This paper argues that a priori justification is, in principle, compatible with naturalism—if the a priori is understood in a way that is free of the inessential properties that, historically, have been associated with the concept. I argue that empirical indefeasibility is essential to the primary notion of the a priori; however, the indefeasibility requirement should be interpreted in such a way that we can be fallibilist about apriori-justified claims. This fallibilist notion of the a priori accords with the naturalist’s (...) commitment to scientific methodology in that it allows for apriori-justified claims to be sensitive to further conceptual developments and the expansion of evidence. The fallibilist apriorist allows that an a priori claim is revisable in only a purely epistemic sense. This modal claim is weaker than what is required for a revisability thesis to establish empiricism, so fallibilist apriorism represents a distinct position. (shrink)
In this paper I argue for a doctrine I call ?infallibilism?, which I stipulate to mean that If S knows that p, then the epistemic probability of p for S is 1. Some fallibilists will claim that this doctrine should be rejected because it leads to scepticism. Though it's not obvious that infallibilism does lead to scepticism, I argue that we should be willing to accept it even if it does. Infallibilism should be preferred because it has greater explanatory power (...) than fallibilism. In particular, I argue that an infallibilist can easily explain why assertions of ?p, but possibly not-p? (where the ?possibly? is read as referring to epistemic possibility) is infelicitous in terms of the knowledge rule of assertion. But a fallibilist cannot. Furthermore, an infallibilist can explain the infelicity of utterances of ?p, but I don't know that p? and ?p might be true, but I'm not willing to say that for all I know, p is true?, and why when a speaker thinks p is epistemically possible for her, she will agree (if asked) that for all she knows, p is true. The simplest explanation of these facts entails infallibilism. Fallibilists have tried and failed to explain the infelicity of ?p, but I don't know that p?, but have not even attempted to explain the last two facts. I close by considering two facts that seem to pose a problem for infallibilism, and argue that they don't. (shrink)
Fallibilism is ubiquitous in contemporary epistemology. I argue that a paradox about knowledge, generated by considerations of truth, shows that fallibilism can only deliver knowledge in lucky circumstances. Specifically, since it is possible that we are brains-in-vats (BIVs), it is possible that all our beliefs are wrong. Thus, the fallibilist can know neither whether or not we have much knowledge about the world nor whether or not we know any specific proposition, and so the warrant of our knowledge-claims (...) is much reduced and second-order skepticism is generated. Since this is the case in both skeptical and everyday contexts, contextualism cannot resolve the paradox. (shrink)
Lewis thought concessive knowledge attributions (e.g., ‘I know that Harry is a zebra, but it might be that he’s just a cleverly disguised mule’) caused serious trouble for fallibilists. As he saw it, CKAs are overt statements of the fallibilist view and they are contradictory. Dougherty and Rysiew have argued that CKAs are pragmatically defective rather than semantically defective. Stanley thinks that their pragmatic response to Lewis fails, but the fallibilist cause is not lost because Lewis was wrong about the (...) commitments of fallibilism. There are problems with Dougherty and Rysiew’s response to Stanley and there are problems with Stanley’s response to Lewis. I’ll offer a defense of fallibilism of my own and show that fallibilists needn’t worry about CKAs. (shrink)
Taking his conceptual cue from Ernest Sosa, John Turri has offered a putative conceptual solution to the Gettier problem: Knowledge is cognitively adept belief, and no Gettiered belief is cognitively adept. At the core of such adeptness is a relation of manifestation. Yet to require that relation within knowing is to reach for what amounts to an infallibilist conception of knowledge. And this clashes with the spirit behind the fallibilism articulated by Gettier when stating his challenge. So, Turri’s form (...) of response is irrelevant to that challenge, which was intended to pose a conceptual problem within fallibilist conceptions of knowledge. (And that failure on Turri’s part needs to be highlighted to remind epistemologists of the need to assess Gettier cases by a fallibilist standard. Although that need was described earlier by Robert Almeder, apparently his advice is being overlooked. This paper develops it anew, in a more general form.). (shrink)
Erratum to: Naturalism, fallibilism, and the a priori Content Type Journal Article Category Erratum Pages 1-1 DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9889-4 Authors Lisa Warenski, Philosophy, Union College, Humanities 216B, 807 Union Street, Schenectady, NY 12308, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This paper defends the epistemological doctrine of fallibilism from recent objections. In “The Myth of Knowledge” Laurence BonJour argues that we should reject fallibilism for two main reasons: first, there is no adequate way to specify what level of justification is required for fallible knowledge; second, we cannot explain why any level of justification that is less than fully conclusive should have the significance that makes knowledge valuable. I will reply to these challenges in a way that allows (...) me to make progress on a number of important issues in contemporary epistemology: epistemic value, the functional roles of knowledge attributions, experimental epistemology, skepticism, the Gettier problem, and the lottery paradox. My argument is motivated by appealing to various insights derived from the method of ‘practical explication’, particularly the idea that a central purpose of the concept of knowledge is to flag reliable informants. My conclusion is that various practical and theoretical considerations derived from the method of practical explication support the fallibilist conception of knowledge. (shrink)
Fallibilism is the epistemological thesis that no belief (theory, view, thesis, and so on) can ever be rationally supported or justified in a conclusive way. Always, there remains a possible doubt as to the truth of the belief. Fallibilism applies that assessment even to science’s best-entrenched claims and to people’s best-loved commonsense views. Some epistemologists have taken fallibilism to imply skepticism, according to which none of those claims or views are ever well justified or knowledge. In fact, (...) though, it is fallibilist epistemologists (which is to say, the majority of epistemologists) who tend not to be skeptics about the existence of knowledge or justified belief. Generally, those epistemologists see themselves as thinking about knowledge and justification in a comparatively realistic way — by recognizing the fallibilist realities of human cognitive capacities, even while accommodating those fallibilities within a theory that allows perpetually fallible people to have knowledge and justified beliefs. Still, although that is the aim of most epistemologists, the question arises of whether it is a coherent aim. Are they pursuing a coherent way of thinking about knowledge and justification? Much current philosophical debate is centered upon that question. Epistemologists generally seek to understand knowledge and justification in a way that permits fallibilism to be describing a benign truth about how we can gain knowledge and justified beliefs. One way of encapsulating that project is by asking whether it is possible for a person ever to have fallible knowledge and justification. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that epistemic modals admit of inter-subjective flexibility. This paper introduces intra-subjective flexibility for epistemic modals and draws on this flexibility to argue that fallibilism is consistent with the standard account of epistemic modals.
In the late 19th century great changes in theories of light and electricity were in direct conflict with certitude, the view that scientific knowledge is infallible. What is, then, the epistemic status of scientific theory? To resolve this issue Duhem and Poincaré proposed images of fallible knowledge, Instrumentalism and Conventionalism, respectively. Only in 1919–1922, after Einstein's relativity was published, he offered arguments to support Fallibilism, the view that certainty cannot be achieved in science. Though Einstein did not consider Duhem's (...) Instrumentalism, he argued against Poincaré's Conventionalism. Hitherto, Einstein's Fallibilism, as presented at first in a rarely known essay of 1919, was left in the dark. Recently, Howard obscured its meaning. Einstein's essay was never translated into English. In my paper I provide its translation and attempt to shed light on Einstein's view and its context; I also direct attention to Einstein's images of philosophical opportunism in scientific practice. (shrink)
Much discussion of meaning by philosophers over the last 300 years has been predicated on a Cartesian first-person authority (i.e. “infallibilism”) with respect to what one’s terms mean. However this has problems making sense of the way the meanings of scientific terms develop, an increase in scientific knowledge over and above scientists’ ability to quantify over new entities. Although a recent conspicuous embrace of rigid designation has broken up traditional meaning-infallibilism to some extent, this new dimension to the meaning of (...) terms such as “water” is yet to receive a principled epistemological undergirding (beyond the deliverances of “intuition” with respect to certain somewhat unusual possible worlds). Charles Peirce’s distinctive, naturalistic philosophy of language is mined to provide a more thoroughly fallibilist, and thus more realist, approach to meaning, with the requisite epistemology. Both his pragmatism and his triadic account of representation, it is argued, produce an original approach to meaning, analysing it in processual rather than objectual terms, and opening a distinction between “meaning for us”, the meaning a term has at any given time for any given community and “meaning simpliciter”. the way use of a given term develops over time (often due to a posteriori input from the world which is unable to be anticipated in advance). This account provocatively undermines a certain distinction between “semantics” and “ontology” which is often taken for granted in discussions of realism. (shrink)
Fallibilism is an attractive epistemological position, avoiding the Scylla of rationalism, and the Charybdis of scepticism. Acknowledging, on the one hand, human imperfection, yet claiming that science and rational inquiry are possible. Fallibilism is a thesis, but equally importantly – an epistemological recommendation. that we should never be absolutely sure of anything. My aim in this paper is to drive a wedge between the thesis and the recommendation. The (eminently plausible) doctrine, I shall argue, cannot be used to (...) ground the epistemological prescription for caution. (shrink)
The relation of scepticism to infallibilism and fallibilism is a contested issue. In this paper I argue that Cartesian sceptical arguments, i.e. sceptical arguments resting on sceptical scenarios, are neither tied to infallibilism nor collapse into fallibilism. I interpret the distinction between scepticism and fallibilism as a scope distinction. According to fallibilism, each belief could be false, but according to scepticism all beliefs could be false at the same time. However, to put this distinction to work (...) sceptical scenarios have to be understood as ignorance-possibilities, not as error-possibilities. To show that scepticism is not tied to infallibilism I reject the principle of unrestricted relevance according to which any error- or ignorance-possibility whatsoever is relevant. Instead I argue that the sceptic should distinguish between local and global ignorance-possibilities. Global ignorance-possibilities are relevant even though not all ignorance-possibilities are relevant. The result is a refined version of the Cartesian sceptical argument that avoids two traps other versions do not avoid. (shrink)
This paper explores the question of how the epistemological thesis of fallibilism should best be formulated. Sections 1 to 3 critically discuss some influential formulations of fallibilism. In section 4 I suggest a formulation of fallibilism in terms of the unavailability of epistemically truth-guaranteeing justification. In section 5 I discuss the claim that unrestricted fallibilism engenders paradox and argue that this claim is unwarranted.
This paper revisits a puzzle that arises for theories of knowledge according to which one can know on the basis of merely inductive grounds. No matter how strong such theories require inductive grounds to be if a belief based on them is to qualify as knowledge, there are certain beliefs (namely, about the outcome of fair lotteries) that are based on even stronger inductive grounds, while, intuitively, they do not qualify as knowledge. This paper discusses what is often regarded as (...) the most promising classical invariantist solution to the puzzle, namely, that beliefs about the outcomes of fair lotteries do not qualify as knowledge because they are too lucky to do so (or, relatedly, because they do not satisfy a safety condition on knowledge), while other beliefs based on potentially weaker inductive grounds are not too lucky (or, relatedly, because they are safe). A case is presented that shows that this solution to the puzzle is actually not viable. It is argued that there is no obvious alternative solution in sight and that therefore the puzzle still awaits a classical invariantist solution. (shrink)
Part of an early version of this paper was read at the University of Warwick in October 1977, and a later version was read at the Newcastle Royal Institute of Philosophy in November 1977 and at Aberystwyth and Oxford in early 1978. Thanks are due to the many colleagues and friends who made helpful comments on early drafts; special thanks to Hugh Mellor, Rita Nolan and Paul Weiss for detailed written criticisms, and to Don Locke, for very helpful discussions.
Russeilian or singular propositions are very useful in sernantics to specify "what has been said" by a literal and serious utterance of a sentence containing a proper name, an indexical or a dernonstrative, or for modeling demonstrative thoughts. Based on an example given by S. Guttenplan, I construct a case showing that if our only option for modeling dernonstrative thoughts is a singular proposition à la Russell, we run the risk of admitting infallible empirical (existential) beliefs. I defend the principle (...) of the fallibility of our (first order) representations by appealing to Perry's notionof a relational mode of presentation that allows us to generalize the proposition which is the content of the perceptual belief in cases of hallucination or misidentification, so that there is no "immunity to error through misidentification" in the province of demonstrative thought. (shrink)
If knowing requires believing on the basis of evidence that entails what’s believed, we have hardly any knowledge at all. Hence the near-universal acceptance of fallibilism in epistemology: if it's true that "we are all fallibilists now" (Siegel 1997: 164), that's because denying that one can know on the basis of non-entailing evidence1is, it seems, not an option if we're to preserve the very strong appearance that we do know many things (Cohen 1988: 91). Hence the significance of concessive (...) knowledge attributions (CKAs) (Rysiew 2001)—i.e., sentences of the form 'S knows that p, but it's possible that q' (where q entails not-p). To many, utterances of such sentences sound very odd indeed. According to David Lewis (1996: 550), however, such sentences are merely "overt, explicit" statements of fallibilism; if so, their seeming incoherence suggests that, contrary to our everyday epistemic pretensions, "knowledge must be by definition infallible" after all (ibid.: 549). -/- Recently Jason Stanley (2005) has defended fallibilism against the Lewisian worry that overtly fallibilistic speech is incoherent. According yo Stanley, CKAs are not just odd-sounding: in most cases, they are simply false. But this doesn't impugn fallibilism. Insofar as the odd-sounding utterances Lewis cites state the fallibilist idea, the latter portion thereof ('S cannot eliminate a certain possibility in which not-p', e.g.) expresses the idea that the subject's evidence doesn't entail what's (allegedly) known (hence, the negation of any contrary propositions). According to Stanley, however, this is not the best reading of the possibility clauses CKAs contain. On the correct account of the latter, while the sentences Lewis cites are almost always self-contradictory, they don't capture the fallibilist idea after all. Here, we argue that the sentences in question do express precisely the fallibilist idea, but argue that Lewis has nonetheless failed to raise a problem for the latter. In addition, we respond to worries that the resulting view of the semantics of epistemic possibility statements has certain unacceptable consequences. (shrink)
Lewis concludes that fallibilism is uncomfortable, though preferable to scepticism. However, he believes that contextualism about knowledge allows us to ‘dodge the choice’ between fallibilism and scepticism. For the contextualist semantics for ‘know’ can explain the oddity of fallibilism, without landing us into scepticism.
Fallibilists about looks deny that the relation of looking the same as is non-transitive. Regarding familiar examples of coloured patches suggesting that such a relation is non-transitive, they argue that, in fact, indiscriminable adjacent patches may well look different, despite their perceptual indiscriminability: it’s just that we cannot notice the relevant differences in the chromatic appearances of such patches. In this paper, I present an argument that fallibilism about looks requires commitment to an empirically false consequence. To succeed in (...) deflecting putative cases of non-transitivity, fallibilists would have to claim that there can’t be any perceptual limitations of any kind on human chromatic discrimination. But there are good reasons to think such limitations exist. (shrink)
: Peirce's fallibilism is shown to be the "linchpin" of his mature philosophy. In passing, objections regarding a seemingly serious paradox, a textual discrepancy, and the plausibility of an alternative approach to Peirce are answered. Peirce's fallibilism is indeed a puzzling thesis, particularly in that it appears to violate familiar finitist, practical, "here and now" (pragmatist) constraints. But that's precisely where Peirce's ingenuity takes its most interesting form. The solution provided shows the paradox and aporias of Peirce's account (...) to be no more than apparent, the textual infelicity of what would otherwise be a contradiction to be part of Peirce's rhetorical strategy (in combating the effects of James' misreading of his theory of truth), the doctrine of the continuum to be already entailed by Peirce's fallibilism, and the ultimate reconciliation between the infinite limit of inquiry and its finite phases to be essential to Peirce's theory of science cast in terms of what may be described as a Hegelianized reading of Kantian Hope—in effect, a reading of abduction as an original pragmatist version of what may be saved in the sparest way within the post-Kantian tradition. (shrink)
In the broadest sense of the term, fallibilism is an anti-dogmatic intellectual stance or attitude: an openness to the possibility that one has made an error and an accompanying willingness to give a fair hearing to arguments that one’s belief is incorrect (no matter what that belief happens to be about). So understood, fallibilism’s central insight is that it is possible to remain open to new evidence and arguments while also reasonably treating an issue as settled for the (...) purposes of current inquiry and action. Fallibilism, so construed, was given its most influential formulation – and its name – by C. S. Peirce, though it was advocated by earlier philosophers as well, particularly the later ancient skeptic Philo of Larissa and perhaps also Hume. Contemporary epistemologists almost universally agree in endorsing this intellectual stance; it is part of the undisputed framework within which contemporary epistemological theorizing takes place. (shrink)
According to a doctrine that I call “Cartesianism”, knowledge – at least the sort of knowledge that inquirers possess – requires having a reason for belief that is reflectively accessible as such. I show that Cartesianism, in conjunction with some plausible and widely accepted principles, entails the negation of a popular version of Fallibilism. I then defend the resulting Cartesian Infallibilist position against popular objections. My conclusion is that if Cartesianism is true, then Descartes was right about this much: (...) for S to know that p, S must have reasons for believing that p which are such that S can know, by reflection alone, that she has those reasons, and that she could not possibly have those reasons if p is not true. Where Descartes went wrong was in thinking that our ordinary, fallible, non-theologically grounded sources of belief (e.g., perception, memory, testimony), cannot provide us with such reasons. (shrink)
Fallibilism about knowledge and justification is a widely held view in epistemology. In this paper, I will try to arrive at a proper formulation of fallibilism. Fallibilists often hold that Cartesian skepticism is a view that deserves to be taken seriously and dealt with somehow. I argue that it turns out that a canonical form of skeptical argument depends upon the denial of fallibilism. I conclude by considering a response on behalf of the skeptic.
In this paper, it will be shown that Peirce was of two minds about whether his scientific fallibilism, the recognition of the possibility of error in our beliefs, applied to mathematics. It will be argued that Peirce can and should hold a theory of fallibilism within mathematics, and that this position is more consistent with his overall pragmatic theory of inquiry and his general commitment to the growth of knowledge. But to make the argument for fallibilism in (...) mathematics, Peirce's theory of fallibilism must be reconceived to incorporate two different kinds of fallibilism, which correspond to two different kinds of truth claims. (shrink)
How can a person avoid being Gettiered? This paper provides the first answer to that question that is both fallibilist and purely internalist. It is an answer that allows the justified-true-belief analysis of knowledge to survive Gettier’s attack (albeit as a nonreductionist analysis of knowledge).
Almost every contemporary theory of knowledge is a version of fallibilism, yet an adequate statement of fallibilism has not yet been provided. Standard definitions cannot account for fallibilistic knowledge of necessary truths. I consider and reject several attempts to resolve this difficulty before arguing that a belief is an instance of fallibilistic knowledge when it could have failed to be knowledge. This is a fully general account of fallibilism that applies to knowledge of necessary truths. Moreover, it (...) reveals, not only the connection between fallibility and error, but the connection between fallibility and accidental truth as well. (shrink)
Sayer argues that Popper defended a logicist philosophy of science. The problem with such logicism is that it creates what is termed here as a `truncated foundationalism', which restricts epistemic certainty to the logical form of scientific theories whilst having nothing to say about their substantive contents. Against this it is argued that critical realism, which Sayer advocates, produces a linguistic version of truncated foundationalism and that Popper's problem-solving philosophy, with its emphasis on developing knowledge through criticism, eschews all forms (...) of foundationalism and is better able to account for the development of substantive knowledge claims. Key Words: critical realism fallibilism logicism post-positivism truncated foundationalism. (shrink)
This paper discusses what it means to be a good sport. It offers an account of sportsmanship rooted in the proper understanding of the limited role each participant plays during a specific sporting contest. It aims at showing that, from a fallibilist perspective, although it may perhaps be logically possible for a single play to win or lose a sporting event, it makes epistemologically no sense to single out a particular game action, moment or decision as the crucial one which (...) determined victory or defeat. Our view, we shall argue, is consistent with the empirical nature of sporting activities. Since there can be no such a thing as a perfect game, and because no single known human mind is in a position to know with any degree of certainty how each act of game-playing relates to the outcome of a whole game, it makes almost no sense to assign whole-game success or failure to single acts of brilliance or failure. (shrink)
Abstract Jürgen Habermas has proposed a tripartite classification of analytic philosophy of language into formal semantics, intentionalistic semantics, and use?theories of meaning. Here, I focus on the relationship between formal semantics and Habermas? own account of meaning and truth. I argue against his early ?consensus theory of truth?, according to which truth is defined as idealized warranted assertibility and explained by the ?discursive redemption? of validity claims. A claim is discursively redeemed if it commands rationally motivated consensus of all discursive (...) partners. I argue that this is not so much a theory of truth as of justification. As an account of truth, it is unsatisfactory because warrants can be lost in light of new arguments, and because consensus is seen as criterial for truth only if it is in principle defeasible ? hence there remains a gap between truth and even idealized warranted assertibility. In The Theory of Communicative Action, Habermas? views undergo a shift. Following Dummett, he cashes out meaning in terms of assertibility conditions. While Habermas continues to insist on an epistemically conditioned notion of truth, he no longer explicitly defines truth as idealized warranted assertibility; nor does his meaning?theoretic framework require him to do so. I argue that truth is an irreducible and ineliminable regulative idea. In particular, it can be explicated in terms of justification only indirectly. Contrary to some commentators, I do not believe that the regulative function of truth is merely negative. Fallibilism does not exhaust the meaning of truth. For we do not make truth claims provisionally, that is, with the understanding that they may turn out to be wrong. Rather, we gamble that we will not turn out to be wrong. Therefore, the concept of truth has not only a critical, but also a positive function in our discourse. (shrink)
Some recent defenses of fallibilism have sought to reconcile the claim, 'i know that "p"', with the claim that one might nevertheless be in error. i argue that this cannot be done. the logic of fallibilism requires that 'i know that "p"' be replaced with 'i "believe" that i know that "p"'. in that case, one is not asserting the possession of justified true belief, but only of justified belief, which alone allows consistently for the possibility of error.
I contend that s. Haack's proposed definition of fallibilism ("synthese" 1979) is unsatisfactory being equivalent to the assertion that we can believe anything. I say that fallibilism is best conceived as the doctrine that all our theories are (not could be) false.
Any theory of knowledge that is fallibilist—i.e., that allows for one to have knowledge that could have been false or accidentally true—faces the lottery paradox. The paradox arises from the combination of two plausible claims: first, no one can know that one’s lottery ticket will lose prior to learning that it in fact has lost, and, second, the justification one has for the belief that one’s ticket will lose is just as good as the justification one has for paradigmatic instances (...) of knowledge. In thispaper, I offer a solution to the lottery paradox that is grounded in a thorough-going acceptance of fallibilism. (shrink)
Abstract Popper's philosophy of science represents a radical departure from almost all other views about knowledge. This helps account for serious misunderstandings of it among admirers no less than among adversaries. The view that knowledge has and needs no foundations is counterintuitive and apparently relativistic. But Popper's fallibilism is in fact a far cry from anti?realism. Similarly, Popper's social and political philosophy, although seemingly conservative in practice, can be quite radical in theory. And while Popper was an ardent democrat, (...) his reasons for supporting democracy were so unusual that they may escape the problem posed for democratic theory by the political ignorance of the demos. (shrink)
Fallibilist pluralism is a moral and epistemological position that preserves both broadly conceived ethical pluralisms and the possibility of searching for a shared moral vision. In this essay Katariina Holma defends fallibilist pluralism as an important epistemological contribution to today's theories on citizenship education and analyzes the educational difficulties of adopting fallibilist pluralism as a conceptual framework in which citizens would encounter different others. Holma argues that to be successful, theories on citizenship education require—in addition to a justified philosophical foundation—a (...) more profound psychological understanding of the role emotions play in human morality and moral development. Holma also analyzes two philosophical biases that tend to obscure our understanding of the central role played by emotional dispositions on encountering difference. (shrink)
George M. Searle (1839-1918) and Charles S. Peirce worked together in the Coast Survey and the Harvard Observatory during the decade of 1860: both scientists were assistants of Joseph Winlock, the director of the Observatory. When in 1868 George, a convert to Catholicism, left to enter the Paulist Fathers, he was replaced by his brother Arthur Searle. George was ordained as a priest in 1871, was a lecturer of Mathematics and Astronomy at the Catholic University of America, and became the (...) fourth superior general of his congregation from 1904 to 1909. Among the books he wrote for non-Catholic audiences was Plain Facts for Fair Minds (1895). On the 8th of August of 1895, Peirce found that book in a bookstore and the following day wrote a letter to George Searle developing his strong reservations about the question of the infallibility of the Pope. This letter (L 397) is almost unknown amongst Peirce's scholars. -/- After describing these historical circumstances as a framework, the aim of my paper is to describe Peirce's arguments against papal infallibility presented by George Searle in his book, and the contrast between the genuine scientific attitude and the putative metaphysical notion of absolute truth that is —according to Peirce— behind Searle's defense of infallibility. In this sense, Peirce's fallibilism will be explained with some detail, giving an account also of his practical infallibilism: "The assertion that every assertion but this is fallible, is the only one that is absolutely infallible. But though nothing else is absolutely infallible, many propositions are practically infallible; such as the dicta of conscience" (Minute Logic, CP 2.75, c. 1902). -/- Finally, having in mind the present interest in Peirce's religious ideas it will be suggested that some of Peirce's ideas on infallibility are nearer to contemporary understanding of that issue than Searle's defense. "I would with all my heart join the ancient church of Rome if I could. But your book," —Peirce writes to Searle— "is an awful warning against doing so." -/- . (shrink)
Concessive knowledge attributions (CKAs) are knowledge attributions of the form ‘S knows p, but it’s possible that q’, where q obviously entails not-p (Rysiew, Nous (Detroit, Mich.) 35:477–514, 2001). The significance of CKAs has been widely discussed recently. It’s agreed by all that CKAs are infelicitous, at least typically. But the agreement ends there. Different writers have invoked them in their defenses of all sorts of philosophical theses; to name just a few: contextualism, invariantism, fallibilism, infallibilism, and that the (...) knowledge rules for assertion and practical reasoning are false. In fact, there is a lot of confusion about CKAs and their significance. I try to clear some of this confusion up, as well as show what their significance is with respect to the debate between fallibilists and infallibilists about knowledge in particular. (shrink)
We presuppose a position of scientific realism to the effect (i) that the world exists and (ii) that through the working out of ever more sophisticated theories our scientific picture of reality will approximate ever more closely to the world as it really is. Against this background consider, now, the following question: 1. Do the empirical theories with the help of which we seek to approximate a good or true picture of reality rest on any non-empirical presuppositions? One can answer (...) this question with either a 'yes' or a 'no'. 'No' is the preferred answer of most contemporary methodologists -- Murray Rothbard is one distinguished counterexample to this trend -- who maintain that empirical theories are completely free of non-empirical ('a priori') admixtures and who see science as a matter of the gathering of pure 'data' obtained through simple observation. From such data scientific propositions are then supposed to be somehow capable of being established. (shrink)
This paper advances the debate over the question whether false beliefs may nevertheless have warrant, the property that yields knowledge when conjoined with true belief. The paper’s first main part—which spans Sections 2–4—assesses the best argument for Warrant Infallibilism, the view that only true beliefs can have warrant. I show that this argument’s key premise conflicts with an extremely plausible claim about warrant. Sections 5–6 constitute the paper’s second main part. Section 5 presents an overlooked puzzle about warrant, and uses (...) that puzzle to generate a new argument for Warrant Fallibilism, the view that false beliefs can have warrant. Section 6 evaluates this pro-Fallibilism argument, finding ultimately that it defeats itself in a surprising way. I conclude that neither Infallibilism nor Fallibilism should now constrain theorizing about warrant. (shrink)
Baron Reed has developed a new argument for skepticism: (1) contemporary epistemologists are all committed to two theses, fallibilism and attributabilism; unfortunately, (2) these two theses about knowledge are incompatible; therefore, (3) knowledge as conceived by contemporary epistemologists is impossible. In this brief paper I suggest that Reed's argument appears to rest on an understanding of attributabilism that is so strong (call it maximal attributabilism) that it's doubtful that many contemporary epistemologists actually embrace it. Nor does Reed offer any (...) direct argument for the truth of maximal attributabilism. Therefore, we need not be persuaded by Reed's new argument for skepticism. (shrink)
The paper takes as its starting point the observation that people can be led to retract knowledge claims when presented with previously ignored error possibilities, but offers a noncontextualist explanation of the data. Fallibilist epistemologies are committed to the existence of two kinds of Kp -falsifying contingencies: (i) Non-Ignorable contingencies [NI-contingencies] and (ii) Properly-Ignorable contingencies [PI-contingencies]. For S to know that p, S must be in an epistemic position to rule out all NI-contingencies, but she need not be able to (...) rule out the PI-contingencies. What is required vis-à-vis PI-contingencies is that they all be false . In mentioning PI-contingencies, an interlocutor can lead S mistakenly to think that these contingencies are NI-contingencies, when in fact they are not. Since S cannot rule out these newly mentioned contingencies and since she mistakenly takes them to be NI-contingencies , it is quite natural that she retract her earlier knowledge claim. In short, mentioning NI-contingencies creates a distortion effect. It makes S think that the standards for knowledge are higher than they actually are, which in turn explains why she mistakenly thinks she lacks knowledge. Conclusion: The primary linguistic data offered in support of contextualism can be explained without resorting to contextualism. (shrink)