1. Sensa and propositional experience. 2. An option between propositions and properties (as objects or contents of sensory experience). 3. The property option and adverbialism. 4. Sensa as images, images as intentionalia. 5. Do we refer directly to sensa? 6. Focusing and the supervenience of images and our reference to them: a question raised. 7. Internal and external properties of images and characters. Strict vistas introduced. 8. A correction on strict vistas. 9. Focusing and experience: the question answered. 10. Conclusion.
We begin with a subsidiary question: Is reasonable disagreement ever possible? Opposing answers to one and the same question can both be reasonable, of course, if at least one of them is based on evidence that is persuasive but misleading. This much is uncontroversial. In a more interesting case, Pro and Con share all their evidence. Can they still assess the shared evidence differently? Can one affirm what the other denies, though each proceeds reasonably enough? For each to be reasonable, (...) each needs positive justification. Unlike ethics, epistemology repels arbitrariness. Facing a choice between bringing it about that p and bringing it about that not-p, you may have no sufficient reason to prefer either over the other, in which case you might well be free to take your pick. That’s how it is for practical choices or actions. By contrast, with no more reason for believing either a proposition or its negation in preference to the other, you are definitely not free to proceed either way. Here you must withhold, if you are to proceed reasonably at all, epistemically. If two opponents are both to be reasonable, then, each needs a balance of reason favoring his side. But is this compatible with their sharing all of their evidence? Not if any reason they may have, for or against believing, would have to be found in the evidence that they share. We are supposing they share all their evidence. Since the evidence cannot point in two opposite directions at once, Pro and Con cannot each have substantial positive reason for affirming what the other denies. Based on such reasoning, you may well conclude that reasonable disagreement with full disclosure is just impossible. But others will no doubt disagree. Suppose you all pool your evidence, and they remain unimpressed. On one view with substantial support in the literature, if you encounter opposition from an apparent peer, then, absent independent reason to downgrade him, you must lower your confidence, perhaps below the threshold of belief.. (shrink)
This paper takes up the critique of armchair philosophy drawn by some experimental philosophers from survey results. It also takes up a more recent development with increased methodological sophistication. The argument based on disagreement among respondents suggests a much more serious problem for armchair philosophy and puts in question the standing of our would-be discipline.
Reflective Knowledge argues for a reflective virtue epistemology based on a kind of virtuous circularity that may be found explicitly or just below the surface in the epistemological writings of Descartes, Moore, and now Davidson, who on Sosa's reading also relies crucially on an assumption of virtuous circularity. Along the way various lines of objection are explored. In Part I Sosa considers historical alternatives to the view developed in Part II. He begins with G.E. Moore's legendary proof, and the epistemology (...) that lies behind it. That leads to classical foundationalism, a more general position encompassing the indirect realism advocated by Moore. Next he turns to the quietist naturalism found in David Hume, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and P.F. Strawson. After that comes Thomas Reid's commonsense alternative. A quite different option is the subtle and complex epistemology developed by Wilfrid Sellars over the course of a long career. Finally, Part I concludes with a study of Donald Davidson's distinctive form of epistemology naturalized (as Sosa argues). The second part of the book presents an alternative beyond the historical positions of Part I, one that defends a virtue epistemology combined with epistemic circularity. This alternative retains elements of the earlier approaches, while discarding what was found wanting in them. (shrink)
Survey results are in the first instance utterances, which require interpretation. Moreover, when the results seem to involve disagreement in intuitive responses to a thought experiment, the results are most directly responsive to the scenario as envisaged by the particular subject, where the text of the example can give rise to relevantly different scenarios, depending on how the scenario is shaped by the subjects involved, under the guidance of the text. All of this opens up a defense of intuitions against (...) results that ostensibly imply extensive intuitive disagreement based on cultural or socio-economic background. Critics of the armchair have replied to this defense in recent publications. This paper takes up some of those replies. (shrink)
In what way is knowledge better than merely true belief? That is a problem posed in Plato’s Meno. A belief that falls short of knowledge seems thereby inferior. It is better to know than to get it wrong, of course, and also better than to get it right by luck rather than competence. But how can that be so, if a true belief will provide the same benefits? In order to get to Larissa you do not need to know the (...) way. A true belief will get you there just as well. Is it really always better to know the answer to a question than to get it right by luck? In part i we ponder: Is knowledge always better at least in epistemic respects? The affirmative answer is subject to doubts deriving from a conception of belief as sufficient confidence, but is defensible against such doubts. In our search for the special value of knowledge, we then explore in part ii the relation between knowledge and proper action. Part iii goes on to consider how the value of knowledge intuition acquires further interest through its equivalence with the view of knowledge as a norm of assertion. Finally, part iv steps back to examine what we might mean in saying that to know is always, necessarily better than to get it right by luck while really in ignorance. In order to defend our value-of-knowledge intuition we need first to understand it more clearly. Part iv offers an explanation. (shrink)
A Virtue Epistemology presents a new approach to some of the oldest and most gripping problems of philosophy, those of knowledge and scepticism. Ernest Sosa argues for two levels of knowledge, the animal and the reflective, each viewed as a distinctive human accomplishment. By adopting a kind of virtue epistemology in line with the tradition found in Aristotle, Aquinas, Reid, and especially Descartes, he presents an account of knowledge which can be used to shed light on different varieties of scepticism, (...) the nature and status of intuitions, and epistemic normativity. (shrink)
Belief is considered a kind of performance, which attains one level of success if it is true (or accurate), a second level if competent (or adroit), and a third if true because competent (or apt). Knowledge on one level (the animal level) is apt belief. The epistemic normativity constitutive of such knowledge is thus a kind of performance normativity. A problem is posed for this account by the fact that suspension of belief seems to fall under the same sort of (...) epistemic normativity as does belief itself, yet to suspend is of course precisely not to perform, certainly not with the aim of truth. The paper takes up this problem, and proposes a solution that distinguishes levels of performance norrmativity, including a first order where execution competence is in play, and a second order where the performer must assess the risks attendant on issuing a first-order performance. This imports a level of reflective knowledge that ascends above the animal level. (shrink)
Abstract Paul Boghossian discusses critically my account of intuition as a source of epistemic status. Stewart Cohen takes up my views on skepticism, on dreams, and on epistemic competence and competences and their relation to human knowledge. Hilary Kornblith focuses on my animal/reflective distinction, and, along with Cohen, on my comparison between how dreams might mislead us and how other bad epistemic contexts can do so. In this paper I offer replies to my three critics.
Abstract: Susana Nuccetelli discusses critically my account of Moore's Proof of the External World. Noah Lemos takes up my views on skepticism and my distinction between animal knowledge and reflective knowledge. Otávio Bueno focuses on my treatment of dream skepticism. In this article I offer replies to my three critics.
Having fascinated some of the greatest philosophers from the earliest times, dreaming figures importantly in the history of philosophy, as in Plato’s Theaetetus, Augustine’s Confessions, and, perhaps most famously, Descartes’s Mediations. By far the greatest philosophical focus on dreaming has been epistemic: Socrates suggests to Theaetetus that since he cannot tell whether he is dreaming, he cannot trust his senses to know contingent facts about the world around him. And a similar worry drives Descartes’s radical doubt in the First Meditation. (...) We might think that dream skepticism is, among the radical Cartesian skeptical scenarios, a particularly worrying one, since dreams, unlike evil demons, are a commonplace of everyday life. (shrink)
The topic is experimental philosophy as a naturalistic movement, and its bearing on the value of intuitions in philosophy. This paper explores first how the movement might bear on philosophy more generally, and how it might amount to something novel and promising. Then it turns to one accomplishment repeatedly claimed for it already: namely, the discrediting of armchair intuitions as used in philosophy.
Testimony is a crucial source of knowledge: we are to a large extent reliant upon what others tell us. It has been the subject of much recent interest in epistemology, and this volume collects twelve original essays on the topic by some of the world's leading philosophers. It will be the starting point for future research in this fertile field. Contributors include Robert Audi, C. A. J. Coady, Elizabeth Fricker, Richard Fumerton, Sanford C. Goldberg, Peter Graham, Jennifer Lackey, Keith Lehrer, (...) Richard Moran, Frederick F. Schmitt, Ernest Sosa, and James Van Cleve. (shrink)
That conception is orthodox in today’s common sense and also historically. Presupposed by Plato, Augustine, and Descartes, it underlies familiar skeptical paradoxes. Similar orthodoxy is also found in our developing science of sleep and dreaming. Despite such confluence.
Since this paper is for a conference on “Contextualism in Epistemology and Beyond,” I have opted to sketch a retrospective of contextualism in epistemology, including highlights of the “relevant alternatives” approach, given how relevantism and contextualism have developed in tandem. We focus on externalist forms of contextualism, bypassing internalist forms such as Cohen 1988 and Lewis 1996, but much of our discussion will be applicable to contextualism generally. Internalist contextualism is helpfully discussed in papers by Stewart Cohen, Richard Feldman, and (...) Jonathan Vogel, in Tomberlin 1999. (shrink)
The regress problem and foundationalism -- Externalist accounts of justification -- In search of coherentism -- Back to foundationalism -- The conceptualization of sensory experience and the problem of the external world -- Knowledge and justification -- Does knowledge have foundation -- Skepticism and the internal/external divide -- A virtue epistemology -- Reply to Sosa -- Reply to Bonjour.
An exposition and discussion of Chisholm's “epistemic principles.” These are compared with relevant views of Wilfrid Sellars and Richard Foley. A further comparison, with the approach favored by Descartes, is argued to throw light on the status of such principles.
[Michael Williams] A response to Sosa's criticisms of Sellars's account of the relation between knowledge and experience, noting that Sellars excludes merely animal knowledge, and hopes to bypass epistemology by an adequate philosophy of mind and language. /// [Ernest Sosa] I give an exposition and critical discussion of Sellars's Myth of the Given, and especially of its epistemic side. In later writings Sellars takes a pragmatist turn in his epistemology. This is explored and compared with his earlier critique of givenist (...) mythology. In response to Michael Williams, it is argued that these issues are importantly independent of philosophy of language or mind, and that my own take on them does not commit me to any absurd radical foundationalism on language or mind. My own take is in line with Descartes' two-level epistemology of cognitio and scientia, a bifurcation that protects him from vicious circularity, and is adaptable for an epistemology naturalized (not supernaturalized), whether in the way of Quine, or Moore, or Davidson. (shrink)
Davidson’s epistemology, like Kant’s, features a transcendental argument as its centerpiece. Both philosophers reject any priority, whether epistemological or conceptual, of the subjective over the objective, attempting thus to solve the problem of the external world. For Davidson, three varieties of knowledge are coordinate—knowledge of the self, of other minds, and of the external world. None has priority. Despite the epistemologically coordinate status of the mind and the world, however, the content of the mind can be shown to entail how (...) it is out in the world. More exactly, Davidson argues, we could not possibly have the beliefs we have, with their contents, unless the world around us was pretty much the way we take it to be, at least in its general outline. We are thus offered a way to argue, to all appearances a priori, from how it is in our minds to how it is in the world. The argument is a priori at least in being free of premises or assumptions about contingent particularities concerning the world around us or our relation to it. From premises about the contents of our propositional attitudes, the argument wends its way to a conclusion about the general lines of how the world around us is structured and populated. Before presenting his own account, Davidson rejects received views of meaning and knowledge. What follows will combine themes from his critique of alternatives with his more positive account and how it deals with the skeptic. (shrink)
This chapter takes up, in six sections, issues of realism and of ontological and conceptual relativity. Section 1 briefly lays out the kind of absolutist realism of interest in what follows. Section 2 considers arguments against ordinary commonsense entities such as bodies, and for the view that subjects enjoy a superior ontological position. No such argument is found persuasive. I find no good argument against ordinary bodies or other common-sense entities, nor any good argument that subjects enjoy any ontological superiority. (...) Section 3 lays out three options in ontology, opts for a kind of conceptual relativism, and takes up three problems for the proposed view. Section 4 then offers a compromise position based on a kind of existential relativity meant to accommodate our most settled beliefs about what there is, while retaining a fundamentally realist and objectivist ontology. The main argument of that section relies on a distinction between (a) semantical relativity and (b) ontological relativity. Section 5 defends my use of the semantical-ontological distinction against objections to it in the recent literature. Section 6, in conclusion, takes up arguments for the view that, as subjects of consciousness and thought, we must after all occupy a special ontological position in objective reality, one whose status remains mysterious. (shrink)
How might one explain the reliability of one's a priori beliefs? What if anything is implied about the ontology of a certain realm of knowledge by the possibility of explaining one's reliability about that realm? Very little, or so it is argued here.
... With those who identify happiness [faring happily or well] with virtue or some one virtue our account is in harmony; for to virtue belongs virtuous activity. But it makes, perhaps, no small difference whether we place the chief good in possession or in use, in state of mind or in activity. For the state of mind may exist without producing any good result, as in a man who is asleep or in some other way quite inactive, but the activity (...) cannot; for one who has the activity will of necessity be acting, and acting well. And as in the Olympic Games it is not the most beautiful and the strongest that are crowned but those who compete (for it is some of these that are victorious), so those who act win, and rightly win, the noble and good things in life. (shrink)
Stephen Grimm finds me inclined to bifurcate epistemic assessment into higher and lower orders while showing awareness of this only in recent writings. Two untoward consequences allegedly follow: (a) my rejection of Virtue Reliabilism, and (b) my knowledge-based account of the value attaching to our knowledge on the higher level. By contrast, Grimm considers Virtue Reliabilism a perfectly adequate account of knowledge, while the higher epistemic state he believes to be, rather, understanding, which he takes to be quite distinct from (...) knowledge. Once knowledge and understanding are seen to be distinct, finally, this will help us to avoid the two untoward consequences. I am grateful for these interesting points, and would like to respond briefly in what follows. (shrink)
This paper considers well known results of psychological researchinto the fallibility of human reason, and philosophical conclusionsthat some have drawn from these results. Close attention to theexact content of the results casts doubt on the reasoning that leadsto those conclusions.
“Rational beings pursue and value truth (the true, along with the good and the beautiful). Intellectual conduct is to be judged, accordingly, by how well it aids our pursuit of that ideal.” What does this mean, and is it true? Even if intelligent life had never evolved or otherwise existed, Venus would still have orbited the Sun, so it would still have been true that Venus orbited the Sun. It is not the being thus true of what is true that (...) we value indiscriminately. Some truths are good, but not all, far from it. In loving the truth, then, what we value is not the being true of the truths. What we value in pursuing truth is rather our grasping it, our having it. What does this mean? Only through believing it does one relevantly have a truth: we have the truth that snow is white by believing that snow is white. In pursuing the truth what we want is (at least) true beliefs. Suppose you enter your dentist’s waiting room and find all the magazines taken. Deprived of reading matter, you’re sure to doze off, but you need no sleep. Are you then rationally bound to reach for the telephone book in pursuit of truth? Were you not to do so, you would forfeit a chance to pluck some desired goods within easy reach. If random telephone numbers do not elicit a wide enough yawn, consider a randomly selected cubic foot of the Sahara. Here is a trove of facts, of the form grain x is so many millimeters in direction D from grain y, than which few can be of less interest. Or take some bit of trivia known to me at the moment: say, that it was sunny in Rhode Island at noon on October 21, 1999. I confess that I will not rue my loss of this information, nor do I care either that or how early it will be gone. As interpreted so far, the view that we rationally want truth as such reduces to absurdity, or is at best problematic. What then is it we want in pursuing truth? If it is not after all true beliefs indiscriminately, what then is it? A manageable number of true beliefs? Obviously not; it is not just a matter of numbers.. (shrink)
Rational beings pursue and value truth (the true, along with the good and the beautiful). Intellectual conduct is to be judged, accordingly, by how well it aids our pursuit of that ideal. I ask whether these platitudes mean, and whether they are true.
What modal relation must a fact bear to a belief in order for this belief to constitute knowledge of that fact? Externalists have proposed various answers, including some that combine externalism with contextualism. We shall find that various forms of externalism share a modal conception of “sensitivity” open to serious objections. Fortunately, the undeniable intuitive attractiveness of this conception can be explained through an easily confused but far preferable notion of “safety.” The denouement of our reflections, finally, will be to (...) show how replacing sensitivity with safety makes it possible to defend plain Moorean common sense against the spurious advantages over it claimed by skeptical, tracking, relevant-alternative, and contextualist accounts. (shrink)
This paper tries to clarify the nature of philosophical questions as to the ontological nature of things, especially persons. It considers implications of an Aristotelian account, which leads to an ontology that makes subjects and other things epistemologically remote. This makes the account doubtfully reconcilable with the special epistemic relation that each of us has to oneself, via for example the cogito.
A main epistemic problematic, found already in Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, presents a threefold choice on how a belief may be justified: either through infinitely regressive reasoning, or through circular reasoning, or through reasoning resting ultimately on some foundation. Aristotle himself apparently takes the foundationalist option when he argues that rational intuition is a foundational source of scientific knowledge. The five modes of Agrippa, which pertain to knowledge generally, again pose the same problematic, the “Pyrrhonian” problematic. And here Galen and the (...) Stoics also opt for foundations. Sections I and II below explore that foundationalist option. Section III draws some lessons. And Section IV uses these to interpret Descartes. I argue that Descartes shows us the way beyond the Pyrrhonian problematic, although his way is not that traditionally attributed to him. On these basic issues of epistemology, Descartes is no Cartesian. (shrink)
According to Moore, his argument meets three conditions for being a proof: first, the premiss is different from the conclusion; second, he knows the premiss to be the case; and, third, the conclusion follows deductively.2 Further conditions may be required, but he evidently thinks his proof would satisfy these as well. As Moore is well aware, many philosophers will feel he has not given “...any satisfactory proof of the point in question."3 Some, he believes, will want the premiss itself proved. (...) But he has.. (shrink)
Geoffrey Sayre-McCord puts before us an interesting and original line of thought. Here is its main structure: (a) Naturalist semantics would bring important benefits to ethics. But (b) it has very high costs. Fortunately, (c) we can secure such benefits without the costs, by substituting, for the natural kinds of naturalist semantics, a set of moral kinds determined not by scientific but by moral theory. I find myself stumped by the preliminaries at (a), however, which need further support, or so (...) I will argue in section I. Section II will assume that the concerns of section I can be met, and will discuss the rest of the argument independently of that. (shrink)
A discussion of George Bealer's conception and defense of rational intuition as a basis of philosophical knowledge, under three main heads: a) the phenomenology of intellectual intuition; b) the status of such intuition as a basic source of evidence, and the explanation of what gives it that status; and c) the defense of intuition against those who would reject it and exclude it on principle from the set of valid sources of evidence.
What is involved in acquiring a russellian proposition (x, φ) as content of an attitude: what does it take for one to acquire such an attitude de re? How do we gain access to x itself so as to be able to have (x, φ) as content of our thought?
I am grateful to both Richards, Foley and Fumerton, for the time and attention that they have given to my work. I have certainly learned from their excellent comments, just as I expected. Given the constraints, however, I must be selective in my response. First of all, I will aim to present my view of human knowledge in a broader context. Against this background I will then respond to several of the points they have made.
Truth centered epistemology puts truth at the center in more ways than one. For one thing, it makes truth a main cognitive goal of inquiry. For another, it explains other main epistemic concepts in terms of truth. Knowledge itself, for example, is explained as belief that meets certain other conditions, among them being true. And a belief is said to be rationally or epistemically justified or apt, which it must be in order to be knowledge, only if it derives from (...) a truth-conducive faculty, an intellectual virtue. What defensible theories of truth are open to such truth-centered epistemology? That is our main question. (shrink)