A skeptic's reply to Lewisian contextualism

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (3):309-332 (2001)
In his justifiedly famous paper, “Elusive Knowledge” (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 74:4, 1996), David Lewis presents a contextualist account of knowledge, which, like other contextualist accounts, depicts sceptical claims as involving application of a higher standard of knowledge than is applied in everyday ascriptions of knowledge. On Lewis’ account, the sceptic’s denials and the everyday ascriptions are made in different contexts, which allows them both to be true. His account gives detailed specification of how contexts are to be determined. My paper points out that this view is unattractive to the sceptic, since it makes scepticism, even if true, completely disconnected from and irrelevant to the rest of our cognitive discourse. After arguing that the sceptic’s own ascriptions of knowledge (made outside the philosophy seminar room) can be explained in non-contextualist ways, I expound and criticise Lewis’ analysis of knowledge, taking up in particular a central component of his account, the “Rule of Attention”. In the central part of the paper I argue that the reasons given for the inclusion of the rule are all inadequate, and also that there are positive reasons for rejecting it. The final section of the paper argues that the excision of the Rule of Attention removed would leave Lewis’ account subject to serious counter- examples.
Keywords David Lewis  Elusive Knowledge  Skepticism  Contextualism  Rule of Attention
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1080/00455091.2001.10717570
 Save to my reading list
Follow the author(s)
My bibliography
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Revision history Request removal from index
Download options
PhilPapers Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy on self-archival     Papers currently archived: 23,280
External links
Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library
References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Jonathan Ichikawa (2011). Quantifiers, Knowledge, and Counterfactuals. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (2):287 - 313.
Igor Douven (2005). Lewis on Fallible Knowledge. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4):573 – 580.

View all 9 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Monthly downloads

Added to index


Total downloads

39 ( #121,806 of 1,932,541 )

Recent downloads (6 months)

10 ( #94,309 of 1,932,541 )

How can I increase my downloads?

My notes
Sign in to use this feature

Start a new thread
There  are no threads in this forum
Nothing in this forum yet.