Truth-tracking and the Problem of Reflective Knowledge

Abstract
In “Reliabilism Leveled” Jonathan Vogel (2000) provides a strong case against epistemic theories that stress the importance of tracking/sensitivity conditions. A tracking/sensitivity condition is to be understood as some version of the following counterfactual: (T) ~p oÆ ~Bp (T) says that s would not believe p, if p were false. Among other things, tracking is supposed to express the external relation that explains why some justified true beliefs are not knowledge. Champions of the condition include Robert Nozick (1981) and, more recently, Keith DeRose (1995). To my knowledge, the earliest formulation of the counterfactual condition is found in Fred Dretske’s conclusive reasons condition (1971), which says, s would not have had the reason that she does for believing p, if p were false. Vogel contends that any such counterfactual condition on knowledge will render the theory of knowledge too strong. He believes that there is at least some possible reflective knowledge that cannot satisfy the counterfactual--viz., the possible knowledge that one does not believe falsely that p. The alleged impossibility of such reflective knowledge is taken by Vogel to be a decisive objection to the tracking theories advocated by Dretske, Nozick, DeRose1 and others. The criticism finds its roots in Vogel’s earlier work (1987), and recurs in papers by Ernest Sosa (2002, 1996). Sosa suggests that the externalist idea behind tracking is on target, but that Nozick’s counterfactual is a misbegotten regimentation of the idea. In its place Sosa offers his own counterfactual “safety” condition, which he feels properly captures the externalist idea. Sosa’s counterfactual is not the topic of this paper. I mention it only to point out that the criticism that constitutes the subject of my investigation is meant to do a lot of work. In Sosa’s 1 case the criticism is meant to motivate his own counterfactual analysis, and in Vogel’s case the criticism promises to be a silver bullet against a theory that has recently found renewed life in the work of Keith DeRose..
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