Arguments for scepticism about perceptual knowledge are often said to have intuitively plausible premises. In this discussion I question this view in relation to an argument from ignorance and argue that the supposed persuasiveness of the argument depends on debatable background assumptions about knowledge or justification. A reasonable response to scepticism has to show there is a plausible epistemological perspective that can make sense of our having perceptual knowledge. I present such a perspective. In order give a more satisfying response (...) to scepticism, we need also to consider the standing of background beliefs. This is required since the recognitional abilities that enable us to have perceptual knowledge are informed by, or presuppose, a picture or conception of the world the correctness of which we have not ascertained. The question is how, in the face of this, to make sense of responsible belief-formation. In addressing this problem I make a suggestion about the standing of certain crucial beliefs linking appearances with membership of kinds. (shrink)
An explanation is given of why it is in the nature of inquiry into whether or not p that its aim is fully achieved only if one comes to know that p or to know that not-p and, further, comes to know how one knows, either way. In the absence of the latter one is in no position to take the inquiry to be successfully completed or to vouch for the truth of the matter in hand. An upshot is that (...) although knowledge matters because truth matters this should not be understood to mean that knowledge matters because true belief matters. (shrink)
Recent epistemology has reflected a growing interest in issues about the value of knowledge and the values informing epistemic appraisal. Is knowledge more valuable that merely true belief or even justified true belief? Is truth the central value informing epistemic appraisal or do other values enter the picture? Epistemic Value is a collection of previously unpublished articles on such issues by leading philosophers in the field. It will stimulate discussion of the nature of knowledge and of directions that might be (...) taken by the theory of knowledge. The contributors are Jason Baehr, Michael Brady, Berit Brogaard, Michael DePaul, Pascal Engel, Catherine Elgin, Alvin Goldman, John Greco, Stephen Grimm, Ward Jones, Martin Kusch, Jonathan Kvanvig, Michael Lynch, Erik Olsson, Wayne Riggs and Matthew Weiner. (shrink)
This article outlines a conception of perceptual-recognitional abilities. These include abilities to recognize certain things from their appearance to some sensory modality, as being of some kind, or as possessing some property. An assumption of the article is that these abilities are crucial for an adequate understanding of perceptual knowledge. The specific aim here is to contrast those abilities with abilities or competences as conceived in the virtue-theoretic literature, with particular reference to views of Ernest Sosa and John Greco. In (...) the course of the discussion, it is emphasized that the notion of exercising a perceptual-recognitional ability is a success notion: exercising such an ability is nothing less than acquiring knowledge. Even so, the view can make sense of our fallibility. It can also be defended in the face of an objection stemming from consideration of what are here called success-rate abilities. (shrink)
The paper explains what disjunctivism is and explores its implications for skepticism. Following an account of Paul Snowdon’s conception of a disjunctivist account of perceptual experience the the focus is on how disjunctivism has figured in the epistemological work of John McDowell. A conception of recognitional abilities is deployed to expand on McDowell’s position. Finally, there is consideration of whether McDowell offers a satisfactory response to skepticism, taking account of criticism’s made by Crispin Wright.
A conception of recognitional abilities and perceptual-discriminative abilities is deployed to make sense of how perceptual experiences enable us to make cognitive contact with objects and facts. It is argued that accepting the emerging view does not commit us to thinking that perceptual experiences are essentially relational, as they are conceived to be in disjunctivist theories. The discussion explores some implications for the theory of knowledge in general and, in particular, for the issue of how we can shed light on (...) the nature of knowledge is if we do not aim to provide conceptual analyses of knowledge in terms of true belief plus something else. Consideration is also given how we can best make sense of the practical value that knowledge has for us. (shrink)
There is a traditional conception of sensory experience on which the experiences one has looking at, say, a cat could be had by someone merely hallucinating a cat. Disjunctivists take issue with this conception on the grounds that it does not enable us to understand how perceptual knowledge is possible. In particular, they think, it does not explain how it can be that experiences gained in perception enable us to be in ‘cognitive contact’ with objects and facts. I develop this (...) chal- lenge to the traditional conception and then show that it is possible to accommo- date an adequate account of cognitive contact in keeping with the traditional conception. One upshot of the discussion is that experiences do not bear the explanatory burden placed upon them by disjunctivists. (shrink)
Charles Travis promotes a conception of knowledge on which knowledge is unmistakable. I raise some issues about what he means by this. Though sympathetic to his project, I give reasons for doubting that he has shown that all knowledge depends on having proof.
Alan Millar examines our understanding of why people think and act as they do. His key theme is that normative considerations form an indispensable part of the explanatory framework in terms of which we seek to understand each other. Millar defends a conception according to which normativity is linked to reasons. On this basis he examines the structure of certain normative commitments incurred by having propositional attitudes. Controversially, he argues that ascriptions of beliefs and intentions in and of themselves attribute (...) normative commitments and that this has implications for the psychology of believing and intending. Indeed, all propositional attitudes of the sort we ascribe to people have a normative dimension, since possessing the concepts that the attitudes implicate is of its very nature commitment-incurring. The ramifications of these views for our understanding of people is explored. Millar offers illuminating discussions of reasons for belief and reasons for action; the explanation of beliefs and actions in terms of the subject's reasons; the idea that simulation has a key role in understanding people; and the limits of explanation in terms of propositional attitudes. He compares and contrasts the commitments incurred by propositional attitudes with those incurred by participating in practices, arguing that the former should not be assimilated to the latter. Understanding People will be of great interest to most philosophers of mind, as well as to those working on practical and theoretical reasoning. (shrink)
The essays in this volume investigate the norms of reason--the standards which contribute to determining whether beliefs, inferences, and actions are rational. Nine philosophers and two psychologists discuss what kinds of things these norms are, how they can be situated within the natural world, and what role they play in the psychological explanation of belief and action. Current work in the theory of rationality is subject to very diverse influences ranging from experimental and theoretical psychology, through philosophy of logic and (...) language, to metaethics and the theory of practical reasoning; this range is well represented here. (shrink)
Millar argues against the tendency in current philosophical thought to treat sensory experiences as a peculiar species of propositional attitude. While allowing that experiences may in some sense bear propositional content, he presents a view of sensory experiences as a species of psychological state. A key theme in his general approach is that justified belief results from the competent exercise of conceptual capacities, some of which involve an ability to respond appropriately to current experience. In working out this approach the (...) author develops a view of concepts and their mastery, explores the role of groundless beliefs drawing on suggestions of Wittgenstein, illuminates aspects of the thought of Locke, Hume, Quine, and Goldman, and finally offers a response to a sophisticated variety of scepticism. (shrink)