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
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DOI 10.2307/40232120
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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.
By Michael Veber (2004). What Do You Do with Misleading Evidence? Philosophical Quarterly 54 (217):557–569.

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