The notion of conceivability has traditionally been regarded as crucial to an account of modal knowledge. Despite its importance to modal epistemology, there is no received explication of conceivability. In recent discussions, some have attempted to explicate the notion in terms of epistemicpossibility. There are, however, two notions of epistemicpossibility, a more familiar one and a novel one. I argue that these two notions are independent of one another. Both are irrelevant to an account (...) of modal knowledge on the predominant view of modal reality. Only the novel notion is relevant and apt on the competing view of modal reality; but this latter view is problematic in light of compelling counterexamples. Insufficient care regarding the independent notions of epistemicpossibility can lead to two problems: a gross problem of conflation and a more subtle problem of obscuring a crucial fact of modal epistemology. Either problem needlessly hampers efforts to develop an adequate account of modal knowledge. I conclude that the familiar notion of epistemicpossibility (and the very term ‘epistemicpossibility’) should be eschewed in the context of modal epistemology. (shrink)
Michael Huemer (2007) has articulated a provocative account of the concept of "epistemicpossibility" which he hopes will explicate the explanatory value of the concept while also lending support to a broader anti-skeptical strategy. While I think his account has a number of advantages, many of which Huemer himself identifies, there are also significant disadvantages which should prompt us to seek an alternative. In this paper I describe an alternative which builds on some of the better features of (...) Huemer's account, while avoiding its shortcomings. After having explained why this alternative avoids the problems I attribute to Huemer's position, I will conclude by presenting some independent considerations in favor of my account, which recommends that epistemicpossibility claims be subjected to the same evidentialist standards to which belief and assertion are usually held accountable. (shrink)
Although epistemicpossibility figures in several debates, those debates have had relatively little contact with one another. G. E. Moore focused squarely upon analyzing epistemic uses of the phrase, ‘It’s possible that p’, and in doing so he made two fundamental assumptions. First, he assumed that epistemicpossibility statements always express the epistemic position of a community, as opposed to that of an individual speaker. Second, he assumed that all epistemic uses of ‘It’s (...) possible that p’ are analyzable in terms of knowledge, not belief. A number of later theorists, including Keith DeRose, provide alternative accounts of epistemicpossibility, while retaining Moore’s two assumptions. Neither assumption has been explicitly challenged, but Jaakko Hintikka’s analysis provides a basis for doing so. Drawing upon Hintikka’s analysis, I argue that some epistemicpossibility statements express only the speaker’s individual epistemic state, and that contra DeRose, they are not degenerate community statements but a class in their own right. I further argue that some linguistic contexts are belief- rather than knowledge-based, and in such contexts, what is possible for a speaker depends not upon what she knows, but upon what she believes. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is to give a philosophical analysis of the relationship between contingently available technology and the knowledge that it makes possible. My concern is with what specific subjects can know in practice, given their particular conditions, especially available technology, rather than what can be known “in principle” by a hypothetical entity like Laplace’s Demon. The argument has two parts. In the first, I’ll construct a novel account of epistemicpossibility that incorporates two pragmatic conditions: (...) responsibility and practicability. For example, whether subjects can gain knowledge depends in some circumstances on whether they have the capability of gathering relevant evidence. In turn, the possibility of undertaking such investigative activities depends in part on factors like ethical constraints, economical realities, and available technology. In the second part of the paper, I’ll introduce “technological possibility” to analyze the set of actions made possible by available technology. To help motivate the problem and later test my proposal, I’ll focus on a specific historical case, one of the earliest uses of digital electronic computers in a scientific investigation. I conclude that the epistemicpossibility of gaining access to scientific knowledge about certain subjects depends (in some cases) on the technological possibility for making responsible investigations. (shrink)
Seven proposed accounts of epistemicpossibility are criticized, and a new account is proposed, making use of the notion of having justification for dismissing a proposition. The new account explains intuitions about otherwise puzzling cases, upholds plausible general principles about epistemicpossibility, and explains the practical import of epistemic modality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemicpossibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inquiry.
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 epistemicpossibility statements has certain unacceptable consequences. (shrink)
In ‘Epistemic Modals’ (2007), Seth Yalcin proposes Stalnaker-style semantics for epistemicpossibility. He is inspired by John MacFarlane’s ingenious defence of relativism, in which claims of epistemicpossibility are made rigidly from the perspective of the assessor’s actual stock of information (rather than from the speaker’s knowledge base or that of his audience or community). The innovations of MacFarlane and Yalcin independently reinforce the modal collapse espoused by Jaakko Hintikka in his 1962 epistemic logic (...) (which relied on the implausible KK principle and heavy idealizations). I respond to this new challenge with fresh objections to the underlying S4 equivalence: p p . I also propose counter-analyses of the intriguing data which Yalcin cites in support of his new semantics. A key collateral motivation for this defence of irredundant iterations is to ward off a threat to higher order vagueness. (shrink)
When a proposition might be the case, for all an agent knows, we can say that the proposition is epistemically possible for the agent. In the standard possible worlds framework, we analyze modal claims using quantification over possible worlds. It is natural to expect that something similar can be done for modal claims involving epistemicpossibility. The main aim of this paper is to investigate the prospects of constructing a space of worlds—epistemic space—that allows us to model (...) what is epistemically possible for ordinary, non-ideally rational agents like you and me. I will argue that the prospects look dim for successfully constructing such a space. In turn, this will make a case for the claim that we cannot use the standard possible worlds framework to model what is epistemically possible for ordinary agents. (shrink)
This paper offers an explanation of the fact that sentences of the form (1) ‘X may A or B’ may be construed as implying (2) ‘X may A and X may B’, especially if they are used to grant permission. It is suggested that the effect arises because disjunctions are conjunctive lists of epistemic possibilities. Consequently, if the modal may is itself epistemic, (1) comes out as equivalent to (2), due to general laws of epistemic logic. On (...) the other hand, on a deontic reading of may, (2) is only implied under exceptional circumstances – which usually obtain when (1) is used performatively. (shrink)
Saul Kripke’s discussion of the necessary aposteriori in Naming and Necessity and “Identity and Necessity” -- in which he lays the foundation for distinguishing epistemic from metaphysical possibility, and explaining the relationship between the two – is, in my opinion, one of the outstanding achievements of twentieth century philosophy.1 My aim in this essay is to extract the enduring lessons of his discussion, and disentangle them from certain difficulties which, alas, can also be found there. I will argue (...) that there are, in fact, two Kripkean routes to the necessary aposteriori – one correct and philosophically far-reaching, the other incorrect and philosophically misleading. (shrink)
Information is often modelled as a set of relevant possibilities, treated as logically possible worlds. However, this has the unintuitive consequence that the logical consequences of an agent's information cannot be informative for that agent. There are many scenarios in which such consequences are clearly informative for the agent in question. Attempts to weaken the logic underlying each possible world are misguided. Instead, I provide a genuinely psychological notion of epistemicpossibility and show how it can be captured (...) in a formal model, which I call a fan. I then show how to use fans to build formal models of being informed, as well as knowledge, belief and information update. (shrink)
Mights plug gaps. If p lacks a truth-value, then ‘It might be that p’ should also lack truth-value. Yet epistemic hedges often turn an unassertible statement into an assertible one. The phenomenon is illustrated in detail for two kinds of statements that are frequently alleged to be counterexamples to the principle of bivalence: future contingents and statements that apply predicates to borderline cases. The paper concludes by exploring the prospects for generalizing this gap-plugging strategy.
What I am calling New Age Relativism is usually proposed as a thesis about the truth-conditions of utterances, where an utterance is an actual historic voicing or inscription of a sentence of a certain type. Roughly, it is the view that, for certain discourses, whether an utterance is true depends not just on the context of its making—when, where, to whom, by whom, in what language, and so on—and the “circumstances of evaluation”—the state of the world in relevant respects—but also (...) on an additional parameter: a context of assessment. Vary the latter and the truth-value of the utterance can vary, even though the context of its making and the associated state of the world remain fixed. (shrink)
A basic intuition about epistemicpossibility is the following: It might be that p iff it is open whether p. The standard way of cashing out this intuition is: It might be that p iff it is reconcilable with one’s informational state that p. However, there are certain examples which point to a lacuna in this conception. They indicate that epistemicpossibility is restricted to what one can conceive as an alternative, what one can have a (...) cognitive attitude to. (shrink)
A critique of conversational epistemic contextualism focusing initially on why pragmatic encroachment for knowledge is to be avoided. The data for pragmatic encroachment by way of greater costs of error and the complementary means to raise standards of introducing counter-possibilities are argued to be accountable for by prudence, fallibility and pragmatics. This theme is sharpened by a contrast in recommendations: holding a number of factors constant, when allegedly higher standards for knowing hold, invariantists still recommend assertion (action), while contextualists (...) do not. Given the knowledge norm of assertion, if one recommendation is preferable to the other, the result favors the preferred recommendation's account of knowledge. In the final section, I offer a unification of these criticisms centering on the contextualist use of 'epistemic position'. Their use imposes on threshold notions of justification, warrant, or knowledge tests that are suitable only to unlimited comparative or scalar notions like confidence or certainty and places them at one with an important strand of sceptical reasoning. (shrink)
The question as to the appropriate method of epistemic analysis has always been an issue for epistemologists. In recent years, the traditional method utilized in epistemology - conceptual analysis - has come under attack from various perspectives. Yet, often no replacement method is given in its place. In two works, "A Practical Explication of Knowledge" and Knowledge and the State of Nature, Edward Craig proposes a new way of doing epistemology. Craig's epistemic method eschews traditional conceptual analysis in (...) favor of what he calls "conceptual synthesis". He proposes we start not from the finding of necessary and sufficient conditions that match our intuitions; rather we start from considerations on what the concept of knowledge does for us. Though there is much to discuss in Craig proposal, in this paper I explore one aspect - the good informant. It is this aspect that is central to Craig's epistemic method and perhaps most problematic. In this essay, I evaluate this concept by first articulating three initial worries that some have had about the concept. I show that each of the initial worries can be quelled by looking deeper into the features of what Craig's proposal is. I then assess Craig's proposal on its own terms. Instead of looking to counterexamples for possible problems, I look at the concept of a good informant in light of the criteria for an adequate explication. What I hope to show is that while there is much to be sympathetic with in Craig's proposal, there are some open questions that need to be solved in order to say that an adequate explication has been reached. (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.
Abstract I provide an account of the nature of seemings that explains why they are necessary for justification. The account grows out of a picture of cognition that explains what is required for epistemic agency. According to this account, epistemic agency requires (1) possessing the epistemic aims of forming true beliefs and avoiding errors, and (2) having some means of forming beliefs in order to satisfy those aims. I then argue that seeming are motives for belief characterized (...) by their role of providing us with doxastic instructions guided by our epistemic aims. Understanding the nature of seemings allows us to underwrite recent epistemological work by Michael Huemer, and shows why he was right to claim that seemings are the source of all justification. I then look at some objections both to my arguments regarding the connection between seemings and justification, and to Huemer’s related “Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism”. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-21 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9830-2 Authors Matthew Skene, Syracuse University, 8330 E. Quincy Ave., I-307, Denver, CO 80237, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
The starting point of this work is the gap between two distinct traditions in information engineering: knowledge representation and data-driven modelling. The first tradition emphasizes logic as a tool for representing beliefs held by an agent. The second tradition claims that the main source of knowledge is made of observed data, and generally does not use logic as a modelling tool. However, the emergence of fuzzy logic has blurred the boundaries between these two traditions by putting forward fuzzy rules as (...) a Janus-faced tool that may represent knowledge, as well as approximate non-linear functions representing data. This paper lays bare logical foundations of data-driven reasoning whereby a set of formulas is understood as a set of observed facts rather than a set of beliefs. Several representation frameworks are considered from this point of view: classical logic, possibility theory, belief functions, epistemic logic, fuzzy rule-based systems. Mamdani's fuzzy rules are recovered as belonging to the data-driven view. In possibility theory a third set-function, different from possibility and necessity plays a key role in the data-driven view, and corresponds to a particular modality in epistemic logic. A bi-modal logic system is presented which handles both beliefs and observations, and for which a completeness theorem is given. Lastly, our results may shed new light in deontic logic and allow for a distinction between explicit and implicit permission that standard deontic modal logics do not often emphasize. (shrink)
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)
Real-world agents do not know all consequences of what they know. But we are reluctant to say that a rational agent can fail to know some trivial consequence of what she knows. Since every consequence of what she knows can be reached via chains of trivial cot be dismissed easily, as some have attempted to do. Rather, a solution must give adequate weight to the normative requirements on rational agents’ epistemic states, without treating those agents as mathematically ideal reasoners. (...) I’ll argue that agents can fail to know trivial consequences of what they know, but never determinately. Such cases are epistemic oversights on behalf of the agent in question, and the facts about epistemic oversights are always indeterminate facts. As a result, we are never in a position to assert that such-and-such constitutes an epistemic oversight for agent i (for we may rationally assert only determinate truths). I then develop formal epistemic models according to which epistemic accessibility relations are vague. Given these models, we can show that epistemic oversights always concern indeterminate cases of knowledge. (shrink)
Anti-materialist thought experiments as, e.g., zombie arguments, have posed some of the most vexing problems for materialist accounts of phenomenal consciousness. I doubt, however, that arguments of this kind can refute the core thesis of materialism. Although I do not question that there is something very special about an adequate explanation of phenomenal consciousness, and although I accept the epistemic irreducibility of phenomenal consciousness, I deny that modal arguments reach far enough to establish essentialism about consciousness. I will draw (...) upon a relativistic conception of modal space and suggest to strictly separate between varieties of metaphysical possibility - depending on which world is considered as actual, and depending on accessibility relations. It is shown that the modal argument cannot endanger the reductive explanation of the mind-brain relation if one distinguishes carefully between possibility according to primary intensions (epistemicpossibility) and possibility according to secondary intensions (meta-physical possibility). Modal arguments are strong enough to make an epistemological point but not an ontological one. (shrink)
The argument from faultless disagreement employed by the relativist purports to show that contextualism falls short of explaining cases of faultless disagreement. The demonstration is intended to give credence to the relativist semantics of epistemic modality expressions. In this paper we present some cases showing that even though cases of faultless disagreement do reveal some intrinsic features of epistemic modality claims, they do not support the relativist semantics. The sophistication of faultless disagreement goes beyond what the relativist semantics (...) can cope with. We also advance an epistemologically oriented proposal to account for faultless disagreement. (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.
In the two-envelope problem, one is offered a choice between two envelopes, one containing twice as much money as the other. After seeing the contents of the chosen envelope, the chooser is offered the opportunity to make an exchange for the other envelope. However, it appears to be advantageous to switch, regardless of what is observed in the chosen envelope. This problem has an extensive literature with connections to probability and decision theory. The literature is roughly divided between those that (...) attempt to explain what is flawed in arguments for the advantage of switching and those that attempt to explain when such arguments can be correct if counterintuitive. We observe that arguments in the literature of the two-envelope problem that the problem is paradoxical are not supported by the probability distributions meant to illustrate the paradoxical nature. To correct this, we present a distribution that does support the usual arguments. Aside from questions about the interpretation of variables, algebraic ambiguity, modal confusions and the like, most of the interesting aspects of the two-envelope problem are assumed to require probability distributions on an infinite space. Our next main contribution is to show that the same counterintuitive arguments can be reflected in finite versions of the problem; thus they do not inherently require reasoning about infinite values. A topological representation of the problem is presented that captures both finite and infinite cases, explicating intuitions underlying the arguments both that there is an advantage to switching and that there is not. (shrink)
A problem inherited from Kripke is the reconciliation of commitments to various necessities with conflicting intuitions of contingency, intuitions that things "might have turned out otherwise." Kripke's reconciliation strategy is to say that while it is necessary that X is Y, and so impossible for X not to be Y, it is nevertheless epistemically possible for X not to be Y. But what are nonactual epistemic possibilities? Several answers are considered and it is concluded that scenarios adduced to explain (...) away the target intuitions are either themselves impossible, or not fully coherent, or not epistemic in the relevant sense. (shrink)
In the Phaedrus, Socreates sympathetically describes the ability “to cut up each kind according to its species along its natural joints, and to try not to splinter any part, as a bad butcher might do.” (265e) In contemporary philosophy, Ted Sider (2009, 2011) defends the same idea. As I shall put it, Plato and Sider’s idea is that limning structure is an epistemic goal. My aim in this paper is to articulate and defend this idea. First, I’ll articulate the (...) notion of a structural proposition (§1), and the notion of an epistemic goal (§2), where I’ll assume that epistemic goals are species of accuracy. Then (§3), I’ll argue against some proposals for understanding the idea that limning structure is an epistemic goal: limning structure is neither an aim of belief (§3.1), nor of inquiry (§3.2), nor of concept possession (§3.3). Importantly, non-structural belief is not thereby inaccurate; belief does not “aim” at being structural. Next (§4), I’ll propose a framework for understanding the idea that limning structure is an epistemic goal, and defend that idea. What is required, to defend the view that limning structure is an epistemic goal, is the notion of (what I call) theorizing – a propositional attitude that, unlike belief, does “aim” at being structural (§4.1). I’ll argue that structural truths constitute a species of “important” truths (§4.2), and that apt theorizing is a species of understanding (§4.3). Finally (§5), I’ll discuss the possibility that there is no structure. (shrink)
A popular account of epistemic justification holds that justification, in essence, aims at truth. An influential objection against this account points out that it is committed to holding that only true beliefs could be justified, which most epistemologists regard as sufficient reason to reject the account. In this paper I defend the view that epistemic justification aims at truth, not by denying that it is committed to epistemic justification being factive, but by showing that, when we focus (...) on the relevant sense of ‘justification’, it isn’t in fact possible for a belief to be at once justified and false. To this end, I consider and reject three popular intuitions speaking in favor of the possibility of justified false beliefs, and show that a factive account of epistemic justification is less detrimental to our normal belief forming practices than often supposed. (shrink)
This paper contributes to an increasing literature strengthening the connection between epistemic logic and epistemology (Van Benthem, Hendricks). I give a survey of the most important applications of epistemic logic in epistemology. I show how it is used in the history of philosophy (Steiner's reconstruction of Descartes' sceptical argument), in solutions to Moore's paradox (Hintikka), in discussions about the relation between knowledge and belief (Lenzen) and in an alleged refutation of verificationism (Fitch) and I examine an early argument (...) about the (im)possibility of epistemic logic (Hocutt). Subsequently, I deal with interpretive questions about epistemic logic that, although implicitly, already appeared in the first section. I contend that a conception of epistemic logic as a theory of knowledge assertions is incoherent, and I argue that it does not make sense to adopt a normative interpretation of epistemic logic. Finally, I show ways to extend epistemic logic with other branches of philosophical logic so as to make it useful for some epistemological questions. Conditional logics and logics of public announcement are used to understand causal theories of knowledge and versions of reliabilism. Temporal logic helps understand some dynamic aspects of knowledge as well as the verificationist thesis. (shrink)
Epistemic relativists often appeal to an epistemic incommensurability thesis. One notable example is the position advanced by Wittgenstein in On certainty (1969). However, Ian Hacking’s radical denial of the possibility of objective epistemic reasons for belief poses, we suggest, an even more forceful challenge to mainstream meta-epistemology. Our central objective will be to develop a novel strategy for defusing Hacking’s line of argument. Specifically, we show that the epistemic incommensurability thesis can be resisted even if (...) we grant the very insights that lead Hacking to claim that epistemic reasons are always relative to a style of reasoning. Surprisingly, the key to defusing the argument is to be found in recent mainstream work on the epistemic state of objectual understanding. (shrink)
We often decide whether a state of affairs is possible (impossible) by trying to mentally depict a scenario (using words, images, etc.) where the state in question obtains (or fails to obtain). These mental acts (broadly thought of as 'conceiving') seem to provide us with an epistemic route to the space of possibilities. The problem this raises is whether conceivability judgments provide justification-conferring grounds for the ensuing possibility-claims (call this the 'conceivability thesis'). Although the question has a long (...) history, contemporary interest in it was, to a large extent, prompted by Kripke's utilization of modal intuitions in the course of propounding certain influential theses in the philosophy of language and mind. The interest has been given a further boost by the recent two-dimensional approach to the Kripkean framework. In this paper, I begin by providing a detailed examination of a most recent attempt (due to Chalmers) to defend the thesis and argue that it is unsuccessful. This is followed by presenting my own gloss on Kripke's explanation of the illusions of contingency and I close by raising a general problem intended to undermine the prospects for a successful defense of the thesis. (shrink)
Although several important methodologies implicitly assume the truth of epistemic conservatism, the view that holding a belief confers some measure of justification on the belief, recent criticisms have led some to conclude that epistemic conservatism is an implausible view. That conclusion is mistaken. In this article, I propose a new formulation of epistemic conservatism that is not susceptible to the criticisms leveled at earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism. In addition to withstanding these criticisms, this formulation of (...)epistemic conservatism has several benefits. First, this formulation has the benefits of earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, that is to say it makes sense of our intuitions about justification in regard to both memory beliefs and beliefs for which we have forgotten our evidence. Second, it provides a good way of responding to the skeptic’s challenge concerning the possibility of possessing knowledge of the external world posed by the Alternative Hypotheses argument. Third, it provides responses to both forms of a new skeptical problem plaguing basic knowledge structure theories, the Problem of Easy Knowledge formulated by Stewart Cohen. I argue that given the many benefits of this formulation of epistemic conservatism and the fact that it is not vulnerable to the criticisms that undermine earlier formulations of epistemic conservatism, this formulation of epistemic conservatism is a plausible view to maintain. (shrink)
Reliabilists accept the possibility of basic knowledge—knowledge that p in virtue of the reliability of some belief-producing process r without antecedent knowledge that r is reliable. Cohen (Philos Phenomenol Res 65:309–329, 2002 , Philos Phenomenol Res 70:417–430, 2005 ) and Vogel (J Philos 97:602–623, 2000 , J Philos 105:518–539, 2008 ) have argued that one can bootstrap knowledge that r is reliable from basic knowledge. This paper provides a diagnosis of epistemic bootstrapping, and then shows that recent attempts (...) at embracing bootstrapped knowledge are found wanting. Instead it is argued that such arguments are afflicted by a novel kind of generalized epistemic circularity. The ensuing view is defended against various objections, and an explanation of the source of that circularity is offered. (shrink)
In disagreements about trivial matters, it often seems appropriate for disputing parties to adopt a ‘middle ground’ view about the disputed matter. But in disputes about more substantial controversies (e.g. in ethics, religion, or politics) this sort of doxastic conduct can seem viciously acquiescent. How should we distinguish between the two kinds of cases, and thereby account for our divergent intuitions about how we ought to respond to them? One possibility is to say that ceding ground in a trivial (...) dispute is appropriate because the disputing parties are usually epistemic peers within the relevant domain, whereas in a more substantial disagreement the disputing parties rarely, if ever, qualify as epistemic peers, and so ‘sticking to one’s guns’ is usually the appropriate doxastic response. My aim in this paper is to explain why this way of drawing the desired distinction is ultimately problematic, even if it seems promising at first blush. (shrink)
Though it seems rather surprising in retrospect, until about twenty-ﬁve years ago no philosopher in the Western tradition had explicitly formulated the question whether there could be an epistemic analogue to practical akrasia. Also surprisingly, despite the prima facie analogue with practical akrasia (the possibility of which is not much disputed), much of the recent work on this question has defended the rather bold view that epistemic akrasia is impossible. While the arguments purporting to show the impossibility (...) of epistemic akrasia have been criticized by some, I propose instead to make a head-on attack and defend the substantive view that epistemic akrasia is possible — indeed, actual. This leaves for another day the project of diagnosing exactly where the arguments for the impossibility of epistemic akrasia go wrong. Here, I content myself with trying to show that they must go wrong, since — as I will argue — epistemic akrasia is possible. (shrink)
According to one influential view, advanced by Jonathan Adler, David Owens and Susan Hurley, epistemic akrasia is impossible because when we form a full belief, any apparent evidence against that belief loses its power over us. Thus theoretical reasoning is quite unlike practical reasoning, in that in the latter our desires continue to exert a pull, even when they are outweighed by countervailing considerations. I call this argument against the possibility of epistemic akrasia the subsumption view. The (...) subsumption view accurately reflects the nature of reasoning in a range of everyday cases. But, as I show, it is quite false with regard to controversial questions, like philosophical disputes. In these, evidence against our best judgments continues to exert a hold on us. Thus, the claimed disanalogy between practical and theoretical reasoning fails. (shrink)
World semantics for relevant logics include so-called non-normal or impossible worlds providing model-theoretic counterexamples to such irrelevant entailments as (A ∧ ¬A) → B, A → (B∨¬B), or A → (B → B). Some well-known views interpret non-normal worlds as information states. If so, they can plausibly model our ability of conceiving or representing logical impossibilities. The phenomenon is explored by combining a formal setting with philosophical discussion. I take Priest’s basic relevant logic N4 and extend it, on the syntactic (...) side, with a representation operator, (R), and on the semantic side, with particularly anarchic non-normal worlds. This combination easily invalidates unwelcome “logical omniscience” in- ferences of standard epistemic logic, such as belief-consistency and closure under entailment. Some open questions are then raised on the best strategies to regiment (R) in order to express more vertebrate kinds of conceivability. (shrink)
Tyler Burge's critique of individualistic conceptions of mental content is well known.This paper employs a novel strategy to defend a strong form of Burge's conclusion. The division of epistemic labor rests on the possibility of language-mediated transactions, such as asking for something in a store and getting it. The paper shows that any individualistic conception of content will render such transactions unintelligible.
This paper discusses the possibility of modelling inductive inference (Gold 1967) in dynamic epistemic logic (see e.g. van Ditmarsch et al. 2007). The general purpose is to propose a semantic basis for designing a modal logic for learning in the limit. First, we analyze a variety of epistemological notions involved in identification in the limit and match it with traditional epistemic and doxastic logic approaches. Then, we provide a comparison of learning by erasing (Lange et al. 1996) (...) and iterated epistemic update (Baltag and Moss 2004) as analyzed in dynamic epistemic logic. We show that finite identification can be modelled in dynamic epistemic logic, and that the elimination process of learning by erasing can be seen as iterated belief-revision modelled in dynamic doxastic logic. Finally, we propose viewing hypothesis spaces as temporal frames and discuss possible advantages of that perspective. (shrink)
The paper argues that there is such a thing as luck in acquisition of candidate a priori beliefs and knowledge, and that the possibility of luck in this “armchair” domain shows that definitions of believing by luck that p offered in literature are inadequate, since they mostly rely on the possibility of it being the case that not- p. When p is necessary, such a definition should be supplemented by one pointing to variation in belief, not in the (...) fact believed. Thus the paper suggests a focus upon the agent and her epistemic virtue in the account of epistemic luck in general. (shrink)