Current epistemological orthodoxy has it that knowledge is incompatible with luck. More precisely: Knowledge is incompatible with epistemic luck (of a certain, interesting kind). This is often treated as a truism which is not even in need of argumentative support. In this paper, I argue that there is lucky knowledge. In the first part, I use an intuitive and not very developed notion of luck to show that there are cases of knowledge which are “lucky” in that sense. In the (...) second part, I look at philosophical conceptions of luck (modal and probabilistic ones) and come to the conclusion that knowledge can be lucky in those senses, too. I also turns out that a probabilistic notion of luck can help us see in what ways a particular piece of knowledge or belief can be lucky or not lucky. (shrink)
There is a sceptical puzzle according to which knowledge appears to license an unacceptable kind of dogmatism. Here is a version of the corresponding sceptical argument: (1) If a subject S knows a proposition p, then it is OK for S to ignore all evidence against p as misleading; (2) It is never OK for any subject to ignore any evidence against their beliefs as misleading; (3) Hence, nobody knows anything.I distinguish between different versions of the puzzle (mainly a ‘permissibility’ (...) version and a ‘closure’ version) and offer a solution for one version (the permissibility version) of the problem. No matter how much a subject knows, knowledge never gives one a license to ignore evidence against a proposition. Premise (1) of the argument is false and the puzzle can thus be resolved. (shrink)
Philip Kitcher recently argued for a reconstruction in philosophy. According to him, the contemporary mainstream of philosophy (in the English-speaking world, at least) has deteriorated into something that is of relevance only to a few specialists who communicate with each other in a language nobody else understands. Kitcher proposes to reconstruct philosophy along two axes: a knowledge axis (with a focus on the sciences) and a value axis. The present article discusses Kitcher's diagnosis as well as his proposal of a (...) therapy. It argues that there are problems with both, and it ends with an alternative view of what some core problems of the profession currently are. (shrink)
This paper argues that English quantifier phrases of the form ‘every F’ admit of a literal referential interpretation, contrary to the standard semantic account of this expression, according to which it denotes a set and a second-order relation. Various arguments are offered in favor of the referential interpretation, and two likely objections to it are forestalled.
This paper presents a puzzle about moral responsibility. The problem is based upon the indeterminacy of relevant reference classes as applied to action. After discussing and rejecting a very tempting response I propose moral contextualism instead, that is, the idea that the truth value of judgments of the form S is morally responsible for x depends on and varies with the context of the attributor who makes that judgment. Even if this reply should not do all the expected work it (...) is a first step. (shrink)
Classical empiricism leads to notorious problems having to do with the (at least prima facie) lack of an acceptable empiricist justification of empiricism itself. Bas van Fraassen claims that his idea of the “empirical stance” can deal with such problems. I argue, however, that this view entails a very problematic form of voluntarism which comes with the threat of latent irrationality and normative inadequacy. However, there is also a certain element of truth in such a voluntarism. The main difficulty consists (...) in finding an acceptable form of voluntarism. (shrink)
Abstract One of the most popular objections against epistemic contextualism is the so-called ?warranted assertability? objection. The objection is based on the possibility of a ?warranted assertability manoeuvre?, also known as a WAM. I argue here that WAMs are of very limited scope and importance. An important class of cases cannot be dealt with by WAMs. No analogue of WAMs is available for these cases. One should thus not take WAMs too seriously in the debate about epistemic contextualism.
This paper questions the claim that definite descriptions have a referential semantics. Two possible definitions of “referential meaning” are discussed, and it is argued that definite descriptions are not referential according to either one. Devitt’s (2004, 2007) recent account of descriptions’ referential meaning is also briefly examined, and some problems with it are pointed out. It is suggested (though not shown) that the troubles with specifying exactly in what sense definite descriptions are referential point to the incoherence of the very (...) notion of semantic reference and support instead a pragmatic understanding of reference. In Spanish. (shrink)
A widely accepted thesis in the philosophy of language is that natural language proper names are rigid designators, and that they are so de jure, or as a matter of the “semantic rules of the language.” This paper questions this claim, arguing that rigidity cannot be plausibly construed as a property of name types and that the alternative, rigidity construed as a property of tokens, means that they cannot be considered rigid de jure; rigidity in this case must be viewed (...) as a pragmatic and not a semantic property. (shrink)
This paper has two purposes: the first is to critically examine Kripke’s well-known arguments against Descriptivism and suggest that they are not as decisive as many have thought; the second is to argue that proper names do encode descriptive information of various kinds, that such information may be truth-conditionally significant, and hence that a name’s truth-conditional contribution is not limited to its referent.
This paper discusses two versions of reliabilism: modal and probabilistic reliabilism. Modal reliabilism faces the problem of the missing closeness metric for possible worlds while probalistic reliabilism faces the problem of the relevant reference class. Despite the severity of these problems, reliabilism is still very plausible (also for independent reasons). I propose to stick with reliabilism, propose a contextualist (or, alternatively, harmlessly relativist) solution to the above problems and suggest that probabilistic reliabilism has the advantage over modal reliabilism.
Hájek has recently presented the following paradox. You are certain that a cable guy will visit you tomorrow between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. but you have no further information about when. And you agree to a bet on whether he will come in the morning interval (8, 12] or in the afternoon interval (12, 4). At first, you have no reason to prefer one possibility rather than the other. But you soon realise that there will definitely be a future (...) time at which you will (rationally) assign higher probability to an afternoon arrival than a morning one, due to time elapsing. You are also sure there may not be a future time at which you will (rationally) assign a higher probability to a morning arrival than an afternoon one. It would therefore appear that you ought to bet on an afternoon arrival. The paradox is based on the apparent incompatibility of the principle of expected utility and principles of diachronic rationality which are prima facie plausible. Hájek concludes that the latter are false, but doesn't provide a clear diagnosis as to why. We endeavour to further our understanding of the paradox by providing such a diagnosis. (shrink)
Epistemological contextualism - the claim that the truth-value of knowledge-attributions can vary with the context of the attributor - has recently faced a whole series of objections. The most serious one, however, has not been discussed much so far: the factivity objection. In this paper, I explain what the objection is and present three different versions of the objection. I then show that there is a good way out for the contextualist. However, in order to solve the problem the contextualist (...) has to accept a relationalist version of contextualism. (shrink)
One of the most recent trends in epistemology is contrastivism. It can be characterized as the thesis that knowledge is a ternary relation between a subject, a proposition known and a contrast proposition. According to contrastivism, knowledge attributions have the form “S knows that p, rather than q”. In this paper I raise several problems for contrastivism: it lacks plausibility for many cases of knowledge, is too narrow concerning the third relatum, and overlooks a further relativity of the knowledge relation.
In his recent book Moral Skepticisms Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues in great detail for contrastivism with respect to justified moral belief and moral knowledge. I raise three questions concerning this view. First, how would Sinnott-Armstrong account for constraints on admissible contrast classes? Secondly, how would he deal with notorious problems concerning relevant reference classes? Finally, how can he account for basic features of moral agency? It turns out that the last problem is the most serious one for his account.
In Baumann (American Philosophical Quarterly 42: 71–79, 2005) I argued that reflections on a variation of the Monty Hall problem throws a very general skeptical light on the idea of single-case probabilities. Levy (Synthese, forthcoming, 2007) puts forward some interesting objections which I answer here.
Suppose someone hears a loud noise and at the same time sees a yellow flash. It seems hard to deny that the person can experience loudness and yellowness together. However, since loudness is experienced by the auditory sense whereas yellowness is experienced by the visual sense it also seems hard to explain how.
Human dignity seems very important to us. At the same time, the concept ‘human dignity’ is extrordinarily elusive. A good way to approach the questions “What is it?” and “Why is it important?” is to raise another question first: In virtue of what do human beings have dignity? Speciesism - the idea that human beings have a particular dignity because they are humans - does not seem very convincing. A better answer says that human beings have dignity because and insofar (...) as they are persons. I discuss several versions of this idea as well as several objections against it. The most promising line of analysis says that human beings cannot survive psychologically without a very basic form of recognition and respect by others. The idea that humans have a very special dignity is the idea that they owe each other this kind of respect. All this also suggests that human dignity is inherently social. Non-social beings do not have dignity - nor do they lack it. It is because we are social animals of a certain kind that we have dignity - not so much because we are rational animals. (shrink)
Christoph Jäger (2004) argues that Dretske’s information theory of knowledge raises a serious problem for his denial of closure of knowledge under known entailment: Information is closed under known entailment (even under entailment simpliciter); given that Dretske explains the concept of knowledge in terms of “information”, it is hard to stick with his denial of closure for knowledge. Thus, one of the two basic claims of Dretske would have to go. Since giving up the denial of closure would commit Dretske (...) to skepticism, it would most probably be better to rather give up the information-theoretic account of knowledge. But that means that one of the best externalist views of knowledge has to be given up. I argue here that Jäger is mistaken and that there is no problem for Dretske. There is a rather easy way out of Jäger’s problem. (shrink)
Most contextualists agree that contexts differ with respect to relevant epistemic standards. In this paper, I discuss the idea that the difference between more modest and stricter standards should be explained in terms of the closeness or remoteness of relevant possible worlds. I argue that there are serious problems with this version of contextualism. In the second part of the paper, I argue for another form of contextualism that has little to do with standards and a lot with the well-known (...) problem of the reference class. This paper also illustrates the fact that contextualism comes in many varieties. (shrink)
There are many ordinary propositions we think we know. Almost every ordinary proposition entails some lottery proposition which we think we do not know but to which we assign a high probability of being true (for instance:I will never be a multi-millionaire entails I will not win this lottery). How is this possible – given that some closure principle is true? This problem, also known as the Lottery puzzle, has recently provoked a lot of discussion. In this paper I discuss (...) one of the most promising answers to the problem: Stewart Cohens contextualist solution, which is based on ideas about the salience of chances of error. After presenting some objections to it I sketch an alternative solution which is still contextualist in spirit. (shrink)
Practical conflicts pervade human life. Agents have many different desires, goals, and commitments, all of which can come into conflict with each other. How can practical reasoning help to resolve these practical conflicts? In this collection of new essays a distinguished roster of philosophers analyze the diverse forms of practical conflict. Their aim is to establish an understanding of the sources of these conflicts, to investigate the challenge they pose to an adequate conception of practical reasoning, and to assess the (...) degree to which that challenge can be met. These essays will serve as a major resource for students of philosophy but will also interest students and professionals in related fields of the social sciences such as psychology, political science, sociology and economics. (shrink)
Donald Davidson has argued against a thesis that is widely shared in the philosophy of language, e.g., by Wittgenstein, Dummett and Kripke: the thesis that successful communication requires that speaker and hearer share a common language. Davidson's arguments, however, are not convincing. Moreover, Davidson's own positive account of communication poses a serious problem: it cannot offer criteria for the correct use of a language, especially in the case of a language that only one speaker speaks. Even though Davidson's own position (...) is not convincing he shows us that the opposite position is weaker than one might assume (compare, e.g., the wittgensteinian idea that a common social praxis of rule-following can supply us with criteria of correctness). Furthermore, the whole discussion shows us that the issue is not settled yet. (shrink)