Systematic research in the wide field of practicalknowledge is a recent phenomenon. In this paper, the approaches which have been developed in the main centres of research into practicalknowledge in Norway and Sweden are compared with an emphasis on their potential for revitalizing the study of ethics. The focus on narratives and reflection based on the researcher’s own professional experience which is the distinguishing feature of the centre for practicalknowledge at the (...) University of Nordland is seen as a very promising addition to the traditional repertory of ethical studies. (shrink)
According to G.E.M. Anscombe, an agent’s knowledge of his own intentional actions differs from his knowledge of his unintended behaviors as well as the knowledge others can have of what he intentionally does, in being secured “without observation”. I begin by posing a problem for any conception of this theory according to which non-observational knowledge must be independent of sense-perception, and criticize several recent attempts to get around the problem. Having done this, I develop an alternative (...) account of non-observational knowledge according to which its special character consists in the particular causal role of an agent’s self-awareness in bringing his intentional actions about. (shrink)
This paper addresses an argument offered by John Hawthorne gainst the propriety of an agent’s using propositions she does not know as premises in practical reasoning. I will argue that there are a number of potential structural confounds in Hawthorne’s use of his main example, a case of practical reasoning about a lottery. By drawing these confounds out more explicitly, we can get a better sense of how to make appropriate use of such examples in theorizing about norms, (...)knowledge, and practical reasoning. I will conclude by suggesting a prescription for properly using lottery propositions to do the sort of work that Hawthorne wants from them. (shrink)
It is largely agreed that if constructivism contributes anything to meta-ethics it is by proposing that we understand ethical objectivity “in terms of a suitably constructed point of view that all can accept” (Rawls 1980/1999: 307). Constructivists defend this “practical” conception of objectivity in contrast to the realist or “ontological” conception of objectivity, understood as an accurate representation of an independent metaphysical order. Because of their objectivist but not realist commitments, Kantian constructivists place their theory “somewhere in the space (...) between realist and relativist accounts of ethics” (O’Neill 1988: 1). Furthermore, they argue that their practical conception of objectivity succeeds in making sense of certain features of morality, such as its categorical authority and its relation to rational agency, which escape rival theories (Korsgaard 1996b, Korsgaard 2003b). To this extent, constructivism claims a privileged place in meta-ethics. The legitimacy of this claim is widely challenged. Precisely because of its practical conception of objectivity, many – including some constructivists — regard constructivism as a first-order normative theory, rather than as a meta-ethical position, hence not on a par with realism. Some critics object that constructivism fails to offer a distinct meta-ethics because it is structurally incomplete and thus must be combined with a fully-fledged meta-ethics (Hussain and Shah 2006); others argue that it tacitly relies on realism (Timmons 2003; Shafer-Landau 2003; Larmore 2008). Thus far, the debate about the prospects of constructivism as a meta-ethical theory has been driven by the conviction that the case for or against constructivism depends on its ontological commitments. In this chapter, I propose a change in perspective. My aim is to defend constructivism as an objectivist account of practicalknowledge. Its defining feature is the claim that practicalknowledge is knowledge by principles. Its task is to establish a constitutive relation between knowledge of oneself as a practical subject and knowledge about what one ought to do. By focusing on the issue of practicalknowledge I hope to show that the difficulty in situating Kantian constructivism firmly on the meta-ethical map, along with other meta-ethical theories, reflects ambiguities and oscillations about the practical significance of ethics. Even though the term is ambiguous, I retain the qualification “Kantian” for the constructivist theory I outline, and for two reasons. First, while the theory I outline differs from current agnostic or anti-realist variants, it is closer to its origins, since Kant treats practical reason as a cognitive capacity and takes moral judgments to be objective moral cognitions, which importantly differ from other sorts of rational cognitions because they bind us in the first person. Practical cognitions are common knowledge because they are such that all subjects endowed with rationality can arrive at them by reasoning and find them authoritative. Thus understood, Kantian constructivism carves a distinct logical space in the meta-ethical debate that other sorts of constructivism fail to identify. This is the second reason for keeping the qualification “Kantian”. On this formulation, constructivism is antagonistic to non-cognitivist theories denying that moral judgments have cognitive contents, because they deny that there is something to be known; but it is also a rival to cognitivist theories denying that knowledge can be practical in itself. How constructivism differs over the realist theories of practical reason is the least understood aspect of this debate. This essay aims to make the case that practical reason is both discursive and emotional. In contrast to foundational and anti-realist accounts of practical reasoning, it attempts to show that the moral feeling of respect plays a cognitive but non-evidential role in the account of the cognitive and practical powers of reason. The argument proceeds as follows. In section 1, I consider some prominent constructivist arguments against the model of applied knowledge and show that they are driven by non-cognitivist assumptions about the practicality of ethics and the legitimacy of epistemological claims. In section 2, I argue that these arguments do not succeed in disposing of the idea of practicalknowledge as incoherent, because they trade on an ambiguity regarding the proper object of practicalknowledge. To solve this ambiguity, I turn to Anscombe’s contrast between “practical” and “speculative” knowledge as models for understanding action. I thus suggest that Anscombe’s account of practicalknowledge as knowledge of oneself as an agent is an important resource for Kantian constructivism. This finding prompts us to reset the current dispute about the ontological and epistemological commitments of Kantian constructivism, as illustrated in section 3. While constructivism does not postulate any moral ontology prior to reasoning, it attributes to reasoning the cognitive powers to establish a distinctive relation between the agent and her action. The task of sections 4-7 is to account for the distinctive features of Kantian constructivism understood as an objectivist account of practicalknowledge. In section 4, I argue that in order for reasoning to accomplish its normative tasks, it should be conceived as a self-legislating activity. I respond to some objections to the idea of self-legislation as the form of rational willing by offering a dialogical view of practical reason. In section 5, I propose a non-standard interpretation of Kant’s argument of “the fact of reason” to show that the constructivist account of self-legislation does not build on realism about value, as its detractors claim. The “basis of construction” is the subjective experience of respect for the self-legislative capacity itself. This moral feeling conveys our awareness of rational agency and shows our responsiveness to the demands of practical reason. It is an emotional mode of practicalknowledge of oneself as an agent (in the sense specified in section 2), but not as a mode of moral discernment. In section 6, I show how practicalknowledge of oneself as an agent relates to practicalknowledge about what one ought to do. I thus account for the relation between respect as emotional moral consciousness and respect as a deliberative constraint. Finally, in section 7, I reply to the objection of subjectivism. I explain how the complex sort of objectivity that Kantian constructivism affords is at the same time more ambitious and more modest than is generally assumed. (shrink)
[Jennifer Hornsby] The central claim is that the semantic knowledge exercised by people when they speak is practicalknowledge. The relevant idea of practicalknowledge is explicated, applied to the case of speaking, and connected with an idea of agents' knowledge. Some defence of the claim is provided. /// [Jason Stanley] The central claim is that Hornsby's argument that semantic knowledge is practicalknowledge is based upon a false premise. I argue, (...) contra Hornsby, that speakers do not voice their thoughts directly. Rather, our actions of voicing our thoughts are justified by decisions we make (albeit rapidly) about what words to use. Along the way, I raise doubts about other aspects of the thesis that semantic knowledge is practicalknowledge. (shrink)
Argues that the view propounded in "PracticalKnowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
One of the main challenges in the philosophy of language is determining the form of knowledge of the rules of language. Michael Dummett has put forth the view that knowledge of the rules of language is a kind of implicit knowledge; some philosophers have mistakenly conceived of this type of knowledge as a kind of knowledge-that . In a recent paper in this journal, Patricia Hanna argues against Dummett’s knowledge-that view and proposes instead a (...)knowledge-how view in which knowledge of the rules of language is a kind of practicalknowledge, like an agent’s non-propositional knowledge of counting. In this paper I argue, first, that Hanna misunderstands Dummett’s conception of knowledge of linguistic rules, and, second, that Dummett’s considerations of practicalknowledge of language pose a problem for Hanna’s knowledge-how view. At the end of the paper, I briefly sketch an account of practicalknowledge of language that meets the requirements set by Dummett. (shrink)
Among the legacies of Elizabeth Anscombe's 1957 monograph Intention are the introduction of the notion of 'practicalknowledge' into contemporary philosophical discussion of action, and her claim, pursued throughout the book, that an agent's knowledge of what he is doing is characteristically not based on observation.' Each idea by itself has its own obscurities, of course, but my focus here will be on the relation between the two ideas, how it is that the discussion of action may (...) lead us to speak of non-observational knowledge at all, and how this notion can be part of the understanding of a kind of ordinary knowledge that we have reason to consider practical rather than speculative. Anscombe mentions several quite different things under the heading of 'non-observational knowledge', and she first introduces the notion of the nonobservational for purely dialectical purposes, associated with the task of setting out the field she wants to investigate, in a way that ... (shrink)
In his original essay, The Form of PracticalKnowledge, Stephen Engstrom argues for placing Kant’s ethics in the tradition of practical cognitivism. My remarks are intended to highlight the merits of his interpretation in contrast to intuitionism and constructivism, understood as ways of appropriating Kant’s legacy. In particular, I will focus on two issues: ﬁrst, the special character of practicalknowledge—as opposed to theoretical knowledge and craft expertise; and second, the apparent tension between the (...) demands of morality and the requirements of instrumental reason, when this is understood as driven by concerns for happiness, prudence, and personal integrity. (shrink)
When I am asked “What are you doing?”, I answer e.g. “I am making coffee”. Anscombe called the knowledge that this kind of answer involves “practicalknowledge”. Practicalknowledge is knowledge not involving observation and inference. In this presentation I would like to apply this concept to the collectiveaction of many persons. Given that we are playing soccer if someone comes here and asks “What are you doing now?”, we can answer immediately “We are (...) playing soccer”. I would like to claim that the above answer “We are playing soccer” is ‘our’ knowledge of ‘our’ intentional action and the subject of this intention is ‘we’ and there is a collective intention and the subject of knowledge of this intentional action is also ‘we’ and this is collective knowledge, i.e. common knowledge. We anticipate the following objection against this claim: Who utters “We are playing soccer” is an individual and who answers is not “we” but an individual person and she is describing “our” action. I reply to this objection. Furthermore I consider the background knowledge of ‘our’ practicalknowledge and try to extend the concept of ‘practicalknowledge’. (shrink)
Abstract An important strand of theories of practice stress that individuals' practicalknowledge, i.e., their ability to act in appropriate and/or effective ways, is mainly tacit. This means that the social scientist cannot find out about this knowledge by simply asking the individuals she studies to articulate how it is appropriate and/or effective to act in various circumstances. In this paper, I pursue the proposal that the method of participant observation may be used to find out about (...) individuals' practicalknowledge. Surprisingly, the literature does not contain any systematic and comprehensive discussion of this suggestion. I distinguish and exemplify four types of observation that are indicative of individuals' practicalknowledge. The observations may serve as a basis for the social scientist's formulations of this knowledge. Further, I point to two main ways in which things may go wrong when the social scientist uses participant observation to find out about individuals' practicalknowledge. I argue that the social scientist can make reasonably sure to avoid these two potential difficulties. Accordingly, I conclude that these difficulties do not undermine the effectiveness of the method. In this sense, social scientists are right to use the method of participant observation to find out about individuals' practicalknowledge. (shrink)
Argues that, for Anscombe, ‘practicalknowledge’ is not essentially ‘the cause of what it understands’ and that she does not restrict such knowledge to propositions with imperfective aspect. On each count, her view is more puzzling than some have made it seem.
In Quandaries and Virtues, Edmund Pincoffs maintains that we observe a multiplicity of moral norms. A common life in which we participate supplies a context in which many virtues play diverse functional roles. He suggests, without developing the idea, that such a common life provides us with a structure for organizing and harmonizing the many moral norms we attempt to pursue. This essay explores that idea. Bodies of shared practicalknowledge, such as medicine and scientific research, provide examples (...) of empirically grounded practices in which people simultaneously observe a plurality of norms that guide them in right practice. The essay develops the idea that morality is in important ways Iike these bodies of technical practicalknowledge. It maintains that the origin and source of authority of moral norms is appreciably Iike that of technical norms and that the motivation for observing such norms is fundamentaIly similar. (shrink)
Yves R. Simon (1903-1961) was one of this century’s greatest students of the virtue of practical wisdom. Simon’s interest in this virtue ranged from ultimate theoretical and foundational concerns, such as the relationship between practicalknowledge and science, to the most concrete and immediate questions regarding the role of practical wisdom in personal and social decision-making. These concerns occupied Simon from his earliest published writing to the final notes and correspondence he was working on at the (...) moment of his untimely death. Throughout his life, practical wisdom and its related philosophical ramifications emerge time and again at critical junctures, throwing into bold relief some of the deeper dimensions of questions as diverse as the nature of democracy, the concept of law, and the theory of work. Practicalknowledge constitutes a unifying motif of Simon’s entire encyclopedic effort. This volume reconstructs what would have been Simon’s final sustained writing on practicalknowledge. It includes reworking of some previously published material, especially the landmark 1961 essay, "Introduction to the Study of Practical Wisdom," possibly the best treatment of the concept of "command" in recent philosophical writing. But it also reproduces, in a form closely corresponding to Simon’s intention, material drawn from notes and schemata, concerning issues such as the relationship between moral science and wisdom, the nature of practical judgment, and the relationship between practicalknowledge and Christian moral philosophy. Also included are previously unpublished letters to Jacques Maritain on the controversy surrounding the theoretical-practical and practico-practical syllogisms, as well as Maritain’s responses. The volume concludes with applications of Simon’s general theory to a critique of the concept of a social science and to the notion of Christian humanism. This volume will appeal to moral philosophers interested in a range of normative issues, as well as social scientists and readers concerned with the philosophical foundations of modern culture. Virtue moralist, in particular, will find in Simon one of the profoundest commentators on this tradition in normative ethics. (shrink)
This thesis proposes that an account of first-person reference and first-person thinking requires an account of practicalknowledge. At a minimum, first-person reference requires at least a capacity for knowledge of the intentional act of reference. More typically, first-person reasoning requires deliberation and the ability to draw inferences while entertaining different 'I' thoughts. Other accounts of first-person reference--such as the perceptual account and the rule-based account--are criticized as inadequate. An account of practicalknowledge is provided (...) by an interpretation of GEM Anscombe's account in her landmark monograph "Intention". (shrink)
Jason Stanley presents a startling and provocative claim about knowledge: that whether or not someone knows a proposition at a given time is in part determined by his or her practical interests, i.e. by how much is at stake for that person at that time. In defending this thesis, Stanley introduces readers to a number of strategies for resolving philosophical paradox, making the book essential not just for specialists in epistemology but for all philosophers interested in philosophical methodology. (...) Since a number of his strategies appeal to linguistic evidence, it will be of great interest to linguists as well. (shrink)
When making an assessment of animal welfare, it is important to take environmental (housing) or animal-based parameters into account. An alternative approach is to focus on the behavior and appearance of the animal, without making actual measurements or quantifying this. None of these tell the whole story. In this paper, we suggest that it is possible to find common ground between these (seemingly) diametrically opposed positions and argue that this may be the way to deal with the complexity of animal (...) welfare. The model will have to be acceptable for the different parties that will be affected by it and real benefits for the animal should result from it. This will be the basis of a practical ethical approach. All this can be condensed into a model that essentially is made up out of three basic elements: the classical welfare analysis with an existing welfare assessment tool, an assessment of the stockholder, and an implementation of the Free Choice Profiling technique. This new framework does not pretend to be a different or better animal welfare matrix; it is intended to integrate existing knowledge and to provide a practical tool to improve animal welfare. It identifies whether there are welfare problems on a farm, if present whether these problems are caused by the housing system or the stockholder, and what can be done to improve the situation. (shrink)
Recently, some philosophers have defended the idea that knowledge is an interest-relative notion. According to this thesis, whether an agent knows P may depend on the practical costs of her being wrong about P. This perspective marks a radical departure from traditional accounts that take knowledge to be a purely intellectual concept. I think there is much to say on behalf of the interest-relative notion. In this paper, I report on some new evidence which strongly suggests that (...) ordinary people’s attributions of knowledge are in fact sensitive to practical interests. This is noteworthy because recent experiments have been interpreted by many to support the opposite conclusion. I also argue that the new results support an invariantist but interest-relativist account of knowledge, a thesis known as Interest Relative Invariantism (IRI). I do not make the case here that IRI gives us the very best explanation of the results presented here. Any such attempt would require an in-depth survey of the last few decades of work in epistemology. I only want to argue here that IRI gives us a simple and elegant explanation of the new data, and that the same cannot be said about traditional contextualism, a leading competitor to IRI. (shrink)
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about such cases are. To (...) account for these results, one must develop a better conception of the connection between a subject's interests and her body of knowledge than those offered by Stanley and Schaffer. (shrink)
Argues that we know without observation or inference at least some of what we are doing intentionally and that this possibility must be explained in terms of knowledge-how. It is a consequence of the argument that knowing how to do something cannot be identified with knowledge of a proposition.
Introduction -- Part I: Willing as practical knowing -- The will and practical judgment -- Fundamental practical judgments : the wish for happiness -- Part II: From presuppositions of judgment to the idea of a categorical imperative -- The formal presuppositions of practical judgment -- Constraints on willing -- Part III: Interpretation -- The categorical imperative -- Applications -- Conclusion.
It has become recently popular to suggest that knowledge is the epistemic norm of practical reasoning and that this provides an important constraint on the correct account of knowledge, one which favours subject-sensitive invariantism over contextualism and classic invariantism. I argue that there are putative counterexamples to both directions of the knowledge norm. Even if the knowledge norm can be defended against these counterexamples, I argue that it is a delicate issue whether it is true, (...) one which relies on fine distinctions among a variety of relevant notions of propriety which our intuitions may reflect. These notions variously apply to the agent herself, her character traits, her beliefs, her reasoning and any resultant action. Given the delicacy of these issues, I argue that the knowledge norm is not a fixed point from which to defend substantive and controversial views in epistemology. Rather, these views need to be defended on other grounds. (shrink)
Ryle’s account of practical knowing is much controverted. The paper seeks to place present disputations in a larger context and draw attention to the connection between Ryle’s preoccupations and Aristotle’s account of practical reason, practical intelligence, and the way in which human beings enter into the way of being and acting that Aristotle denominates ethos . Considering matters in this framework, the author finds inconclusive the arguments that Stanley and Williamson offer for seeing knowing how to as (...) a special case of knowing that. The paper then explores certain implications of the author’s position for the philosophy of mind and the grammatical analysis of constructions involving ‘know how to’. It ends with a neo-Rylean remark about Aristotelian nous. (shrink)
Defenders of pragmatic encroachment in epistemology (or what I call practicalism) need to address two main problems. First, the view seems to imply, absurdly, that knowledge can come and go quite easily—in particular, that it might come and go along with our variable practical interests. We can call this the stability problem. Second, there seems to be no fully satisfying way of explaining whose practical interests matter. We can call this the “whose stakes?” problem. I argue that (...) both problems can be addressed in roughly the same terms. More exactly, I argue that by first clarifying the whose stakes? problem an answer to the stability problem naturally falls out. (shrink)
Defenders of pragmatic theories of knowledge (such as contextualism and sensitive invariantism) argue that these theories, unlike those that invoke a single standard for knowledge, comport with the intuitively compelling thesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion and practical reason. In this paper, I dispute this thesis, and argue that, therefore, the prospects for both “high standard” approach, and contend that if one abandons the thesis that knowledge is the norm of assertion and (...) class='Hi'>practical reason, the most serious arguments against it lose force. (shrink)
In Knowledge and Lotteries, Hawthorne argues for a view on which whether a speaker knows that p depends on whether her practical environment makes it appropriate for her to use p in practical reasoning. It may seem that this view yields a straightforward account of why knowledge is important, based on the role of knowledge in practical reasoning. I argue that this is not so; practical reasoning does not motivate us to care about (...)knowledge in itself. At best, practical reasoning motivates us to care about several other concepts in themselves, and ascriptions of knowledge provide economical summaries of these independently important desiderata. (shrink)
: This paper defends the knowledge rule of informative speech acts. It is argued that Edward Craig's insightful practical explication of the concept of knowledge can be extended to motivate the knowledge rule. A number of problem cases for the knowledge rule are addressed and accommodated.
If knowledge is the norm of practical reasoning, then we should be able to alter people's behavior by affecting their knowledge as well as by affecting their beliefs. Thus, as Roy Sorensen (2010) suggests, we should expect to find people telling lies that target knowledge rather than just lies that target beliefs. In this paper, however, I argue that Sorensen's discovery of “knowledge-lies” does not support the claim that knowledge is the norm of (...) class='Hi'>practical reasoning. First, I use a Bayesian framework to show that in each of Sorensen's examples, knowledge-lies alter people's behavior by affecting their beliefs. Second, I show that while we can imagine lies that target knowledge without targeting beliefs, they cannot alter people's behavior. In other words, knowledge-lies actually work (i.e., manipulate behavior) by targeting beliefs or they do not work at all. (shrink)
A quotation from Shakespeare's play King Lear, ‘I will teach you differences’, encapsulates the spirit of this paper. The distinction is introduced between three different categories of knowledge: i) propositional knowledge, ii) skill or practicalknowledge and iii) knowledge of familiarity. In the present debate on ‘Information Society’, there is a clear tendency to overemphasise the theoretical knowledge at the expense of practicalknowledge thereby completely ignoring the knowledge of familiarity. It (...) is argued that different forms of theoretical knowledge are required for the design of current computer technology and the study of the practice of computer usage. The concept of dialogue and the concept of ‘To Follow a Rule’ therefore fundamental to the understanding of the practice of computer usage. (shrink)
In this paper I present a new argument against internalist theories of practical reason. My argument is inpired by Frank Jackson's celebrated Knowledge Argument. I ask what will happen when an agent experiences pain for the first time. Such an agent, I argue, will gain new normative knowledge that internalism cannot explain. This argument presents a similar difficulty for other subjectivist and constructivist theories of practical reason and value. I end by suggesting that some debates in (...) meta-ethics and in the philosophy of mind might be more closely intertwined than philosophers in either area would like to believe. (shrink)
Igal Kvart RATIONAL ASSERTIBILITY, THE STEERING ROLE OF KNOWLEDGE, AND PRAGMATIC ENCROACHMENT Abstract In the past couple of decades, there were a few major attempts to establish the thesis of pragmatic encroachment – that there is a significant pragmatic ingredient in the truth-conditions for knowledge-ascriptions. Epistemic contextualism has flaunted the notion of a conversational standard, and Stanley's subject-sensitive invariantism (SSI) promoted stakes, each of which, according to their proponents, play a major role as pragmatic components in the truth (...) conditions of knowledge ascriptions. These conceptions were propelled first and foremost by examples of knowledge ascriptions with obvious pragmatic aspects that seemed to require a pragmatic component in the truth-conditions of knowledge ascriptions in order to be accounted for. However, if such examples can be adequately explained not by pragmatic encroachment purely pragmatically, the central role that such examples play in supporting these accounts will be undermined. I lay out here a new pragmatic account, offering a different, purely pragmatic picture that explains such examples, and much more. If such an account and its associated explanations are adequate, then much of a need or a motivation for pragmatic encroachment is undermined. Specifically, I will develop the notion of rational assertibility, appealing to rational norms (which are not Gricean) as interfacing with semantic and epistemic (and other) norms to yield assertibility simpliciter. More importantly, I will argue for a well-entrenched pragmatic profile of knowledge, the so-called steering role of knowledge. Knowledge ascriptions, or simple assertions (that don't invoke the notion of knowledge), it will be argued, play a pragmatic role of steering audiences in joint deliberational setups to the speaker's preferred action by invoking an impending practical inference leading to that preferred action, and of ignoring incompatible alternatives. The recognition of rational forces as affecting, sometimes strongly and predominantly, intuitions associated with knowledge ascriptions, has important implications to philosophical methodology regarding what count as evidence for semantic features. One such lesson calls for securing examples with no significant rational forces at play in order to establish semantic features. Another calls attention to the ill-suitability of employing assertibility by figures in examples featuring deliberational setups for such a purpose in view of the role that such assertibility plays in reflecting rational aspects of such figures, in addition to their epistemic and semantic characteristics. Still another lesson points to a specific role that audiences play in such deliberational setups. (shrink)
There is abundant evidence of contextual variation in the use of “S knows p.” Contextualist theories explain this variation in terms of semantic hypotheses that refer to standards of justification determined by “practical” features of either the subject’s context (Hawthorne & Stanley) or the ascriber’s context (Lewis, Cohen, & DeRose). There is extensive linguistic counterevidence to both forms. I maintain that the contextual variation of knowledge claims is better explained by common pragmatic factors. I show here that one (...) is variable strictness. “S knows p” is commonly used loosely to implicate “S is close enough to knowing p for contextually indicated purposes.” A pragmatic account may use a range of semantics, even contextualist. I use an invariant semantics on which knowledge requires complete justification. This combination meets the Moorean constraint as well as any linguistic theory should, and meets the intuition constraint much better than contextualism. There is no need for ad hoc error theories. The variation in conditions of assertability and practical rationality is better explained by variably strict constraints. It will follow that “S knows p” is used loosely to implicate that the condition for asserting “p” and using it in practical reasoning are satisfied. (shrink)
If epistemic contextualism is correct, then knowledge attributions do not have stable truth-conditions across different contexts. John Hawthorne (2004), Timothy Williamson (2005), and Patrick Rysiew (2012) argue that this unstable picture of knowledge attributions undermines the trans-contextual role that knowledge reports play in storing, retrieving, and transmitting useful information. I argue that there are several ways to stabilize the truth-conditions for ‘know’ across conversational contexts, which allows knowledge reports to serve a trans-contextual role. In particular, I (...) use the technique of practical explication to discuss a social dimension of knowledge that stabilizes the contextual variation of ‘know’. This proposal indicates a new way of characterizing contextualism. (shrink)
This paper explores how the purpose of the concept of knowledge affects knowledge ascriptions in natural language. I appeal to the idea that the role of the concept of knowledge is to flag reliable informants, and I use this idea to illuminate and support contextualism about ‘knows’. I argue that practical pressures that arise in an epistemic state of nature provide an explanatory basis for a brand of contextualism that I call ‘practical interests contextualism’. I (...) also answer some questions that contextualism leaves open, particularly why the concept of knowledge is valuable, why the word ‘knows’ exhibits context-variability, and why this term enjoys such widespread use. Finally, I show how my contextualist framework accommodates plausible ideas from two rival views: subject-sensitive invariantism and insensitive invariantism. This provides new support for contextualism and develops this view in a way that improves our understanding of the concept of knowledge. (shrink)
I argue that logical understanding is not propositional knowledgebut is rather a species of practicalknowledge. I further arguethat given the best explanation of logical understanding someversion or another of inferential role semantics must be the correct account of the determinants of logical content.
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)