volume will be the place to look for anyone interested in current work on the topic.
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  19. Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.) (forthcoming). New Essays On Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford University Press.
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  20. Anthony Brueckner (2010). SSSI Disinterred. Philosophical Quarterly 60 (238):160-161.
    I reply to Martijn Blaauw's recent article about subject sensitive invariantism, in which he argues that SSI, unlike its contextualist and contrastivist competitors, cannot give a proper account of memorial knowledge. I argue that these theories are on a par when it comes to such an account.
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  21. Anthony Brueckner (2005). Contextualism, Hawthorne's Invariantism and Third-Person Cases. Philosophical Quarterly 55 (219):315–318.
    Keith DeRose discusses 'third-person cases', which appear to raise problems for John Hawthorne's invariantist approach to knowledge-attributions. I argue that there is a prima facie problem for invariantism stemming from third-person cases that is even worse than DeRose's. Then I show that in the end, contrary to appearances, third-person cases do not threaten invariantism.
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  22. Anthony Brueckner & Christopher T. Buford (2009). Contextualism, SSI and the Factivity Problem. Analysis 69 (3):431-438.
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  23. Wesley Buckwalter (2012). Non-Traditional Factors in Judgments About Knowledge. Philosophy Compass 7 (4):278-289.
    One recent trend in contemporary epistemology is to study the way in which the concept of knowledge is actually applied in everyday settings. This approach has inspired an exciting new spirit of collaboration between experimental philosophers and traditional epistemologists, who have begun using the techniques of the social sciences to investigate the factors that influence ordinary judgments about knowledge attribution. This paper provides an overview of some of the results these researchers have uncovered, suggesting that in addition to traditionally considered (...)
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  24. Wesley Buckwalter (2010). Knowledge Isn't Closed on Saturday: A Study in Ordinary Language. Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (3):395-406.
    Recent theories of epistemic contextualism have challenged traditional invariantist positions in epistemology by claiming that the truth conditions of knowledge attributions fluctuate between conversational contexts. Contextualists often garner support for this view by appealing to folk intuitions regarding ordinary knowledge practices. Proposed is an experiment designed to test the descriptive conditions upon which these types of contextualist defenses rely. In the cases tested, the folk pattern of knowledge attribution runs contrary to what contextualism predicts. While preliminary, these data inspire prima (...)
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  25. Wesley Buckwalter & Jonathan Schaffer (2013). Knowledge, Stakes, and Mistakes. Noûs 47 (1):n/a-n/a.
    According to a prominent claim in recent epistemology, people are less likely to ascribe knowledge to a high stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are severe, than to a low stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are slight. We offer an opinionated "state of the art" on experimental research about the role of stakes in knowledge judgments. We draw on a first wave of empirical studies--due to Feltz & Zarpentine (2010), May et al (2010), (...)
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  26. Christopher T. Buford (2010). Reply to Baumann on Factivity and Contextualism. Analysis 70 (3):486-489.
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  27. Alessandro Capone (2010). Between Scylla and Charibdis: The Semantics and Pragmatics of Attitudes 'de Se'. Intercultural Pragmatics 7 (3):471-503.
    'de se' attitudes and pragmatic intrusion. A critique of Higginbotham (2003).
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  28. Alessandro Capone (2008). Belief Reports and Pragmatic Intrusion: The Case of Null Appositives. Journal of Pragmatics 40:2019-2040.
  29. E. J. Coffman, Contextualism and Interest-Relative Invariantism.
    Classical Invariantism (CI): The truth-value of a given knowledge-ascribing (-denying) sentence is (a) invariant across conversational contexts and (b) independent of how important it is to the subject (S) that the relevant proposition (P) be true.
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  30. Stewart Cohen (1986). Knowledge and Context. Journal of Philosophy 83 (10):574-583.
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  31. Keith DeRose (2011). Contextualism, Contrastivism, and X-Phi Surveys. Philosophical Studies 156 (1):81-110.
    I will here sharply oppose all the phases of the story Schaffer & Knobe tell. In Part 1 we will look at the supposed empirical case against standard contextualism, and in Part 2 we will investigate Schaffer & Knobe’s supposed empirical case for the superiority of contrastivism over standard contextualism.
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  32. Keith DeRose (2007). Review of J. Stanley, Knowledge and Practical Interests. [REVIEW] Mind 116:486-489.
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  33. Keith DeRose (2005). The Ordinary Language Basis for Contextualism, and the New Invariantism. Philosophical Quarterly 55 (219):172–198.
    I present the features of the ordinary use of 'knows' that make a compelling case for the contextualist account of that verb, and I outline and defend the methodology that takes us from the data to a contextualist conclusion. Along the way, the superiority of contextualism over subject-sensitive invariantism is defended, and, in the final section, I answer some objections to contextualism.
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  34. Keith DeRose (2004). The Problem with Subject-Sensitive Invariantism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (2):346–350.
    Thomas Blackson does not question that my argument in section 2 of “Assertion, Knowledge and Context” establishes the conclusion that the standards that comprise a truth-condition for “I know that P” vary with context, but does claim that this does not suffice to validly demonstrate the truth of contextualism, because this variance in standards can be handled by what we will here call Subject-Sensitive Invariantism (SSI), and so does not demand a contextualist treatment. According to SSI, the varying standards that (...)
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  35. Keith DeRose (1999). Contextualism: An Explanation and Defense. In J. Greco & E. Sosa (eds.), The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology. Blackwell Publishers. 187--205.
    In epistemology, “contextualism” denotes a wide variety of more-or-less closely related positions according to which the issues of knowledge or justification are somehow relative to context. I will proceed by first explicating the position I call contextualism, and distinguishing that position from some closely related positions in epistemology, some of which sometimes also go by the name of “contextualism”. I’ll then present and answer what seems to many the most pressing of the objections to contextualism as I construe it, and (...)
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  36. Keith DeRose (1992). Contextualism and Knowledge Attributions. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 52 (4):913-929.
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  37. Paul Dimmock & Torfinn Thomesen Huvenes (forthcoming). Knowledge, Conservatism, and Pragmatics. Synthese:1-31.
    The apparent contextual variability exhibited by ‘knows’ and its cognates—brought to attention in examples like Keith DeRose’s Bank Case—poses familiar problems for conservative forms of invariantism about ‘knows’. The paper examines and criticises a popular response to those problems, one that involves appeal to so-called ‘pragmatic’ features of language. It is first argued, contrary to what seems to have been generally assumed, that any pragmatic defence faces serious problems with regard to our judgments about retraction. Second, the familiar objection that (...)
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  38. Fred I. Dretske (1970). Epistemic Operators. Journal of Philosophy 67 (24):1007-1023.
  39. Jeremy Fantl & Matthew Mcgrath (2012). Précis of Knowledge in an Uncertain World. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (2):441-446.
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  40. Jeremy Fantl & Matthew Mcgrath (2012). Contextualism and Subject-Sensitivity. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3):693-702.
    Contribution to a symposium on Keith DeRose's book, The Case for Contextualism: Knowledge, Skepticism, and Context.
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  41. Jeremy Fantl & Matthew McGrath (2009). Knowledge in an Uncertain World. Oxford University Press.
    Knowledge in an Uncertain World is an exploration of the relation between knowledge, reasons, and justification. According to the primary argument of the book, you can rely on what you know in action and belief, because what you know can be a reason you have and you can rely on the reasons you have. If knowledge doesn't allow for a chance of error, then this result is unsurprising. But if knowledge does allow for a chance of error--as seems required if (...)
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  42. Jeremy Fantl & Matthew McGrath (2009). Critical Study of John Hawthorne's Knowledge and Lotteries and Jason Stanley's Knowledge and Practical Interests. [REVIEW] Noûs 43 (1):178-192.
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  43. Jeremy Fantl & Matthew McGrath (2002). Evidence, Pragmatics, and Justification. Philosophical Review 111 (1):67-94.
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  44. Adam Feltz & Chris Zarpentine (2010). Do You Know More When It Matters Less? Philosophical Psychology 23 (5):683–706.
    According to intellectualism, what a person knows is solely a function of the evidential features of the person's situation. Anti-intellectualism is the view that what a person knows is more than simply a function of the evidential features of the person's situation. Jason Stanley (2005) argues that, in addition to “traditional factors,” our ordinary practice of knowledge ascription is sensitive to the practical facts of a subject's situation. In this paper, we investigate this question empirically. Our results indicate that Stanley's (...)
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  45. Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.) (2005). Oxford Studies in Epistemology. Oxford University Press.
    Oxford Studies in Epistemology is a biennial publicaton which offers a regular snapshot of state-of-the-art work in this important field.
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  46. Mikkel Gerken (2013). Epistemic Focal Bias. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):41 - 61.
    This paper defends strict invariantism against some philosophical and empirical data that have been taken to compromise it. The defence involves a combination of a priori philosophical arguments and empirically informed theorizing. The positive account of the data is an epistemic focal bias account that draws on cognitive psychology. It involves the assumption that, owing to limitations of the involved cognitive resources, intuitive judgments about knowledge ascriptions are generated by processing only a limited part of the available information?the part that (...)
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  47. Mikkel Gerken (2012). On the Cognitive Bases of Knowledge Ascriptions. In Jessica Brown & Mikkel Gerken (eds.), Knowledge Ascriptions. Oxford University Press.
    I develop an epistemic focal bias account of certain patterns of judgments about knowledge ascriptions by integrating it with a general dual process framework of human cognition. According to the focal bias account, judgments about knowledge ascriptions are generally reliable but systematically fallible because the cognitive processes that generate them are affected by what is in focus. I begin by considering some puzzling patters of judgments about knowledge ascriptions and sketch how a basic focal bias account seeks to account for (...)
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  48. Mikkel Gerken (2011). Warrant and Action. Synthese 178 (3):529-547.
    I develop an approach to action and practical deliberation according to which the degree of epistemic warrant required for practical rationality varies with practical context. In some contexts of practical deliberation, very strong warrant is called for. In others, less will do. I set forth a warrant account, (WA), that captures this idea. I develop and defend (WA) by arguing that it is more promising than a competing knowledge account of action due to John Hawthorne and Jason Stanley. I argue (...)
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  49. John Greco (2008). What's Wrong with Contextualism? Philosophical Quarterly 58 (232):416 - 436.
    This paper addresses two worries that might be raised about contextualism in epistemology and that carry over to its moral analogues: that contextualism robs epistemology (and moral theory) of a proper subject-matter, and that contextualism robs knowledge claims (and moral claims) of their objectivity. Two theses are defended: (1) that these worries are appropriately directed at interestdependent theories in general rather than at contextualism in particular, and (2) that the two worries are over-stated in any case. Finally, the paper offers (...)
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  50. Patrick Greenough (2011). Truth-Relativism, Norm-Relativism, and Assertion. In Brown J. & Cappelen H. (eds.), Assertion: New Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    The main goal in this paper is to outline and defend a form of Relativism, under which truth is absolute but assertibility is not. I dub such a view Norm-Relativism in contrast to the more familiar forms of Truth-Relativism. The key feature of this view is that just what norm of assertion, belief, and action is in play in some context is itself relative to a perspective. In slogan form: there is no fixed, single norm for assertion, belief, and action. (...)
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