Probability and scepticism

Abstract
If we add as an extra premise that the agent does know H, then it is possible for her to know E — H, we get the conclusion that the agent does not really know H. But even without that closure premise, or something like it, the conclusion seems quite dramatic. One possible response to the argument, floated by both Descartes and Hume, is to accept the conclusion and embrace scepticism. We cannot know anything that goes beyond our evidence, so we do not know very much at all. This is a remarkably sceptical conclusion, so we should resist it if at all possible. A more modern response, associated with externalists like John McDowell and Timothy Williamson, is to accept the conclusion but deny it is as sceptical as it first appears. The Humean argument, even if it works, only shows that our evidence and our knowledge are more closely linked than we might have thought. Perhaps that’s true because we have a lot of evidence, not because we have very little knowledge. There’s something right about this response I think. We have more evidence than Descartes or Hume thought we had. But I think we still need the idea of ampliative knowledge. It stretches the concept of evidence to breaking point to suggest that all of our knowledge, including knowledge about the future, is part of our evidence. So the conclusion really is unacceptable. Or, at least, I think we should try to see what an epistemology that rejects the conclusion looks like.
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