According to “sensitive invariantism,” the word “know” expresses the same relation in every context of use, but what it takes to stand in this relation to a proposition can vary with the subject’s circumstances. Sensitive invariantism looks like an attractive reconciliation of invariantism and contextualism. However, it is incompatible with a widely-held view about the way knowledge is transmitted through testimony. If both views were true, someone whose evidence for p fell short of what was required for (...) knowledge in her circumstances could come to know that p simply by feeding her evidence to someone in less demanding circumstances and then accepting his testimony. (shrink)
Thomas Blackson does not question that my argument in section 2 of “Assertion, Knowledge and Context” establishes the conclusion that the standards that comprise a truth-condition for “I know that P” vary with context, but does claim that this does not suffice to validly demonstrate the truth of contextualism, because this variance in standards can be handled by what we will here call Subject-SensitiveInvariantism (SSI), and so does not demand a contextualist treatment. According to SSI, the varying (...) standards that comprise a truth-condition of “I know that P” are sensitive to factors that attach to the speaker as the putative subject of knowledge, rather than as the speaker of the knowledge attribution. That is, according to SSI, these factors of the subject’s context determine a single set of standards that govern when the subject himself, or any other speaker, including those not engaged in conversation with the subject, can truthfully say that the subject “knows.” Thus, we do not get the result that contextualists insist on: that one speaker can truthfully say the subject “knows,” while another speaker, in a different and more demanding context, can say that the subject does “not know”, even though the two speakers are speaking of the same subject knowing (or not knowing) the same proposition at the same time. Given the possibility of SSI, Blackson concludes that I “either assumed without argument that [SSI] is false or failed to distinguish the different ways the standard for knowledge might be determined.” I indeed have long assumed that SSI can’t be right, and so have taken a different form of invariantism to be the real threat to contextualism. But since SSI, and views like it, now seem to be getting considerable attention, it is worth articulating why I find it unpromising. (shrink)
§I schematises the evidence for an understanding of ‘know’ and other terms of epistemic appraisal that embodies contextualism or subject-sensitiveinvariantism, and distinguishes between those two approaches. §II argues that although the cases for contextualism and sensitive invariantism rely on a principle of charity in the interpretation of epistemic claims, neither approach satisfies charity fully, since both attribute metalinguistic errors to speakers. §III provides an equally charitable anti-sceptical insensitive invariantist explanation of much of the same evidence as (...) the result of psychological bias caused by salience effects. §IV suggests that the explanation appears to have implausible consequences about practical reasoning, but also that applications of contextualism or sensitive invariantism to the problem of scepticism have such consequences. §V argues that the inevitable difference between appropriateness and knowledge of appropriateness in practical reasoning, closely related to the difference between knowledge and knowledge of knowledge, explains the apparent implausibility. (shrink)
Jason Stanley has argued recently that Epistemic Contextualism (EC) and Subject-SensitiveInvariantism (SSI) are explanatorily on a par with regard to certain data arising from modal and temporal embeddings of 'knowledge'-ascriptions. This paper argues against Stanley that EC has a clear advantage over SSI in the discussed field and introduces a new type of linguistic datum strongly suggesting the falsity of SSI.
Subject sensitive invariantism is the view that whether a subject knows depends on what is at stake for that subject: the truth-value of a knowledge-attribution is sensitive to the subject's practical interests. I argue that subject sensitive invariantism cannot accept a very plausible principle for memory to transmit knowledge. I argue, furthermore, that semantic contextualism and contrastivism can accept this plausible principle for memory to transmit knowledge. I conclude that semantic contextualism and contrastivism are in a dialectical position (...) better than subject sensitive invariantism is. (shrink)
Does what you know depend on what is at stake for you? That is, is the knowledge relation sensitive to the subject’s practical interests? Subject sensitive invariantists (Fantl and McGrath, 2002; Hawthorne, 2004, ch. 4; Stanley, forthcoming) say that the answer is yes. They claim to capture the contextualist data without the shifty semantics. I will argue that the answer is no. The knowledge relation is sensitive to what is in question for the attributor, rather than what is at stake (...) for the subject. There is no substitute for the contextualist semantics. (shrink)
The paper is concerned with the semantics of knowledge attributions(K-claims, for short) and proposes a position holding that K-claims are contextsensitive that differs from extant views on the market. First I lay down the data a semantic theory for K-claims needs to explain. Next I present and assess three views purporting to give the semantics for K-claims: contextualism, subject-sensitiveinvariantism and relativism. All three views are found wanting with respect to their accounting for the data. I then propose (...) a hybrid view according to which the relevant epistemic standards for evaluating K-claims are neither those at the context of the subject (subject-sensitiveinvariantism), nor those at the context of the assessor (relativism), but it is itself an open matter. However, given that we need a principled way of deciding which epistemic standards are the relevant ones, I provide a principle according to which the relevant standards are those that are the highest between those at the context of the subject and those at the context of the assessor/attributor. In the end I consider some objections to the view and offer some answers. (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-sensitiveinvariantism (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)
In this paper we propose a new semantics, based on the notion of a "contextual model", that makes it possible to express and compare — within a unique formal framework — different views on the roles of various notions of context in knowledge ascriptions. We use it to provide a logical analysis of such positions as skeptical and moderate invariantism, contextualism, and subject-sensitiveinvariantism. A dynamic formalism is also proposed that offers new insights into a classical skeptical (...) puzzle. (shrink)
According to Interest-Relative Invariantism, whether an agent knows that p, or possesses other sorts of epistemic properties or relations, is in part determined by the practical costs of being wrong about p. Recent studies in experimental philosophy have tested the claims of IRI. After critically discussing prior studies, we present the results of our own experiments that provide strong support for IRI. We discuss our results in light of complementary findings by other theorists, and address the challenge posed by (...) a leading intellectualist alternative to our view. (shrink)
According to a prominent claim in recent epistemology, people are less likely to ascribe knowledge to a high stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are severe, than to a low stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are slight. We offer an opinionated "state of the art" on experimental research about the role of stakes in knowledge judgments. We draw on a first wave of empirical studies--due to Feltz & Zarpentine (2010), May et al (2010), (...) and Buckwalter (2010)--which cast doubt on folk stakes sensitivity, and a second wave of empirical studies--due to Pinillos (2012) and Sripada & Stanley (2012)--said to vindicate it, as well as new studies of our own. We conclude that the balance of evidence to date best supports Folk stakes insensitivity, or that all else equal, stakes do not affect knowledge ascription. (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)
I defend a sensitive neo-Moorean invariantism, an epistemological account with the following characteristic features: (a) it reserves a place for a sensitivity condition on knowledge, according to which, very roughly, S’s belief that p counts as knowledge only if S wouldn’t believe that p if p were false; (b) it maintains that the standards for knowledge are comparatively low; and (c) it maintains that the standards for knowledge are invariant (i.e., that they vary neither with the linguistic context of (...) the subject of knowledge nor with the linguistic context of the attributor of knowledge). I argue that this sort of account allows us to respond adequately to some difficult puzzles in epistemology, puzzles such as skeptical puzzles, as well as puzzles that inspire epistemological contextualism. I also maintain that by utilizing what Keith DeRose calls a warranted assertibility maneuver, sensitive neo-Moorean invariantism can account for our epistemic judgments in each of these puzzle cases. (shrink)
I distinguish two different kinds of practical stakes associated with propositions. The W-stakes (world) track what is at stake with respect to whether the proposition is true or false. The A-stakes (attitude) track what is at stake with respect to whether an agent believes or relies on the proposition. This poses a dilemma for those who claim that whether a proposition is known can depend on the stakes associated with it. Only the W-stakes reading of this view preserves intuitions about (...) knowledge-attributions, but only the A-stakes reading preserves the putative link between knowledge and practical reasoning that has motivated it. (shrink)
“Pragmatic Encroachment and Epistemic Value”. Some philosopherswho defend “pragmatic encroachment” and “sensitive invariantism” argue thatchanges in the importance of being right and signiicant increases of the costsof error in given contexts can alter the standards of knowledge. If this view werecorrect, it could explain to some extent the practical value of knowledge. Thispaper argues that the pragmatic encroachment thesis is wrong. It discusses threepossible sources of encroachment on epistemic notions: on belief, on justiication,and on knowledge, and rejects the idea (...) that the epistemic standards change withpractical stakes. Pragmatic factors can be relevant to the formation of belief andto the context of inquiry, although they are not relevant to epistemic evaluation.Epistemic value cannot depend upon such factors. (shrink)
I present the features of the ordinary use of 'knows' that make a compelling case for the contextualist account of that verb, and I outline and defend the methodology that takes us from the data to a contextualist conclusion. Along the way, the superiority of contextualism over subject-sensitiveinvariantism is defended, and, in the final section, I answer some objections to contextualism.
Contextualists support their view by appeal to cases which show that whether an attribution of knowledge seems correct depends on attributor factors. Contextualists conclude that the truth-conditions of knowledge attributions depend on the attributor's context. Invariantists respond that these cases show only that the warranted assertability-conditions of knowledge attributions depend on the attributor's context. I examine DeRose's recent argument against the possibility of such an invariantist response, an argument which appeals to the knowledge account of assertion and the context-sensitivity of (...) assertion. I argue that DeRose's new argument does not rule out either of the two forms of invariantism, classic and subject-sensitiveinvariantism. Further, I argue against DeRose that an invariantist can explain the context-sensitivity of assertion. (shrink)
I contrast two solutions to the lottery paradox concerning knowledge: contextualism and subject-sensitiveinvariantism. I defend contextualism against an objection that it cannot explain how 'knows' and its cognates function inside propositional attitude reports. I then argue that subject-sensitiveinvariantism fails to provide a satisfactory resolution of the paradox.
This paper is concerned with the resources available for insensitive invariantism in epistemology to handle the intuitions that have been appealed to, both for contextualism and for subject-sensitiveinvariantism. It is argued that proposals by Tim Williamson and Jessica Brown are not adequate, and that subject-sensitive inductive fails to account for some crucial intuitions. It is then argued that the chauvinistic nature of the psychology of insensitive invariantism provides adequate resources for such an account. A (...) subject is chauvinistic simply by taking his own beliefs to be true, and by judging attributions accordingly. This is first illustrated with meaning attributions in the theory of interpretation, and then applied to knowledge attributions. (shrink)
The latest newcomer on the epistemology scene is Subject-SensitiveInvariantism (SSI), which is the view that even though the semantics of the verb “know” is invariant, the answer to the question of whether someone knows something is sensitive to factors about that person. Factors about the context of the purported knower are relevant to whether he knows some proposition p or not. In this paper I present Jason Stanley's version of SSI, a theory Stanley calls Interest-Relative Invariantism (...) (IRI). The core epistemological claim of IRI is that knowledge is conceptually connected to practical interests. Stanley's defence of IRI is closely connected to practical reasoning, but unfortunately, I argue, IRI leads to bad practical reasoning. I furthermore show that Stanley's IRI cannot accommodate all of Stanley's five test cases for knowledge attribution, test cases that are supposed to (more or less) make or break theories of knowledge attribution. IRI also has some quite counterintuitive results and derives much of its appeal from one-sidedness of Stanley's examples. The net effect, I claim, is that IRI should be resisted. (shrink)
This paper addresses two worries that might be raised about contextualism in epistemology and that carry over to its moral analogues: that contextualism robs epistemology (and moral theory) of a proper subject-matter, and that contextualism robs knowledge claims (and moral claims) of their objectivity. Two theses are defended: (1) that these worries are appropriately directed at interestdependent theories in general rather than at contextualism in particular, and (2) that the two worries are over-stated in any case. Finally, the paper offers (...) some considerations in favour of attributor contextualism over 'subject-sensitiveinvariantism', both in epistemology and in moral theory. But here we note an interesting result: the very considerations that support contextualism as a semantic thesis, threaten to rob that position of its anti-sceptical force. (shrink)
Recent theories of epistemic contextualism have challenged traditional invariantist positions in epistemology by claiming that the truth conditions of knowledge attributions fluctuate between conversational contexts. Contextualists often garner support for this view by appealing to folk intuitions regarding ordinary knowledge practices. Proposed is an experiment designed to test the descriptive conditions upon which these types of contextualist defenses rely. In the cases tested, the folk pattern of knowledge attribution runs contrary to what contextualism predicts. While preliminary, these data inspire prima (...) facie skepticism for the contextualist hypothesis regarding folk knowledge claims, as well as challenge certain predictions made by recent theories of subject-sensitiveinvariantism. It is further argued that such results raise methodological questions concerning the practice of relying on an assumption of intuitions, with respect to ordinary language practices, as evidence for philosophical conclusions regarding knowledge. (shrink)
I will ask the conditional question: if folk attributions of "know" are not sensitive to the stakes and/or the salience of error, does this cast doubt on contextualism or subject-sensitiveinvariantism (SSI)? I argue that if it should turn out that folk attributions of knowledge are insensitive to such factors, then this undermines contextualism, but not SSI. That is not to say that SSI is invulnerable to empirical work of any kind. Rather, I defend the more modest claim (...) that leading versions of SSI are not undermined by one particular kind of experimental result, namely the recent suggestion that knowledge attributions are insensitive to the stakes. (shrink)
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-sensitiveinvariantism 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)
In this paper, I present a counter-example to the two most prominent theories of pragmatic encroachment (regarding knowledge ascriptions): Contextualism (specifically, DeRose's version), and Stanley's Subject-SensitiveInvariantism (SSI). The example is a variation on DeRose's bank case. -/- Key words: Knowledge, knowledge ascriptions, pragmatic encroachment, Stanley, DeRose, bank case, standards, stakes.
I reply to Martijn Blaauw's recent article about subject sensitive invariantism, in which he argues that SSI, unlike its contextualist and contrastivist competitors, cannot give a proper account of memorial knowledge. I argue that these theories are on a par when it comes to such an account.
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-sensitiveinvariantism 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)
John Greco has recently raised two worries for epistemic contextualism, viz it deprives epistemology of its subject matter and renders objective knowledge impossible. He argues that these problems are not restricted to contextualism, but apply to rival theories, like subject sensitive invariantism, and that they are overstated. I develop Greco's worries, which show that contextualism suggests either that there is no such thing as knowledge, or a weird view of knowledge: as disparately varied and undisciplined, individual-dependent and arbitrary. I (...) then argue that these issues are not overstated and that they can be avoided if one opts for moderate insensitive invariantism. (shrink)
In recent work on the semantics of ‘knowledge’-attributions, a variety of accounts have been proposed that aim to explain the data about speaker intuitions in familiar cases such as DeRose’s Bank Case or Cohen’s Airport Case by means of pragmatic mechanisms, notably Gricean implicatures. This paper argues that pragmatic explanations of the data regarding ‘knowledge’-attributions are unsuccessful and concludes that in explaining those data we have to resort to accounts that (a) take those data at their semantic face value (Epistemic (...) Contextualism, Subject-SensitiveInvariantism or Epistemic Relativism), or (b) reject them on psychological grounds (Moderate Insensitive Invariantism). To establish this conclusion, the paper relies solely upon widely accepted assumptions about pragmatic theory, broadly construed, and on the Stalnakerian insight that linguistic communication takes place against the backdrop of a set of mutually accepted propositions: a conversation’s common ground. (shrink)
According to some theories of sentence processing, the human language processor relies mainly on syntax-based strategies when dealing with structural ambiguities. In this paper I show that the parser is also sensitive to the nature of the noun phrases' used and their discourse related properties. Dutch ‘which’ clauses are at least locally ambiguous between a subject–object and an object–subject reading. On the basis of syntax-based parsing strategies (e. g. the Active Filler Strategy, Frazier 1987), a subject–object preference is expected. However, (...) several on-line and questionnaire studies show that the type of second NP affects the order preference: when the second NP is a non-pronominal NP the subject–object order is preferred, but more strongly so when the second NP is indefinite than when it is definite; when the second NP is a definite pronoun, in contrast, the object–subject order is preferred. A corpus study yields the same pattern, except for the non-pronominal definite NP cases: ‘which’ questions with a definite second NP more frequently occur in a object–subject rather than a subject–object order. This discrepancy can be explained in terms of the discourse status of the NP referent. (shrink)
Attributor contextualism and subject-sensitiveinvariantism both suggest ways in which our concept of knowledge depends on a context. Both offer approaches that incorporate traditionally non-epistemic elements into our standards for knowledge. But neither can account for the fact that the social role of a subject affects the standards that the subject must meet in order to warrant a knowledge attribution. I illustrate the dependence of the standards for knowledge on the social roles of the knower with three types (...) of examplesand show why neither attributor contextualism nor subject-sensitiveinvariantism can explain them. I then suggest that subject-sensitiveinvariantism should be supplemented with insights from virtue epistemology so that it can explain the dependence of the standards of knowledge on social roles. This supplementation of subject-sensitiveinvariantism helps to solve a persistent problem facing that theory: the case of knowledge attributions made by those in high-stakes contexts about subjects in low-stakes contexts. (shrink)
Harman’s lottery paradox, generalized by Vogel to a number of other cases, involves a curious pattern of intuitive knowledge ascriptions: certain propositions seem easier to know than various higher-probability propositions that are recognized to follow from them. For example, it seems easier to judge that someone knows his car is now on Avenue A, where he parked it an hour ago, than to judge that he knows that it is not the case that his car has been stolen and driven (...) away in the last hour. Contextualists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that ‘knows’ does not always denote the same relationship; subject-sensitive invariantists have taken this pattern of intuitions as evidence that non-traditional factors such as practical interests figure in knowledge; still others have argued that the Harman Vogel pattern gives us a reason to abandon the principle that knowledge is closed under known entailment. This paper argues that there is a psychological explanation of the strange pattern of intuitions, grounded in the manner in which we shift between an automatic or heuristic mode of judgment and a controlled or systematic mode. Understanding the psychology behind the pattern of intuitions enables us to see that the pattern gives us no reason to abandon traditional intellectualist invariantism. The psychological account of the paradox also yields new resources for clarifying and defending the single premise closure principle for knowledge ascriptions. (shrink)
I develop an approach to action and practical deliberation according to which the degree of epistemic warrant required for practical rationality varies with practical context. In some contexts of practical deliberation, very strong warrant is called for. In others, less will do. I set forth a warrant account, (WA), that captures this idea. I develop and defend (WA) by arguing that it is more promising than a competing knowledge account of action due to John Hawthorne and Jason Stanley. I argue (...) that cases of warranted false belief speak in favor of (WA) and against the knowledge account. Moreover, I note some problems with an “excuse maneuver” that proponents of the knowledge account frequently invoke in response to cases of warranted false belief. Finally, I argue that (WA) may provide a strict invariantist account of cases that have been thought to motivate interest-relative or subject-sensitive theories of knowledge and warrant. (shrink)
The concept of knowledge is used to certify epistemic agents as good sources (on a certain point or subject matter) for an understood audience. Attributions of knowledge and denials of knowledge are used in a kind of epistemic gate keeping for (epistemic or practical) communities with which the attributor and interlocutors are associated. When combined with reflection on kinds of practical and epistemic communities, and their situated epistemic needs for gate keeping, this simple observation regarding the point and purpose of (...) the concept of knowledge has rich implications. First, it gives one general reason to prefer contextualism over various forms of sensitive invariantism. Second, when gate keeping for a select community of experts or authorities, with an associated body of results on which folk generally might then draw (when gate keeping for a general source community ) the contextual demands approximate those with which insensitive invariantists would be comfortable. (shrink)
Libertarianism seems vulnerable to a serious problem concerning present luck, because it requires indeterminism somewhere in the causal chain leading to directly free action. Compatibilism, by contrast, is thought to be free of this problem, as not requiring indeterminism in the causal chain. I argue that this view is false: compatibilism is subject to a problem of present luck. This is less of a problem for compatibilism than for libertarianism. However, its effects are just as devastating for one kind of (...) compatibilism, the kind of compatibilism which is history-sensitive, and therefore must take the problem of constitutive luck seriously. The problem of present luck confronting compatibilism is sufficient to undermine the history-sensitive compatibilist's response to remote – constitutive – luck. (shrink)
Classical Invariantism (CI): The truth-value of a given knowledge-ascribing (-denying) sentence is (a) invariant across conversational contexts and (b) independent of how important it is to the subject (S) that the relevant proposition (P) be true.
Epistemic contextualism, many critics argue, entails that ordinary speakers are blind to the fact that knowledge claims have context-sensitive truth conditions. This attribution of blindness, critics add, seriously undermines contextualism. I show that this criticism and, in general, discussions about the error theory entailed by contextualism, greatly underestimates the complexity and diversity of the data about ordinary speakers? inter-contextual judgments, as well as the range of explanatory moves that are open to both invariantists and contextualists concerning such judgments. Contextualism does (...) entail that some speakers suffer from semantic blindness; however, at its roots, this blindness concerns not the context-sensitivity of knowledge claims, but the question whether knowledge sentences possess context-independent truth conditions. I argue that this blindness should not be deemed problematic, but that invariantism entails an error theory that is, by comparison, much more troubling. (shrink)
This dissertation is a defense of moderate invariantism, the traditional epistemological position combining the following three theses: invariantism, according to which the word ‘know’ expresses the same content in every context of use; intellectualism, according to which whether one knows a certain proposition does not depend on one’s practical interests; and antiskepticism, according to which we really do know much of what we ordinarily take ourselves to know. Moderate invariantism needs defending because of seemingly powerful arguments for (...) contextualism, the view that, like ‘I’ and ‘now’, ‘know’ expresses different contents in different contexts. It has been argued that only contextualism can properly reply to skeptical arguments, and that only contextualism can account for our tendency to go from judging that a knowledge claim is true to judging that it is false in response to shifts in the context of use. Moderate invariantist replies to these arguments have largely failed. I propose new replies on behalf of moderate invariantism, while critiquing earlier, less successful attempts. Chapter one is introductory. In chapters two and three, I examine contextualist replies to skeptical arguments arising from radical skeptical hypotheses (such as the possibility that one is a brain in a vat) and from considerations involving lotteries. I argue that if contextualism can adequately respond to these arguments, then there are equally effective replies available to the moderate invariantist. In the next two chapters, I examine Stewart Cohen’s “Airport Case,” which elicits intuitions about knowledge claims that supposedly only contextualism can accommodate. In chapter four, I argue that none of the invariantist replies to the case that depend on denying the intuitions succeed; in chapter five, I accept the intuitions, but argue that contextualism does not follow from them. Finally, in chapter six, I evaluate two interesting invariantist critiques of contextualism; according to the first, contextualism collapses into the radical position that every English expression is context-sensitive; according to the second, ‘know’ fails a test for context-sensitivity involving indirect speech reports. (shrink)
In “Naturalism without Representationalism” Huw Price contests a particular way of understanding how philosophy can be sensitive to the claims of science, and does this by sketching an alternate way in which such “science-sensitivity” might be conceived.1 Most naturalistic conceptions of philosophy, he claims, regard philosophy as taking as its object the world as science describes it. Such approaches then see their own task as one of finding a place for certain objects in this scientifically described world—objects that are not (...) easily so located, such as those having to do with morality, meaning, or mathematics. Conceived in this way, philosophy typically addresses what he calls “placement problems”. “[A] typical placement problem” he notes, “seeks to understand how some object, property, or fact can be a natural object, property, or fact”. But there may be hidden assumptions implicit in this approach that are actually incompatible with a genuinely naturalistic view of ourselves as the subjects capable of such knowledge. Hence he contrasts the “object naturalism” of such traditional orientations with his own “subject naturalist” approach which attempts to make explicit and hold on to a naturalistic approach to the knowing subject prior to the cutting in of the problematic hidden assumptions of object naturalism. (shrink)
[Under Review] Causal contextualism holds that sentences of the form ‘c causes e’ have context-sensitive truth-conditions. Contextualists argue that how one describes the relata of a causal relation affects the truth of one’s claim. We show that this argument appeals to the wrong kind of nominals to denote events; when proper nominals are used, the data actually favor invariantism over contextualism. Second, contextualists invoke the phenomenon of contrastive focus to argue that causal statements implicitly designate salient alternatives to the (...) cause and effect. We argue that focus selection is equally well explained by an invariantist approach. Finally, we consider the contextualist’s claim that the appropriateness of a causal statement depends on what is contextually taken for granted or made salient. We explain how invariantism can explain this context sensitivity, and argue that pace the contextualist, some causal sentences are always correct and can never be plausibly denied, regardless of the context. (shrink)
Epistemologists have proposed various norms of assertion to explain when a speaker is in an epistemic position to assert a proposition. In this article I propose a distinct necessary condition on assertibility: that a speaker should assert only what she sensitively believes, where a subject's belief is sensitive just in case the subject would not hold it if it were false. I argue that the Sensitivity Rule underwrites simple explanations for three key features of assertibility that pose explanatory challenges to (...) other prominent proposals: the fact that assertibility is open under known entailment, the general impropriety of assertions that a lottery ticket has lost made purely on the basis of the speaker's knowledge of the odds, and the fact that assertibility varies widely with features of the conversational context. I close by considering three distinct roles the Sensitivity Rule might play in the overall theory of assertibility. (shrink)
The paper discusses approaches to Epistemic Contextualism that model the satisfaction of the predicate ‘know’ in a given context C in terms of the notion of belief/fact-matching throughout a contextually specified similarity sphere of worlds that is centred on actuality. The paper offers three counterexamples to approaches of this type and argues that they lead to insurmountable difficulties. I conclude that what contextualists (and Subject-Sensitive Invariantists) have traditionally called the ‘epistemic standards’ of a given context C cannot be explicated (...) in terms of a contextually specified similarity sphere that is centred on actuality. The mentioned accounts of epistemic relevance and thus the corresponding accounts of the context-sensitivity (or subject-sensitivity) of ‘knows’ are to be rejected. (shrink)
Within much contemporary social ontology there is a particular methodology at work. This methodology takes as a starting point two or more asocial or atomic individuals. These individuals are taken to be perfectly functional agents, though outside of all social relations. Following this, combinations of these individuals are considered, to deduce what constitutes a social group. Here I will argue that theories which rely on this methodology are always circular, so long as they purport to describe the formation of all (...) social groups, as they must always presuppose a pre-existing collectivity. Such methodology also produces various distortions in our theories, such as voluntarism. I focus on the workings of Plural Subject Theory as laid out by Margaret Gilbert in On Social Facts (1989). I show that the formation of a plural subject always requires communication, and that communication always requires a pre-existing collectivity. i examine the elements within Plural Subject Theory which protect gilbert from these accusations of circularity, and argue against them. I finalise by suggesting that what Plural Subject Theory, and social ontology in general, requires as a theoretical starting point is not atomic individuals and their combinations, but rather combinations of already socialised or embedded individuals. (shrink)
This version of this paper has been superseded by a substantially revised version in G. Strawson, Real Materialism and Other Essays (OUP 2008) I take 'content' in a natural internalist way to refer to occurrent mental content. I introduce a 'thin' or ‘live’ notion of the subject according to which a subject of experience cannot exist unless there is an experience for it to be the subject of. I then argue, first, that in the case of a particular experience E, (...) its content C, and its (thin) subject S, [C ↔ E ↔ S]; and, second, that the metaphysical fact that underlies this (strong modal) equivalence is in fact identity: [E = S = C]. I suggest that the effort of thought required to grasp this is deeply revealing of the nature of reality. On the way I raise a doubt about the viability of the traditional object/property distinction. -/- . (shrink)
In this essay I show how to reconcile epistemic invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion. My basic proposal is that we can comfortably combine invariantism with the knowledge account of assertion by endorsing contextualism about speech acts. My demonstration takes place against the backdrop of recent contextualist attempts to usurp the knowledge account of assertion, most notably Keith DeRose's influential argument that the knowledge account of assertion spells doom for invariantism and enables contextualism's ascendancy.
Margaret Gilbert's plural subject theory defines social collectives in terms of common knowledge of expressed willingness to participate in some joint action. The author critically examines Gilbert's application of this theory to linguistic phenomena involving "we," arguing that recent work in linguistics provides the tools to develop a superior account. The author indicates that, apart from its own relevance, one should care about this critique because Gilbert's claims about the first person plural pronoun play a role in the argument in (...) favor of her recent theory of political obligation. Key Words: collective agent • Gilbert • plural subject • semantics • we. (shrink)