Contextualism on a pragmatic, not a skeptical, footing

Acta Analytica 20 (2):26-37 (2005)
Contextualism is supposed to explain why the following argument for skepticism seems plausible: (1) I don’t know that I am not a bodiless brain-in-a-vat (BIV); (2) If I know I have hands, then I know I am not a bodiless BIV; (3) Therefore, I do not know I have hands. Keith DeRose claims that (1) and (2) are “initially plausible.” I claim that (1) is initially plausible only because of an implicit argument that stands behind it; it is not intuitively plausible. The argument DeRose offers is based on the requirement of sensitivity, that is, on the idea that if you know something then you would not believe it if it were false. I criticize the sensitivity requirement thereby undercutting its support for (1) and the skeptical data that contextualism is meant to explain. While skepticism is not a plausible ground for contextualism, I argue that certain pragmatic considerations are. It’s plausible to think that to know something more evidence is required when more is at stake. The best way to handle skepticism is to criticize the arguments for it. We should not adopt contextualism as a means of accommodating skepticism even if there are other pragmatic reasons for being a contextualist about knowledge.
Keywords contextualism  intuitive  DeRose  pragmatic  safety  sensitivity  skepticism
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Ron Wilburn (2010). Possible Worlds of Doubt. Acta Analytica 25 (2):259-277.
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