Knowledge claims and context: Loose use [Book Review]

Philosophical Studies 132 (3):395 - 438 (2007)
There is abundant evidence of contextual variation in the use of “S knows p.” Contextualist theories explain this variation in terms of semantic hypotheses that refer to standards of justification determined by “practical” features of either the subject’s context (Hawthorne & Stanley) or the ascriber’s context (Lewis, Cohen, & DeRose). There is extensive linguistic counterevidence to both forms. I maintain that the contextual variation of knowledge claims is better explained by common pragmatic factors. I show here that one is variable strictness. “S knows p” is commonly used loosely to implicate “S is close enough to knowing p for contextually indicated purposes.” A pragmatic account may use a range of semantics, even contextualist. I use an invariant semantics on which knowledge requires complete justification. This combination meets the Moorean constraint as well as any linguistic theory should, and meets the intuition constraint much better than contextualism. There is no need for ad hoc error theories. The variation in conditions of assertability and practical rationality is better explained by variably strict constraints. It will follow that “S knows p” is used loosely to implicate that the condition for asserting “p” and using it in practical reasoning are satisfied.
Keywords Contextualism  Knowledge  Pragmatics  Semantics  Indexicals  Skepticism  Justification  Loose use  Assertion  Practical reasoning
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Jessica Brown (2008). Knowledge and Practical Reason. Philosophy Compass 3 (6):1135-1152.

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