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Summary Primitivism about knowledge is the view that knowledge is an unanalyzable notion. Most primitivists argue that instead of being analysed, knowledge should be understood as the most fundamental mental state, and that knowledge should be deployed in the analysis or elucidation of other epistemological notions, such as belief, evidence, and justification. Many also argue that knowledge plays a normative role in action or practical reasoning. Recent research in this area has followed, or responded to, the influential work of Timothy Williamson's "Knowledge First" epistemology, according to which knowledge is a basic mental state, evidence is to be understood in terms of knowledge such that one's evidence is all and only what one knows ("E=K"), knowledge is not a luminous condition, and knowledge is the norm of assertion and of belief.
Key works See especially Williamson 2000, as well as Pritchard & Greenough 2009 for a collection of critical essays and Williamson's replies. Hawthorne 2003 and Millar 2007 develop aspects of the knowledge first program. Blome-Tillmann 2007 argues that knowledge is unanalyzable. Nagel 2012 and Nagel 2013 examine the idea that knowledge is a mental state. Millar 2011 discusses the value of knowledge. Hawthorne 2005 discusses the knowledge-first conception of evidence, and Sutton 2007 argues that justified beliefs are all and only knowledge. Hawthorne & Stanley 2008 and Fantl & McGrath 2009 argue that knowledge is normatively connected with action and practical rationality, and Jackson 2012 considers how best to understand knowledge norms. Srinivasan 2015 further develops the argument against luminosity. For thorough criticism of knowledge first epistemology, see McGlynn 2014. For background to the contemporary discussion, see Marion 2000 and Marion 2000
Introductions See Williamson 2011, and the exchange between Williamson 2013 / Williamson 2013 and Dougherty & Rysiew 2013. For an overview of the knowledge norms on assertion, practical reasoning, and belief, see Benton 2014.
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  1. Max Baker-Hytch & Matthew A. Benton (2015). Defeatism Defeated. Philosophical Perspectives 29 (1):40-66.
    Many epistemologists are enamored with a defeat condition on knowledge. In this paper we present some implementation problems for defeatism, understood along either internalist or externalist lines. We then propose that one who accepts a knowledge norm of belief, according to which one ought to believe only what one knows, can explain away much of the motivation for defeatism. This is an important result, because on the one hand it respects the plausibility of the intuitions about defeat shared by many (...)
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  2. Matthew A. Benton (forthcoming). Lying, Belief, and Knowledge. In Jörg Meibauer (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Lying. Oxford University Press
    What is the relationship between lying, belief, and knowledge? Prominent accounts of lying define it in terms of belief, namely telling someone something one believes to be false, often with the intent to deceive. This paper develops a novel account of lying by deriving evaluative dimensions of responsibility from the knowledge norm of assertion. Lies are best understood as special cases of vicious assertion; lying is the anti-paradigm of proper assertion. This enables an account of lying in terms of knowledge: (...)
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  3. Matthew A. Benton (2014). Knowledge Norms. Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy:nn-nn.
    Encyclopedia entry covering the growing literature on the Knowledge Norm of Assertion (and its rivals), the Knowledge Norm of Action (and pragmatic encroachment), the Knowledge Norm of Belief, and the Knowledge Norm of Disagreement.
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  4. Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne & Yoaav Isaacs (2016). Evil and Evidence. Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 7:1-31.
    The problem of evil is the most prominent argument against the existence of God. Skeptical theists contend that it is not a good argument. Their reasons for this contention vary widely, involving such notions as CORNEA, epistemic appearances, 'gratuitous' evils, 'levering' evidence, and the representativeness of goods. We aim to dispel some confusions about these notions, in particular by clarifying their roles within a probabilistic epistemology. In addition, we develop new responses to the problem of evil from both the phenomenal (...)
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  5. Michael Blome-Tillmann (2007). The Folly of Trying to Define Knowledge. Analysis 67 (3):214 - 219.
    The paper gives an a priori argument for the view that knowledge is unanalysable. To establish this conclusion I argue that warrant, i.e. the property, whatever precisely it is, which makes the difference between knowledge and mere true belief, entails both truth and belief and thus does not exist as a property distinct from knowledge: all and only knowledge can turn a true belief into knowledge. The paper concludes that the project of trying to find a condition distinct from knowledge (...)
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  6. R. Borges, C. de Almeida & P. Klein (eds.) (forthcoming). Explaining Knowledge: New Essays on the Gettier Problem. Oxford University Press.
    This is an edited collection of twenty-three (23) new papers on the Gettier Problem and the issues connected with it. The set of authors includes many of the major figures in contemporary epistemology who have developed some of the well-known responses to the Problem, and the list contains some younger epistemologists who bring new perspectives to the issues raised in the literature. Together, they cover the state of the art scholarship on virtually every epistemological and methodological aspect of the Gettier (...)
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  7. Rodrigo Borges (forthcoming). Inferential Knowledge and the Gettier Conjecture. In Rodrigo Borges Claudio de Almeida & Peter Klein (eds.), Explaining Knowledge: New Essays on the Gettier Problem. Oxford University Press
    I propose and defend the conjecture that what explains why Gettiered subjects fail to know is the fact that their justified true belief depends essentially on unknown propositions. The conjecture follows from the plausible principle about inference in general according to which one knows the conclusion of one’s inference only if one knows all the premises it involves essentially.
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  8. Rodrigo Borges (2016). Bad Luck for the Anti‐Luck Epistemologist. Southern Journal of Philosophy 54 (4):463-479.
    Anti-luck epistemologists tell us that knowledge is incompatible with epistemic luck and that epistemic luck is just a special case of luck in general. Much work has been done on the intricacies of the first claim. In this paper, I scrutinize the second claim. I argue that it does not survive scrutiny. I then offer an analysis of luck that explains the relevant data and avoids the problems from which the current views of luck suffer. However, this analysis of luck (...)
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  9. Cameron Boult (forthcoming). Epistemic Conditions on "Ought": E=K as a Case Study. Acta Analytica:1-22.
    In The Norm of Belief, John Gibbons claims that there is a “natural reaction” to the general idea that one can be normatively required to Ø when that requirement is in some sense outside of one’s first person perspective or inaccessible to one. The reaction amounts to the claim that this isn’t possible. Whether this is a natural or intuitive idea or not, it is difficult to articulate exactly why we might think it is correct. To do so, we need (...)
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  10. Cameron Boult (forthcoming). Epistemic Conditions on "Ought": E=K as a Case Study. Acta Analytica:1-22.
    In The Norm of Belief, John Gibbons claims that there is a “natural reaction” to the general idea that one can be normatively required to Ø when that requirement is in some sense outside of one’s first person perspective or inaccessible to one. The reaction amounts to the claim that this isn’t possible. Whether this is a natural or intuitive idea or not, it is difficult to articulate exactly why we might think it is correct. To do so, we need (...)
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  11. E. J. Coffman, Knowledge First?
    The Orthodox View (OV) of the relation between epistemic justification and knowledge has it that justification is conceptually prior to knowledge—and so, can be used to provide a noncircular account of knowledge. OV has come under threat from the increasingly popular “Knowledge First” movement (KFM) in epistemology. I assess several anti-OV arguments due to three of KFM’s most prominent members: Timothy Williamson, Jonathan Sutton, and Alexander Bird. I argue that OV emerges from these attacks unscathed.
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  12. J. Comesana (2009). Without Justification, by Jonathan Sutton. [REVIEW] Mind 118 (471):878-882.
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  13. Cesare Cozzo (2011). Is Knowledge the Most General Factive Stative Attitude? In Carlo Cellucci, Emiliano Ippoliti & Emily Grosholz (eds.), Logic and Knowledge. Cambridge Scholars Publishing 84-88.
    Gilbert Harman has written: “Williamson‟s Knowledge and its Limits is the most important philosophical discussion of knowledge in many years. It sets the agenda for epistemology for the next decade and beyond” (Harman 2002, p. 417). Timothy Williamson‟s ground-breaking proposal is that knowing is “merely a state of mind”. In other words, for every proposition p “there is a state of mind being in which is necessary and sufficient for knowing p” (Williamson 2000, p. 21). When first advanced, Williamson‟s view (...)
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  14. John M. DePoe (2008). Williamson on the Evidence for Skepticism. Southwest Philosophical Studies 30:23-32.
    Timothy Williamson has offered a novel approach to refuting external world skepticism in his influential book, Knowledge and Its Limits. The strategy employed by Williamson is to show that skeptics falsely attribute too much self-knowledge to the epistemic agent when they claim that one’s evidence is the same when in a “good case” as it would be in a similar “bad case.” Williamson argues that one’s evidence is not the same in a good case as it would be in a (...)
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  15. Keith DeRose, Review of T. Williamson, Knowledge and its Limits.
    Though he’s perhaps best known for his work on vagueness, Timothy Williamson also produced a series of outstanding papers in epistemology in the late 1980's and the 1990's. Knowledge and its Limits brings this work together. The result is, in my opinion, the best book in epistemology to come out since 1975.
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  16. Keith DeRose (2002). Knowledge and its Limits. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (4):573-577.
  17. Mladen Domazet (2003). Knowledge and its Limits. Croatian Journal of Philosophy 3 (1):93-98.
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  18. Trent Dougherty & Patrick Rysiew (2013). What Is Knowledge-First Epistemology? In Matthias Steup & John Turri (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Epistemology. Blackwell 10.
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  19. Mikkel Gerken (forthcoming). Against Knowledge-First Epistemology. In Gordon and Jarvis Carter (ed.), Knowledge-First Approaches in Epistemology and Mind. Oxford University Press
    I begin by criticizing reductionist knowledge-first epistemology according to which knowledge can be used to reductively analyze other epistemic phenomena. My central concern is that proponents of such an approach commit a similar mistake to the one that they charge their opponents with. This is the mistake of seeking to reductively analyze basic epistemic phenomena in terms of other allegedly more fundamental phenomena. I then turn to non-reductionist brands of knowledge-first epistemology. Specifically, I consider the knowledge norms of assertion and (...)
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  20. Mikkel Gerken (2015). The Roles of Knowledge Ascriptions in Epistemic Assessment. European Journal of Philosophy 23 (1):141-161.
    Knowledge norms of action are sometimes said to be motivated by the fact that they align with natural assessments of action in ordinary language. Competent and rational speakers normally use ‘knowledge’ and its cognates when they assess action. In contrast, competing accounts in terms of evidence, warrant or reliability do not straightforwardly align with ordinary language assessments of action. In response to this line of reasoning, I argue that a warrant account of action may explain the prominence of ‘knowledge’ in (...)
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  21. Alvin Goldman (2009). Williamson on Knowledge and Evidence. In Patrick Greenough, Duncan Pritchard & Timothy Williamson (eds.), Williamson on Knowledge. Oxford University Press 73-91.
    Timothy Williamson’s project in Knowledge and Its Limits (Williamson, 2000)1 includes proposals for substantial revisions in the received approach to epistemology. One received view is that knowledge is conceptualized in terms of a conjunction of factors that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient for knowing. A central aim of epistemology is to state such necessary and sufficient conditions. Against this received view, Williamson argues that a necessary but insufficient condition need not be a conjunct of a non-circular necessary and sufficient (...)
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  22. W. D. Hart (2009). The Metaphysics of Knowledge • by Keith Hossack. Analysis 69 (1):178-181.
    Keith Hossack's thesis is that knowledge is a conceptually primitive and metaphysically fundamental relation between a mind and a fact. He argues that in terms of the simple relation of knowledge we can analyze central notions of epistemology , of semantics , of modality and a priori knowledge , of psychology , and of linguistics . He does so in a framework that includes a fairly rich faculty psychology and that stresses causation: knowledge can be caused by belief, but because (...)
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  23. John Hawthorne (2005). Knowledge and Evidence. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2):452–458.
    Most of us, tacitly or explicitly, embrace a more or less Cartesian conception of our epistemic condition. According to such a conception, "what we have to go on" in learning about the world is, on the one hand, that which is a priori accessible to us, and, on the other, the inner experiences - visual imagery, tactile sensations, recollective episodes and so on - that pop into our Carte- sian theaters. One of the central themes of Knowledge and its Limits (...)
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  24. John Hawthorne (2003). Knowledge and Lotteries. Oxford University Press.
    Knowledge and Lotteries is organized around an epistemological puzzle: in many cases, we seem consistently inclined to deny that we know a certain class of propositions, while crediting ourselves with knowledge of propositions that imply them. In its starkest form, the puzzle is this: we do not think we know that a given lottery ticket will be a loser, yet we normally count ourselves as knowing all sorts of ordinary things that entail that its holder will not suddenly acquire a (...)
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  25. Stephen Hetherington (2008). Review of Keith Hossack, The Metaphysics of Knowledge. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2008 (5).
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  26. Heine A. Holmen (2014). Kunnskapens Metafysikk. Norsk Filosofisk Tidsskrift 3 (4).
  27. Heine A. Holmen (2007). The Primacy of Knowledge: A Critical Survey of Timothy Williamson's Views on Knowledge, Assertion and Scepticism. Dissertation, University of Oslo
  28. Keith Hossack (2007). The Metaphysics of Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    The Metaphysics of Knowledge presents the thesis that knowledge is an absolutely fundamental relation, with an indispensable role to play in metaphysics, philosophical logic, and philosophy of mind and language. Knowledge has been generally assumed to be a propositional attitude like belief. But Keith Hossack argues that knowledge is not a relation to a content; rather, it a relation to a fact. This point of view allows us to explain many of the concepts of philosophical logic in terms of knowledge. (...)
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  29. Nick Hughes (2014). Consistency and Evidence. Philosophical Studies 169 (2):333-338.
    Williamson (2000) appeals to considerations about when it is natural to say that a hypothesis is consistent with one’s evidence in order to motivate the claim that all and only knowledge is evidence. It is argued here that the relevant considerations do not support this claim, and in fact conflict with it.
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  30. Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa (2014). Justification is Potential Knowledge. Canadian Journal of Philosophy 44 (2):184-206.
    This paper will articulate and defend a novel theory of epistemic justification; I characterize my view as the thesis that justification is potential knowledge . My project is an instance of the ‘knowledge-first’ programme, championed especially by Timothy Williamson. So I begin with a brief recapitulation of that programme.
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  31. Alexander Jackson (2012). Two Ways to Put Knowledge First. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (2):353 - 369.
    This paper distinguishes two ways to ?put knowledge first?. One way affirms a knowledge norm. For example, Williamson [2000] argues that one must only assert that which one knows. Hawthorne and Stanley [2008] argue that one must only treat as a reason for action that which one knows. Another way to put knowledge first affirms a determination thesis. For example, Williamson [2000] argues that what one knows determines what one is justified in believing. Hawthorne and Stanley [2008] argue that what (...)
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  32. Mark Kaplan (2003). Who Cares What You Know? [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 53 (210):105–116.
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  33. C. Kelp (2016). Epistemic Frankfurt Cases Revisited. American Philosophical Quarterly 53:27-37.
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  34. C. Kelp (2014). Two for the Knowledge Goal of Inquiry. American Philosophical Quarterly 51:227-32.
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  35. C. Kelp & H. Ghijsen (2016). Perceptual Justification: Factive Reasons and Fallible Virtues. In C. Mi, M. Slote & E. Sosa (eds.), Moral and Intellectual Virtues in Western and Chinese Philosophy. Routledge
    Two different versions of epistemological disjunctivism have recently been upheld in the literature: a traditional, Justified True Belief Epistemological Disjunctivism (JTBED) and a Knowledge First Epistemological Disjunctivism (KFED). JTBED holds that factive reasons of the form “S sees that p” provide the rational support in virtue of which one has perceptual knowledge, while KFED holds that factive reasons of the form “S sees that p” just are ways of knowing that p which additionally provide justification for believing that p. We (...)
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  36. Christoph Kelp (2016). Justified Belief: Knowledge First‐Style. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (3):n/a-n/a.
    Recent knowledge first epistemology features a number of different accounts of justified belief, including a knowledge first reductionism according to which to believe justifiably is to know Sutton (), Littlejohn, Williamson, a knowledge first version of accessibilism Millar () and a knowledge first version of mentalism Bird (). This paper offers a knowledge first version of virtue epistemology and argues that it is preferable to its knowledge first epistemological rivals: only knowledge first virtue epistemology manages to steer clear of a (...)
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  37. Christoph Kelp (2016). Justified Belief: Knowledge First‐Style. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (1):79-100.
    Recent knowledge first epistemology features a number of different accounts of justified belief, including a knowledge first reductionism according to which to believe justifiably is to know Sutton (), Littlejohn, Williamson, a knowledge first version of accessibilism Millar () and a knowledge first version of mentalism Bird (). This paper offers a knowledge first version of virtue epistemology and argues that it is preferable to its knowledge first epistemological rivals: only knowledge first virtue epistemology manages to steer clear of a (...)
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  38. Tim Kraft (2011). Warum Wissen nicht der allgemeinste faktive mentale Zustand ist. Grazer Philosophische Studien 83:33-65.
    In Knowledge and its Limits (2000) Williamson defends not only the negative claim that knowledge cannot be analysed, but also the positive claim that knowledge is the most general factive mental state. In this paper two objections to the positive claim are presented: First, knowledge is not more general than e. g. seeing. After discussing several alleged examples of seeing without knowing a new example is offered. Although both seeing and knowing are incompatible with luck, they are incompatible with different (...)
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  39. Adam Leite (2005). On Williamson's Arguments That Knowledge is a Mental State. Ratio 18 (2):165–175.
    Is knowledge a mental state? For philosophers working within the idealistic tradition, the answer is trivial: there is nothing else for knowledge to be. For most others, however, the claim has seemed prima facie implausible. Knowing that p requires or involves the fact that p, or p’s truth, and that – with certain specifiable exceptions – is quite independent of my mind; so while knowledge may require or involve certain mental states, it itself is not a state of mind.
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  40. P. D. Magnus & Jonathan Cohen (2003). Williamson on Knowledge and Psychological Explanation. Philosophical Studies 116 (1):37-52.
    According to many philosophers, psychological explanation canlegitimately be given in terms of belief and desire, but not in termsof knowledge. To explain why someone does what they do (so the common wisdom holds) you can appeal to what they think or what they want, but not what they know. Timothy Williamson has recently argued against this view. Knowledge, Williamson insists, plays an essential role in ordinary psychological explanation.Williamson's argument works on two fronts.First, he argues against the claim that, unlike knowledge, (...)
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  41. Alan Malachowski (2003). Knowledge and Its Limits. International Philosophical Quarterly 43 (1):131-132.
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  42. Mathieu Marion (2010). John Cook Wilson. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    John Cook Wilson (1849–1915) was Wykeham Professor of Logic at New College, Oxford and the founder of ‘Oxford Realism’, a philosophical movement that flourished at Oxford during the first decades of the 20th century. Although trained as a classicist and a mathematician, his most important contribution was to the theory of knowledge, where he argued that knowledge is factive and not definable in terms of belief, and he criticized ‘hybrid’ and ‘externalist’ accounts. He also argued for direct realism in perception, (...)
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  43. Aidan McGlynn (2014). Knowledge FIrst? Palgrave Macmillian.
    According to a tradition reaching back to Plato, questions about the nature of knowledge are to be answered by offering an analysis in terms of truth, belief, justification, and other factors presumed to be in some sense more basic than knowledge itself. In light of the apparent failure of this approach, knowledge first philosophy instead takes knowledge as the starting point in epistemology and related areas of the philosophies of language and mind. Knowledge cannot be analyzed in the traditional sense, (...)
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  44. Aidan McGlynn (2013). Believing Things Unknown. Noûs 47 (2):385-407.
  45. Aidan McGlynn (2012). Interpretation and Knowledge Maximization. Philosophical Studies 160 (3):391-405.
    Timothy Williamson has proposed that we should give a ‘knowledge first’ twist to David Lewis’s account of content, maintaining that for P to be the content of one’s belief is for P to be the content that would be attributed by an idealized interpreter working under certain constraints, and that the fundamental constraint on interpretation is a principle of knowledge maximization. According to this principle, an interpretation is correct to the extent that it maximizes the number of knowledgeable judgments the (...)
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  46. Aidan McGlynn (2012). Justification as 'Would-Be' Knowledge. Episteme 9 (4):361-376.
    In light of the failure of attempts to analyse knowledge as a species of justified belief, a number of epistemologists have suggested that we should instead understand justification in terms of knowledge. This paper focuses on accounts of justification as a kind of knowledge. According to such accounts a belief is justified just in case any failure to know is due to uncooperative external circumstances. I argue against two recent accounts of this sort due to Alexander Bird and Martin Smith. (...)
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  47. Anne Meylan (forthcoming). In Support of the Knowledge-First Conception of the Normativity of Justification. In Carter A. Gordon E. & B. Jarvis (eds.), Knowledge First Approaches to Epistemology and Mind. Oxford University Press
    The knowledge-first solution to the New Evil Demon Problem (NEDP) goes hand in hand with a particular conception of the normativity of justification, one according to which a justified belief is one that satisfies some sort of ought or should (Williamson forthcoming). This claim is incompatible with another, well accepted, view that regards the normativity of justification. According to this established view, a justified belief is rather something that is neither obligatory, nor forbidden (see e.g. Alston 1989, 1993, 2006; Ginet (...)
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  48. Luca Moretti (2012). Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard (Eds.), Williamson on Knowledge, Oxford: OUP (2009). [REVIEW] Mind 121 (484):1069-1073.
  49. Adam Morton, Accomplishment.
    The concepts of knowledge and of accomplishment have many similarities. In fact they are duals, in a sense that I explain. Similar issues arise about both of them, deriving from the functions they serve in everyday evaluation of inquiry and action.
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  50. Jennifer Nagel (forthcoming). Knowledge and Reliability. In Hilary Kornblith & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Alvin Goldman and his Critics. Blackwell
    Internalists have criticised reliabilism for overlooking the importance of the subject's point of view in the generation of knowledge. This paper argues that there is a troubling ambiguity in the intuitive examples that internalists have used to make their case, and on either way of resolving this ambiguity, reliabilism is untouched. However, the argument used to defend reliabilism against the internalist cases could also be used to defend a more radical form of externalism in epistemology.
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